Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean is due to release in 2011.
How and when did you "meet" James Dean for the first time?
Matthew: My father showed me East of Eden when I was eight or nine years old. By thirteen I had discovered Rebel Without a Cause. Even as a child, I recognized that Dean was a very different type of actor. What a lot of people overlook is that, legendary status aside, Dean fundamentally changed cinema acting. Channeling the method and Montgomery Clift, he was looking to craft perfect moments of screen performance. Life offers few such perfect moments, but in those three unforgettable performances, James Dean left us many. There is a true transcendental quality to what he accomplished as an artist. That is why he continues to fascinate, and that is why I am making a film about him.
Filmmaker and writer, Matthew Mishory.
How this interest was born? This interest in making a film and bringing this particular approach or side of James Dean?
Matthew: I wanted to make another historical film. The idea was born in Paris. I had just premiered DELPHINIUM, my previous film, in London, and having mostly run out of money on my trip, I spent a few weeks laying low at a friend's place in Paris before flying to Reykjavik. It was a great time to write; sitting in cafes with a laptop was cheap. I took the first draft to Iceland and started to develop the film at the Talent Lab at the Reykjavik International Film Festival. It was a great experience. It's easy to get inspired by Iceland.
Can we say we will be able to see an unseen side of the icon?
Matthew: Yes, I think so. JOSHUA TREE, 1951 is the most unflinching and honest exploration yet of James Dean's life prior to his becoming a star, an intimate film set in the years before Dean moved to New York and achieved notoriety. The narrative blends biographical, fictionalized, and stylized elements to create a portrait of Dean, of Old Hollywood, and of American society in the early 1950s.
A new exploration of the icon.
"The new motion picture about an outsider icon." In your work, we can already see this approach to the OUTSIDER figure. Tell us about this interest in the OUTSIDER figure, James Dean as an outsider?? Aren't we all outsiders at certain point of our lives?
Matthew: I have always approached storytelling from an outsider's perspective because it is my perspective. Similarly my experience as a filmmaker has always been an outsider's experience; I have never had significant financial or corporate backing. With JOSHUA TREE, 1951, I found myself drawn, as I had been with DELPHINIUM, to hidden histories, to outcasts, to the transcendental power of intimacy. And to James Dean. To millions he remains an unblemished icon of the golden age. But to outsiders like me, he has always represented something else, something darker, imperfect, and real. I believe the film speaks to this -- and speaks for itself.
What about about the challenges of making/writing/directing JOSHUA TREE, 1951? Speaking of challenges, you said this movie will challenge the audience. Tell us about it.
Matthew: The challenge for me is always in funding the film. The process is at best a struggle and at worst a trauma. And once the (always inadequate) budget is raised, the race against the clock begins. I never have very many days on set. But you're right, a good film also challenges its audience. I believe this is what we have accomplished with JOSHUA TREE. It is unlike any portrait of James Dean that has come before it.
James Preston stars as James Dean in JOSHUA TREE, 1951.
JOSHUA TREE, 1951 cast includes Clint Catalyst, Dan Gleen, Dalilah Rain, and of course James Preston as James Dean. How your experience was working with him?
Matthew: I am so pleased with my cast. As for James, we received several thousand submissions which were then narrowed down to a small group for the final round of casting. James had been recommended by another actor already cast in a different part. They had taken an acting class together, so I suppose it was meant to be. Beyond his uncanny likeness, he had a real vulnerability, and that to me is the most important quality in any performer. As soon as he auditioned, I knew we had found our lead. Instincts really are everything in casting.
What do you think of this excitement and expectation the teaser of JOSHUA TREE, 1951 is generating?
Matthew: I am thrilled. A very pleasant surprise!
Your next film, PORTLAND, features Jonathan Caouette from "Tarnation." Tell us about this project and your experience working with Jonathan.
Matthew: PORTLAND is also an outsider story, starring Jonathan, as you mentioned, and Erin Daniels of The L Word and A Single Man. It has been, to date, a five-year odyssey to get the film made. But I think when it’s finally done, you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
Jonathan is a great friend and a true visionary. He helped (as a creative consultant) on DELPHINIUM and now JOSHUA TREE, 1951, and I can't wait to work with him on PORTLAND. His amazing new film is playing festivals this Fall, so go see it!
A message for THE MALE MODEL MUSIC PROJECT readers, or anyting you would like to add concerning JOSHUA TREE, 1951, and your other films or projects.
Matthew: Derek Jarman is one of the most important artists, filmmakers, and activists of the 70s, 80s, and 90s -- yet far too few people know about his life and work. I made a film about him (DELPHINIUM), and it's still playing festivals, with screenings this Fall in London, Paris, Berlin, and Hamburg. If you can, set aside a few minutes of your time to watch a film about an artist whose life, work, and activism really inspires me and, I believe, will inspire you too.
Special thanks to Matthew for this interview. Welcome to the project!!!
Check out JOSHUA TREE, 1951: A PORTRAIT OF JAMES DEAN 's official site HERE.
THE MALE MODEL MUSIC PROJECT will keep you posted on any news on JOSHUA TREE, 1951: A PORTRAIT OF JAMES DEAN and Matthew Mishory's upcoming work.