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Casting Call: Life

James Dean is clearly the toughest role to cast. Who best to capture Dean's understated swagger and All-American qualities? Joseph Gordon-Levitt, fresh off of his directorial debut with Don Jon, has both leading-man chops and a similar minimalistic, but utterly captivating screen presence. Plus, he looks great in a leather jacket, which is really a non-negotiable attribute.

Emile Hirsch has extensive experience playing real people, and he would be the ideal choice to play the man behind the camera. Dennis Stock produced hundreds of iconic photographs in his day, and Hirsch has an immersive, curious quality as an actor that would play perfectly as a photographer.



East of Eden director Elia Kazan is an iconic and controversial figure. Kazan brought such actors as James Dean and Marlon Brando to prominence, but he also went before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and named names during the Red Scare. David Lynch would be an excellent meta casting choice as the Greek-American director. He's a commanding presence and he, like his hair, seems up for just about anything.

Photograph by Sebastian Kim, Interview,
December 2011


Mildred Wilson, James Dean's mother, was said to be the only person in the world who understood her son fully. Anjelica Huston is something of a maternal icon after her turn as Etheline Tenenbaum, and she's actually played Gordon-Levitt's mother in the past. She's a slam dunk in this role.

Photograph by Craig McDean, Interview, October 2009.


Who better to play James Dean's rumored sweetheart, Pier Angeli, than Hollywood's current sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence? Dean was said to have watched her wedding from the distance on his motorcycle, a claim he denied vehemently. We're betting that legions of would-be suitors would drive the bike right through the bridal party if it meant a shot at putting a ring on Lawrence's finger.

Photograph by Glenn Luchford, Interview, November 2010.


Rock Hudson starred with Dean and Elizabeth Taylor in Giant. With his strong jaw and good looks, Hudson was the envy of men and an object of desire. There's some controversy surrounding his relationship with Dean—were they friends, enemies, or lovers—which makes him all the more important in solving the mystery of Dean. Casey Affleck would fit the role of Dean to a tee and would probably look good wearing a suit next to his co-star—always an important consideration.