By Jonathan Polakoff
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hearst Castle in Los Angeles is hosting a screening on Friday of "Citizen Kane," the classic Orson Welles film that infuriated the castle's former owner, William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst was livid over the movie's depiction of a cutthroat newspaper baron drawn closely to his own likeness.
But the Hearst family has recently embraced the film, often cited as the best American movie ever made, as a fictional account of the late publishing tycoon's life, rather than a historical record.
"The family would prefer to have people know it's just a movie," said Wendy Eidson, director of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, which is organizing the screening as part of its six-day festival. "It's just fiction."
Tickets for the exclusive 60-person event in San Simeon, California, sold for $1,000. The evening begins with a 5 p.m. tour of the grounds, followed by an 8 p.m. viewing of the film in Hearst's own screening room, restored to its full early-20th century opulence.
The event is hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of Herman Mankiewicz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Welles.
Guests include John Milius, writer of "Apocalypse Now" and other movies. No members of the Hearst family are attending, although they support the screening, Eidson said.
Eidson pitched the idea of a "Citizen Kane" screening as a joke a few years ago to Stephen Hearst, great-grandson of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was surprisingly interested, he said, and in 2012 the film festival held a "Citizen Kane" screening in the castle's visitor center.
Co-written, directed, produced and starred-in by Welles when he was only 25, "Citizen Kane" frequently tops lists of the greatest films of all time and holds the No. 1 ranking in the American Film Institute's list of greatest American films.
Still, it did not win best picture at the 14th Academy Awards in 1942. The award went instead to John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley," and "Citizen Kane" won for original screenplay.
"The public can mistake fiction, whether in print or film, as history itself," said Jim Allen, director of marketing at Hearst Castle.
Proceeds from the screening will be split between the nonprofit Friends of Hearst Castle and the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
(Reporting by Jonathan Polakoff; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)