Yesterday, news came down from the Toronto International Film Festival that director Anton Corbijn had found his two lead actors for “Life,” a retelling of the friendship between James Dean and the photographer that snapped some of the actor’s most famous portraits in Times Square, Dennis Stock.
Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson will play Dean and Stock, respectively, and while the pairing should have anyone who is interested in the young actors’ blossoming careers excited, the idea of a big screen retelling of the story behind the famous photos is reason enough to look forward to “Life.”
Stock got his start it Life magainze as an apprentice in 1947 and won a contest for young photographers there in 1951, the same year that Dean got his start in television. The young actor wouldn’t break out until four year later, in 1955 when Elia Kazan’s adaptation of “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.
When Stock met Dean at a party thrown by the actor’s “Rebel Without a Cause” director Nicholas Ray before the release of “East of Eden,” the photographer didn’t know he was an actor until after they spoke at some length. Stock told the Sarasota Herlad-Tribune that Deans’s appearance didn’t hint at this star quality. “He was not a neat dresser per se,” he said. “He looked tired, but he was pleasant and interesting.”
Shortly after Stock was made aware of Dean’s life as a movie star, he caught a preview of “East of Eden,” and he immediately knew that his new friend was going to be big. It was a short time after that Stock got the idea for a “visual biography” that would follow Dean back to his boyhood home in Fairmount, Indiana and then to New York City, where his career started.
“The story, as I explained it [to Jimmy] was to reveal the environments that affected and shaped the unique character of James Byron Dean,” Stock wrote in his book “James Dean: Fifty Years Ago.” “We felt a trip to his hometown, Fairmount, Indiana, and to New York, the place of his professional beginnings, would best reveal those influences…. I would solicit an assignment guarantee to cover expenses. The obvious magazine to approach was LIFE…. It took only a week for LIFE to approve the assignment.”
After a trip to his uncle’s farm in Fairmount, Dean posed in the rain in Times Square, smoking a cigarette with his collar turned up. It would be on the most iconic photographs ever taken of the 24-year-old actor. The pair took several pictures around the city, including one of Dean lying in a casket, an eerie reminder of the tragic car accident that would take his life less than six months later.
Read more about the photographs here!