I haven’t yet read John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden,” but I already love it—simply because I love the 1955 movie version (how very scholarly of me, I know). It was James Dean’s first film, and the one that sparked my fascination with him. He plays Cal Trask, a frustrated youth (surprise, surprise) that vies for his father’s love and acceptance, but never seems to get it. He’s in constant competition with his brother Aron (the “good” son, played by Richard Davalos), and Aron’s girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) gets caught in the middle. I watched Dean’s scenes on repeat, studying every choice he made. The Ferris wheel scene, in particular. I could watch that scene a hundred times and still find something new.
So when I found out that they’re planning on remaking (more like readapting) the film sometime this year, I didn’t know whether to be excited or worried. I think I’m worried. So far all that has been announced is the director and screenwriter, and it sounds tentatively promising. According to Variety, John Adams’ Tom Hooper will direct (he ain’t no Elia Kazan) and Atonement scribe Christopher Hampton will adapt (I liked Atonement, so Hampton will do). The real worry is the cast. Who can possibly fill the role James Dean made famous? Thoughts? Suggestions?
(A fun piece of trivia: Dean and Paul Newman screen-tested together for this movie. Newman was originally considered to play the role of Aron. Check out the clip, if only for this priceless exchange: Dean: “Kiss me.” Newman: “Can’t here.” Man, they would’ve made a great team!)