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The great Jean Luc Godard once said of Orson Welles, "Everyone will always owe him everything."

Well-known for his innovative approach to staging and structuring classic dramas, as well as for his dashing looks when young, his portly self-defacing humor when old, and his booming, powerful voice throughout his life, Welles—voted the greatest director of all time by the British Film Institute in 2002—is one of the undisputed masters of cinema … not to mention theater, television and radio drama.

But where did he stand on things of faith?

In 1982, Merv Griffin asked the director about it during an interview. Welles replied, "I try to be a Christian. [But] I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God." In fact, prayer was almost as uncomfortable subject for Welles as the birds and the bees. He told the French New Wave magazine Cahiers du Cinema, "In my opinion, there are two things that can absolutely not be carried to the screen: the realistic presentation of the sexual act and praying to God."

He would later quip (sounding like he's echoing Jesus' lukewarm water metaphor): "I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose." Nevertheless, he would later tell Andrew Sarris, "The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left."

Catholic parents, Satanic grandma

Born in 1915, Welles was raised Roman Catholic, but that soon ended when his parents divorced. Both parents died in his youth, and Welles was raised by a guardian, a fact reflected in his classic Citizen Kane.

As a young teen at ...

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'I Try to Be a Christian'
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