Movie icon James Dean died at 24 without anyone, except those very close to him, knowing very much about his personal life.
‘Filmmaker Matthew Mishory has imagined what the star’s life was like before he became a household name with the release of Rebel Without a Cause. He has written Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean which screens at LA Outfest Film Festival on Monday (15 July).
Mishory says he has not made a conventional biographical film.
"Our film has nothing to do with any other film that has been made about James Dean,’ he tells Gay Star News. ‘As the title suggests, it is a portrait, a moment in time. Our approach was to find the antecedents to a remarkable life and career and to tell that story not by using the language of conventional Hollywood filmmaking but instead by using the language of memories and of dreams.’
The black and white film stars James Preston, best known for the ABC series The Gates. It is set in Los Angeles and has Dean living with a male roommate with whom he is romantically involved. He is also involved with female classmates and older benefactors – all of whom grapple with their inability to hold on to this shooting star.
‘I hope viewers get a sense of a period of Jimmy’s life that has never really been dramatized and certainly never in this way,’ Mishory says. ‘It’s a story of an awkward but remarkable young man who saw things differently and ultimately fundamentally changed the way screen actors act.’
‘But there was a price to pay for that big dream, for that ambition,’ he adds. ‘In that sense, I think that anybody who has ever felt like an outsider or has wanted something more from life can relate to Jimmy’s story.’
The writer-director says viewers may be surprised by the Hollywood that is depicted in the film. It was a time, he says, in which the ‘Hollywood elite’ lived perhaps even more freely than they do now.
‘The difference, of course, is that in the early 50s, privacy still existed,’ he says. ‘People did whatever they wanted to do, but they did it behind closed doors. We certainly explore that notion in the film, which contains no gay angst and no hand-wringing about sex.’