James Dean movie in the works

A movie in preproduction titled “Life” will be the film industry’s next attempt at capturing the late actor, James Dean in his personal life.
A long list of movies have already failed to grasp the true Dean, and this new project will stir up anticipation of excitement and dread to avid James Dean fans, myself included, but with a promising director, our lusted after Dean movie might finally hit the big screen.
For those who are not aware, Dean was an emerging actor in the early fifties, who gained a reputation in the film industry as being difficult to work with, strange, and rebellious; often not going along with Hollywood’s standards and look at the time. After the completion of his third feature film, “Giant”, Dean tragically died in a car accident in northern California, on his way to an auto race he was supposed to race in.
Dean’s short career only consisted of three feature films, and although Dean died around 58 years ago he is still held in high regard today.
The script written by Luke Davies has a reported budget of somewhere between $10 million and $15 million, and set to produce the film is Iain Canning with his See-Saw Films partner Emile Sherman.
Davies’ “Life” follows the true story of the friendship between Dean and a photographer by the name of Dennis Stock. A young Stock who works for Magnum agency is assigned to shoot the up and coming actor Dean for Life magazine. The two take a journey from Los Angeles, New York and Indiana taking photos along the way; photos that are still used to emulate Dean.
Anton Corbijn has recently signed on to direct “Life”. Corbijn’s directing career mostly consists of music videos and video documentaries, with such bands as Depeche Mode, U2, and Metallica. In 2007 Corbijn made his first feature film debut with the award winning movie, “Control”, (based off the life of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division), and more recently directed “The American”, starring George Clooney. It’s Corbijn’s work in “Control” that has me hopeful that “Life” will prevail.
In “Control” Corbijn didn’t fantasize Curtis, he made him a real man that had his good and bad, not some moody musical God. “Control” touches on Curtis’ medical problems with epilepsy, how he neglected his wife and daughter, his affair with a journalist, and how the stress of being in Joy Division eventually brought him to his demise.
It’s that reason why I think Corbijn won’t be afraid to make a film that deals with the true nature of Dean. The best thing Corbijn can do is break down the many misconceptions of Dean by not idealizing him but by making him a real person. The thing that kept Dean’s career alive after his death was not only his talent but also the image of him everyone knows, the image that he created, and an image that is not the actual James Dean.
If you Google his name hundreds of images of Dean outfitted in jeans, a white tee, and red jacket with a cigarette dangling from his lips will appear. This is the image pop culture has saved of him, this character from Rebel Without A Cause that exuberates the phrase “too cool for school”. This Dean is as tacky as the rest of the nostalgic ideas America has of the fifties, along with bee bop diners, Marilyn Monroe’s red lipstick, and Elvis’ pelvis.
The main problem with previous biopic films about Dean is that they showed the world this built image as oppose to the man.
So far the 2001 television film titled “James Dean” starring James Franco has been one of the most referenced films about Dean. Yet, for anyone who has ever read a book about Dean, knows how ridiculous that movie is, with many events being fabricated and with farfetched assumptions about his life. The whole time you are aware that Franco is acting, but hasn’t Franco always been acting like Dean? The only time he has done well in a film other than a comedy was “127 Hours”, but that film was directed by Danny Boyle; a film genius.
Internet forums regarding “Life” have some fans expressing their wish to have Franco play Dean again. That is absurd, not only has Franco proven he can’t execute the role but he is way too old to play Dean, who died at the young age of 24. Sorry Franco, the camera can’t hide those wrinkles or lack of talent.
The recent low budget indie movie “Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean” touches upon Dean’s sensitivity and complexity but it is hardly portrayed at all by actor James Preston. It brings to question that filmmakers just shouldn’t use actors named James for the role of Dean?
Yet “Joshua Tree”, unlike other Dean films, shows Dean’s relationships with men in the film industry in order to get his “foot in the door”. Although it was known that Dean had sexual relationships with women, his experimentation and involvement in sexual acts with men was kept secret for a while after his death. Explanations of Dean’s sexual relationships with men vary with the idea that he was really homosexual or bisexual, that his method acting caused him to feel it necessary to experience as much as he could in life, in order to use these experiences in future roles, and that Dean participated in sexual acts with men in order to advance his career.
There is no hiding that this was a part of his lifestyle, and if someone decides to portray the life of Dean this is very much a part of it.
No actor has been pinned to play Dean in Corbijn’s “Life”. I hope that Corbijn does the same as he did in “Control” where he used the relatively unknown actor, Sam Riley to play Ian Curtis. This decision was regarded by critics as being a major reason why the film did so well. It may be difficult for viewers to see a well-established actor we already have assumptions about to play an icon.
Maybe we need an introduction to the “new” image of Dean, with a new actor as well.
Still “Life” is in its early stages and won’t probably start production until early next year. Many decisions from now will determine what kind of film we’ll be left with in the end. All we can do is cross our fingers and pray to the movie Gods that we don’t end up with some faired haired guy totting around on a motorcycle with a personality as fake as Lucille Ball’s fire engine red hair.