Dennis Hopper learned everything from James Dean, says Peter Winkler in Filmfax. When the two met while filming Rebel Without a Cause in 1955, Hopper, then just 19, was “flabbergasted’’ by Dean’s brooding spontaneity in front of the camera. But Dean wasn’t exactly responsive to Hopper’s attempts to draw him out. “I started by saying ‘Hello.’ No answer. He wouldn’t talk to people on the set; he would be into himself. He’d lock himself up in his dressing room.”
After weeks of this silent treatment, Hopper had had enough. “I grabbed him and literally threw him into a car and I said, ‘Look, I really wanna be an actor, too. And I wanna know what you’re doing, what your secret is.” At that, Dean began to unwind. “He asked me very quietly why I acted, and I told him what a nightmare my home life had been, everybody neurotic, yelling at me. Anyway, Jimmy and I found we were both neurotic and had to justify our neuroses by creating, getting the pain out and sharing it.”
Dean’s advice was simple. “He told me, ‘Do things, don’t show them. Stop the gestures. If you’re smoking a cigarette, don’t act smoking a cigarette, just smoke it.’ He started watching me during takes and would come up and mumble, ‘Why don’t you try it this way?’ And he was always right.”
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