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James Dean Quotes

Quotes written or spoken by James Dean – compiled by DennPietro

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
“The only greatness for a man is immortality.” 1950
“When an actor plays a scene exactly the way a director orders, it isn’t acting. It’s following instructions. Anyone with the physical qualifications can do that. So the director’s task is just that – to direct, to point the way. Then the actor takes over. And he must be allowed the space, the freedom to express himself in the role. Without that space, an actor is no more than an unthinking robot with a chest-full of push-buttons.”
“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor’s duty; to interpret it his problem; and to express it his dedication. Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that’s all you have. Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done.”
“Some day I want to direct. A director must be a perfectionist and man of wide knowledge. That is why I sometimes feel there are too few hours in the day to even begin to learn what I need to know.”
“A directors notebook is just an ordinary pad, but it has a very definite purpose in the acting profession. I use it to take notes on how a director works, how he uses lights, how he gets interesting and intricate camera angles, and just about every technique he employs in the shooting of a motion picture. I hope to use the notes as research material and background data when I make that big move into the field of directing. I know it won’t come for a long while, but I’m preparing. And when I went into George Stevens’ production of Giant at Warners, I had another notebook. I hope to have a collection of notes on the technique of all of Hollywood’s great motion picture directors.” – began notebooks during East of Eden
“I don’t care what people write about me. I’ll talk to people I like. The others can print whatever they please.”
“The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.”
“Instead of doing little poems about mice, I did things like the ‘Terror or Death’ – the goriest. This made me strange, a little harpie in short pants.”
“I practiced (Hamlet) for years in the middle of a wheat field in Indiana.”
“I’ve been riding since I was sixteen… I used to ride to school… I used to go out for the cows on the motorcycle. Scared the hell out of them. They’d get to running and their udders would start swinging and they’d lose a quart of milk.”
“I have registered for summer and fall sessions at UCLA… I am now a fully pledged member of the Miller Playhouse Theater Guild Group… My knowledge of the stage and the ability to design and paint sets won me the place of head stage manager for the next production.” – letter to grandparents in 1949
“It’s a dream. Don’t let anyone wake me up.” – on being cast in the UCLA production of Macbeth
“I don’t even want to be just the best. I want to grow up so tall that nobody can reach me. Not to prove anything, but just to go where you ought to go when you devote your whole life and all you are to be one thing.”
“My purpose in life does not include a hankering to charm society.”
“Only the gentle are ever really strong.”
“Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn’t hiss or boo me. I also became close to nature, and am now able to appreciate the beauty with which this world is endowed.”
“I’m not the bobby-sox type and I’m not the romantic leading man. They’ll never give me a real chance.” 1951
“I’ve discovered a whole new world here, a whole new way of thinking… this town is the end. It’s talent that counts here. You’ve got to stay with it or get lost. I like it.” – on New York City
“New York’s a fertile, generous city if you can accept the violence and decadence.”
“I have made great strides in my craft. After months of auditioning, I am very proud to announce that I am a member of the Actors Studio. The greatest school of the theater. It houses great people like Marlon Brando, Julie Harris, Arthur Kennedy, Mildred Dunnock…Very few get into it, and it is absolutely free. It is the best thing that can happen to an actor. I am one of the youngest to belong. If I can keep this up and nothing interferes with my progress, one of these days I might be able to contribute something to the world.”
“How can you measure acting in inches?!?” (when told he was too short to be an actor) James Dean’s actual height was 5’8″
“My neuroticism expresses itself in the dramatic. Why do most actors act? To express the fantasies in which they have involved themselves.”
“If I let them dissect me like a rabbit.. then I might be able to produce again.” – On the actors studio and Lee Strasberg 1953
“I can’t divert into being a social human being when I’m working on a hero like Cal, who’s essentially demonic.” – on East of Eden
“I just want to make this picture and get back to New York.” 1954
“I’ve told the girls here to kiss my ass, and what sterile, spineless, stupid prostitutes they are… I haven’t been to bed with nobody, and I won’t until after the picture and I am home safe in New York City.”
“The best thing about being a bachelor is that you can get into bed from either side.”
“I’m a serious-minded and intense little devil – terribly gauche and so tense that I don’t see how people can stay in the same room as me. I know I couldn’t tolerate myself.”
“Trust and belief are two prime considerations. You must not allow yourself to be opinionated. You must say, ‘Wait. Let me see.’ And above all, you must be honest with yourself.” …to Hedda Hopper
“A new addition has been added to the Dean family. I got a red ’53 MG… My sex pours itself into fat curves, broadslides and broodings, drags, etc. You have plenty of competition. My motorcycle, my MG and my girl. I have been sleeping with my MG. We make it together, honey.” – letter to a girlfriend, Barbara Glenn, in New York
“Racing is the only time I feel whole.” 1955
“Just an easy kind of friendly thing. I respect her. She’s untouchable. We’re members of totally different castes. You know, she’s the kind of girl you put on a shelf and look at. Anyway, her old lady doesn’t like me. Can’t say I blame her.” – on girlfriend Pier Angeli
“For better or for worse, I’m going to spend the rest of my days with her.” – on girlfriend Pier Angeli
“There is no way to be truly great in this world. We are all impaled on the crook of conditioning. A fish that is in the water has no choice that he is. Genius would have it that we swim in sand. We are fish and we drown.”
“Success is only in the mechanics of it. All the rest I have because I’m me and I’ve got it all.”
“I think the prime reason for existence, for living in this world is discovery.”
“Those chairs are made scientifically so that in exactly 11minutes your backside begins to hurt. But I beat the average. First I sit on one half of my fanny, then on the other. They don’t get rid of me until my 22 minutes are up. But I’m beginning to take the shape of those chairs. Maybe that’s the shape of my destiny.” – on agent’s offices
“I think all of us have a great need to let go. Acting is my outlet.”
“I’m really kind and gentle. Things get mixed up all the time. I see a person I would like to be very close to , then I think it would be just the same as before and they don’t give a shit for me. Then I say something nasty or nothing at all and walk away. The poor person doesn’t realize that I have decided I don’t like them. What’s wrong with people?” 1954
“The directors task is just that, to direct, to point the way. Then the actor must take over, and he must be allowed space, the freedom to express himself in the role. Without that space an actor is no more than an unthinking robot with a chest full of push buttons.”
“You know what a crazy life I lead. I just figured, you never know… I might go out one night and never come home. Then what would happen to Marcus.” – Marcus was Jimmy’s cat
“Whatever’s inside making me what I am, it’s like film. Film only works in the dark. Tear it all open and let in the light and you kill it.”
“I put everything I had into that one, and I’m pleased with the general result. Any writer, musician, painter or actor will tell you that when they look back on their work they know it could be improved. But in the end you have to say OK, that’s it, it’s finished – it stands or falls as it is. I now regard Natalie, Nick and Sal as co-workers. I regard them as friends… about the only friends I have in this town.”
“People were telling me I behaved like Brando even before I knew who Brando was. I’m not disturbed by the comparison – nor am I flattered.” 1955
“An actor must interpret life, and in order to do so must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet. In the short span of his lifetime, an actor must learn all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or approach that state as closely as possible. He must be superhuman in his efforts to store away in the core of his subconscious everything that he might be called upon to use in the expression of his art.”
“What counts to the artist is performance, not publicity. Guys who know me, already they’ve typed me as an oddball.”
“An actor must learn all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or approach that state as closely as possible.”
“I want to do Hamlet soon. I feel only a young man should play the part. When older actors play him, they anticipate the answers and substitute technique and sonority of voice for youth. The gauche, stumbling, feeling, reaching, searching boy that Hamlet was is lost.”
“Cal is a hero who is humanly demonic. The picture is a study of dualities – that it is necessary to arrive at goodness through a sense of the satanic rather than the puritan. I hate anything that limits progress and growth.” – on Cal Trask
“It was an accident, although I’ve been involved in some kind of theatrical function or other since I was a child – in school, music, athletics. To me, acting is the most logical way for people’s neuroses to manifest themselves, in this great need we all have to express ourselves. To my way of thinking, an actor’s course is set even before he’s out of the cradle.”
“Since I’m only 24 years old, guess I have as good an insight into this rising generation as any other young man my age. And I’ve discovered that most young men do not stand like ramrods or talk like Demosthenes. Therefore, when I do play a youth, such as in Warner Bros. Rebel Without A Cause, I try to imitate life. The picture deals with the problems of modern youth. It is the romanticized conception of the juvenile that causes much of our trouble with misguided youth nowadays. I think the one thing this picture shows that’s new is the psychological disproportion of the kids’ demands on the parents. Parents are often at fault, but the kids have some work to do, too. But you can’t show some far off idyllic conception of behavior if you want the kids to come and see the picture. You’ve got to show what it’s really like, and try to reach them on their own grounds. You know, a lot of times an older boy, one of the fellows the young ones idolize, can go back to the high school kids and tell them, “Look what happened to me! Why be a punk and get in trouble with the law? Why do these senseless things just for a thrill?” I hope “Rebel Without A Cause” will do something like that. I hope it will remind them that other people have feelings. Perhaps they will say, “What do we need all that for?”If a picture is psychologically motivated, if there is truth in the relationship in it, then I think that picture will do good. I firmly believe Rebel Without A Cause is such a picture.” …from an interview at a preview of Rebel Without A Cause
“We fight like cats and dogs – no, on second thought, like two monsters. But then we make up and it’s fun. Ursula doesn’t take any baloney from me I don’t take any baloney from her. I guess it’s because we are both egotistical.” – on Ursula Andress
“What the hell would she have in common with a poor farm boy? If it weren’t that I was up there on the screen, her and people like her wouldn’t give me the time of day.” – on Ursual Andress
“The trouble with me is that I’m just dog tired. Everybody hates me and thinks I’m a heel. They say I’ve gone to Hollywood, but honestly I’m just the same as when I didn’t have a dime. I’m tired. I went into Giant immediately after a long hard schedule in Rebel. Maybe I’d better just go away.”
“Stevens has been horrible. I sat there for three days, made up and ready to work at 9 o’clock every morning. By 6 o’clock I hadn’t had a scene or a rehearsal. I sat there like a bump on a log watching that big lumpy Rock Hudson making love to Liz Taylor. I’m not going to take it any more.” – on Giant and director George Stevens
“I’m a much better actor than what’s being done with me at the moment. I’m being inhibited, I’m not able to exersize the full capacity of my abilities.”
“I’m a small town boy, with small town ideas. That’s how I want to live. I intend some day to retire and farm.” 1955
“If I live to be a hundred, there won’t be time to do everything I want.” 1955
“My life story seems so dull to me that I can’t really tell it without the “Funeral March” or “Hearts and Flowers” providing a mournful background.” 1955
“That guy’s GOT to see us.” – last words, September 30, 1955 at 5:45pm nearing the corner of 41 and 466 (now 46) in Cholame, CA

 

THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO PRESERVE JAMES DEAN’S LEGACY!