The finishing touches of the sweeping "Touch of Venice" mural on Windward Avenue have been applied and the homage to Venice history, culture and film stands ready to provide something for everyone for decades to come.
The 102-foot-by-50-foot adaptation of Hollywood legend Orson Welles' 1958 film "Touch of Evil" was completed a few weeks ago, muralist Jonas Never said Monday.
Never has been working on the gigantic mural since November and said he enjoyed painting it and hearing from the public as the work progressed.
"It's in that part of Venice Beach where you get a cross-section of America," Never said. "Locals, tourists, homeless and artists come through here and all of them had different takes on the mural and what should be there."
The film harkens back to Welles' dark film noir classic and its opening sequence, which is one of the best tracking shots in cinema history. The famous scene was shot along Windward and Pacific avenues with Venice doubling as a Mexican border town in the film about drug cartels, corrupt cops and inter-racial marriage. The film was written, directed and co-starred Welles and featured Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, who are shown in the mural's foreground strolling up Windward Avenue. Welles also can be seen in the lower right side of the mural and Never hid a self-portrait of himself on the right side, too.
"I wanted to capture what Venice was, what it could be and what it is today," Never said.
A lofty goal to be sure, but one that Never achieves not only with his exceptional skills as an artist, but also with his well thought-out approach to the task.
For example, Never includes details in the mural that he couldn't find in historic photos, but spotted elsewhere. The old Townhouse logo and sign in the mural was seen in another old movie, the 49er sign was found on matchbooks and the Chop Suey sign was discovered in a random tour guide from the 1960s, Never said.
A "Jesus Saves" sign on the southern side of the mural was turned into a "Dog Town" sign in reference to Venice's historic skateboard scene and the inclusion of the old "People's Drug Co." sign seemed a good fit given the medical marijuana prescriptions available on the boardwalk and the wafts of pot smoke that sometimes drifted upward as he worked on the mural, Never said.
Never said he watched "Touch of Evil" three times to find a good quote for the mural, but the movie was such a downer that nothing worked. He ended up lifting a line – "like a dream that I remember from an easier time" – from a song by a band from his dad's hometown in New Jersey.
He added the line and the title to the mural so it wouldn't look like a photograph, but instead like the opening scene of a movie. A few passers-by have second-guessed him on the title and quote, but Never said he's spotted plenty of tourists taking pictures underneath both.
Whether you're a film buff, a local, a tourist or a longtime Venice resident, Never said he hopes there's something in the mural for everyone to appreciate.
Ann Everest and Simone Scharff of General Real Estate, one of the biggest property management firms in Venice, commissioned the work.
"They couldn't have been better benefactors of the process," Never said. "They knew my style and my taste and rather than pandering to something that was a settlement, they let me run with my vision of it and supported it 100 percent."