James Dean would have been 80 on February 8, 2011. Hard to reconcile that with the lasting power of his forever young images. Like many teenagers I related easily to Dean and even got a chance to play the lead role in Rebel Without A Cause in a high school production when I still thought I might want to become an actor. I’m also confident those indelible images of him walking the streets of New York played a part in my early obsession with living here.
You need look no further than James Franco (whose first big break was playing Dean in a biopic) for his continuing influence on actors the world over. His death opened the door for many, including Paul Newman who had lost out on several roles to Dean. (Can you imagine James Dean as Fast Eddie in The Hustler???) Martin Sheen’s character in Badlands was based on Dean and countless uncredited performances owe him a debt of gratitude. Apart from becoming a postcard icon, Dean managed to lead a very interesting life during his brief 24 years and this list of 80 trivia bullets gives a good glimpse into some of the lesser known facts about him. On this anniversary, I tip my cap to a man who managed to make a big impact in a very short period of time and has remained an inspiration to many well past his last day.