Leonardo DiCaprio almost starred as James Dean in a biopic
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Leonardo DiCaprio almost played one of Hollywood’s iconic legends on the big screen.
In an interview with Deadline on his new novel Heat 2, director Michael Mann reveals he once planned to adapt the life of James Dean into a biopic. He even had his main man in mind – a young DiCaprio.
« It was so weird about James Dean. It was a brilliant script. And then who the hell could play James Dean? Mann recalled. « And I found a guy who could play James Dean, but he was too young. »
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They even went as far in the process as a screen test with DiCaprio with mixed results.
“We did a screen test which is pretty amazing. I think he must have been 19 at the time. And from a certain angle, he totally had it with him. I mean, it’s brilliant,” Mann said. « He would turn his face in one direction and we had a vision of James Dean and then he would turn his face in another direction and it’s no, he’s a young child. »
Dean was 24 when he died in 1955.
Joking about the unfinished project, the director blamed DiCaprio.
“I found the absolutely perfect act of the play, about three years from there,” he added. « [DiCaprio] respectfully unpacks James Dean’s biography for me.
Mann would go on to direct « Heat » in 1995, and DiCaprio would work on « The Basketball Diaries. »
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The 47-year-old actor once spoke about the screen test in a Deadline interview in 2016.
« I did a screen test with him, I think I was 18. It went pretty well. We saw clips of Giant and then he put me in the back of the car with that cowboy hat, » DiCaprio said. « But I was a very young kid, even when I was young. [Mann] I decided to wait a few years, but I looked really young.
Dean’s legacy was finally captured in a 2001 TV movie starring James Franco in the role.