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24 September 2014
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Hooked on Dean, says Johnny Depp

Category: Radio 2

Date: 26.09.2005
Printable version

Hollywood star Johnny Depp reveals that Fifties legend James Dean inspired him to enter the acting profession.


Speaking to BBC Radio 2 for a documentary that can be heard this week, Depp says that he has been a fan of James Dean since he was a young musician in Los Angeles.


Rebel Without A Cause - The James Dean Story can be heard this Tuesday 27 September at 8.30pm.


Johnny Depp presents the programme which marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Dean, aged 24, on 30 September 1955.


"I started out as a guitarist in the early Eighties," explains Depp.


"I was very influenced by the rockabilly revival scene at the time, including bands like the Rockats and the Stray Cats. The Fifties stuff was very cool and we all wore 'big hair', jeans and biker jackets.


"I hooked up with a guy who idolised James Dean and he gave me a copy of the Dean biography, The Mutant King, which I thought was really interesting.


"While reading the book, I watched Rebel Without A Cause, and I thought 'Wow, this guy really has something', and I was hooked.


"I wasn't really into acting at the time but as I was reading the Dean book, I also picked up on An Actor Prepares by Stanislavsky and became fascinated by the whole concept of 'The Method'.


"When I read that Dean was also from 'The Method' school, it all sort of came together for me. So that was a really important period for me, about three or four years before I decided to become an actor - and James Dean was the catalyst."


One of the many facts highlighted by Johnny in his programme is that James Dean died before Elvis had his first hit, yet Dean's rebellious image has always been associated with Presley and the birth of rock 'n' roll.


"Elvis was a huge fan of James Dean," explains Depp. "When Elvis met Rebel Without A Cause director Nicholas Ray, he knelt down on his knees and began to recite pages of Dean's dialogue from Rebel and told the director he had watched the movie dozens of times to learn the lines.


"Presley's career took off at virtually the same time as James Dean's, yet despite all the influence Dean had on rock 'n' roll stars he never heard Elvis. But his on-screen image matched perfectly the power of rock 'n' roll."


Bob Dylan and The Beatles were also influenced by James Dean and in his programme Johnny Depp highlights the Dean influence on The Beatles' Hamburg years and features interviews with Beatles associates Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr, as well as Paul McCartney and Pete Best.


Other guests in the programme include Dennis Hopper, Bill Wyman, David Bailey, Morrissey, Carl Barat from The Libertines, Craig and Charlie Read from The Proclaimers, Sir David Puttnam, Alan Parker, Dennis Stock, Martin Landau and Elia Kazan, as well as archive interviews from the late Sammy Davis Jnr, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Sir Alec Guinness.


Martin Landau, the Oscar-winning actor, says of Dean: "He died before rock 'n' roll was born. But he was part of a rapidly changing society. And it was all because of technology.


"Radio and TV enabled kids from all over the country to catch the latest trends. Tastes changed faster and the young people started sowing their seeds and expressing themselves.


"There was a lot of dissatisfaction amongst teenagers, who felt cramped in this expanding world. They were all curious and Jimmy was one of the most curious people I ever met.


"There was always something boyish about him. He wanted to explore everything. He was very boyish. Look at Rebel Without A Cause, for example. He played the part of a teenager in high school but he was 23!


"Yet he related to teenagers, because he was finding out about this new world alongside them. Symbolically, his roles represented the quintessential dissident. He became the anti-hero.


"Every boy in America could identify with him. When it's visceral and you say 'I know that, I feel that', that's potent - that's real.


"He had become such an icon when he died and I can remember that day like it was yesterday.


"I got a phone call and I was shocked, to say the least. When I digested it, I decided to call Barbara Glenn, who was Jimmy's girlfriend. I called her and straight away she said 'Jim died' and I said 'You heard?' and she said 'No, I just felt it'.


"She just knew somehow. To this day I have never understood that."


Rebel Without A Cause - The James Dean Story can be heard tomorrow, Tuesday 27 September, at 8.30pm on Radio 2.



Category: Radio 2

Date: 26.09.2005
Printable version


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