Orson Welles was one of the most influential and acclaimed filmmakers of all time, but he also had a reputation for being difficult and unpredictable. One of the most notorious examples of his erratic behavior was the outtakes of a wine commercial he filmed in the late 1970s, where he appeared to be drunk and slurring his words.
The commercial was for Paul Masson, a California winery that hired Welles to be their spokesperson from 1978 to 1981. Welles always delivered their slogan, “We will sell no wine before its time,” with his distinctive voice and gravitas. The campaign was successful, boosting the sales of the winery by 30 percent.
However, on the day of the shoot for the “French champagne” commercial, Welles showed up late and mumbling. He explained that he had been filming in Las Vegas the night before and had taken a sleeping pill to rest during the limousine ride, but it only kicked in when he arrived at the set. He attempted three takes, but each one was worse than the previous one. He mispronounced words, forgot his lines, and looked confused and annoyed.
The footage was supposed to be destroyed, but someone leaked it and it became a viral sensation. The outtakes spawned countless memes and parodies, making fun of Welles’ drunken performance. Many people assumed that Welles was intoxicated by the wine he was promoting.
However, the assistant director of the commercial, Peter Shillingford, recently revealed that Welles was not drunk at all, but under the effects of a sleeping pill. He said that Welles was not a heavy drinker and that he was a professional and a delight to work with.
Shillingford arranged for Welles to nap in one of the mansion bedrooms for a few hours, hoping to salvage the shoot. When Welles woke up, he was refreshed and ready to go. He completed the commercial within an hour and received applause from the guests. He also invited Shillingford to lunch at a fancy restaurant the next day.
Shillingford said that he enjoyed working with Welles and listening to his stories of Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1980s. He also said that Welles did voice-over work for a documentary called Genocide and refused payment for it.
Welles was not only a talented director and actor, but also a generous and charming person. He did not deserve to be remembered for his “drunk” wine commercial, which was actually a result of a sleeping pill. He deserved to be remembered for his artistic achievements and his contributions to cinema history.
– Director says Orson Welles not drunk during infamous wine commercial, Wellesnet, March 23, 2021
– Orson Welles Paul Masson advertisements – Wikipedia, Wikipedia
– The Famous ‘Drunk Orson Welles’ Outtakes Of Paul Masson Commercials, Groovy History, May 10, 2019
– The Man Who Helped a Hammered Orson Welles Get Through a Commercial Shoot, No Film School, March 24, 2021