Richard Burton comes to the table.
Richard Burton: Orson, how good to see you. It’s been too long. You’re looking fine. Elizabeth is with me. She so much wants to meet you. Can I bring her over to your table?
Orson Welles: No. As you can see, I’m in the middle of my lunch. I’ll stop by on my way out.
Henry Jaglom: Orson, you’re behaving like an asshole. That was so rude.
O.W.: Do not kick me under the table. I hate that. I don’t need you as my conscience, my Jewish Jiminy Cricket. Especially do not kick my boots. You know they protect my ankles. Richard Burton had great talent. He’s ruined his great gifts. He’s become a joke with a celebrity wife. Now he just works for money, does the worst shit. And I wasn’t rude. To quote Carl Laemmle, “I gave him an evasive answer. I told him, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ ”
H.J.: Did the French know about Kane?
O.W.: I thought it had been a big success in Paris. When I arrived there, I found that it had not been. They didn’t know who I was. The first thing they heard about it was the violent attack by Jean-Paul Sartre. Wrote a long piece, 40,000 words on it or something.
H.J.: Well, maybe it politically offended him in some way.
O.W.: No. I think it was because Kane is a comedy.
H.J.: It is?
O.W.: Sure. In the classic sense of the word. Not a fall-in-the-aisles-laughing comedy, but because the tragic trappings are parodied.
H.J.: I never thought of Kane as a comedy. It’s profoundly moving.
O.W.: It’s moving, but so can comedies be moving. There is a slight camp to all the great Xanadu business. And Sartre, who has no sense of humor, couldn’t react to it at all.
Waiter: Shall we show you desserts?
O.W.: Don’t bring us a dessert for the next two minutes. But I’d like a café espresso.
O.W.: Oui, décaféiné—oui.
Excerpted from My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, by Peter Biskind, to be published next month by Metropolitan Books. Copyright © 2013 by Peter Biskind. All rights reserved. Vulture: “From the Time Capsule: Lunch Conversations With Orson Welles.”