I recently got the chance to talk to James Preston about his role as James Dean in ‘Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait Of James Dean’. Here, James talks about how he got involved in the project and about the legend of Hollywood…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
If you’re looking for a linear plot-line this film may not be for you because myself and the film makers took a completely different approach with ‘JT1951’. Instead of focusing on a particular story, or stories in young Jimmy’s life – we instead tried to capture the essence of who James Dean was behind the vail of the Hollywood studios in the 1950’s. I think this approach was very much a compliment to the complexity that was “James Dean”. People know he rode a motor cycle, they know he was a “rebel,” most even know that he starred in only three Hollywood pictures, but what made him rebellious? What pain composed all of this inner genius that was James Dean? Through our film we begin to open the first chapter of a soon to be iconic figure that bridged the gap between life and death in the 1950’s.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play James “Jimmy” Dean. “Only the gentle are ever strong” – Jimmy said that back in the 50’s. Clearly he is not a character at all and for someone to write such a beautiful vulnerable quote I felt there had to be more to his bad boy persona than we give him credit for. I saw an interview where the interviewer asked Natalie Wood what it was like hanging out with Jimmy off set, or something along those lines. She replied “he’s just a normal boy in his 20’s” – I found this response baffling because I imagined at the time an almost God like response because of how iconic he was. After hearing this I dove into my research focusing on what made Jimmy tick, not his acting, not his fame or who the studios made him to be, but I tried to dig as deep as possible and bring to the surface the once vulnerable Jimmy that could write such a beautiful quote and capture the hearts of so many in this world…I believe after doing an immense amount of research that Jimmy was one of the bravest souls that walked this earth. He would have searched the ends of the world to find a connection with someone. I focused not on the well-known affectations that people have come to know and love about Jimmy, but instead the pain and disconnect that he felt.
Most people aren’t as familiar with Jimmy’s past and once I began to unravel some trials that this brave soul endured I felt very passionate about sharing them with the world. I feel that through a great deal of pain, people find sheer genius. I hope this picture gives you a glimpse of what made “Jimmy” – a boy with a dream and a heart searching for love.
“James Dean”- our lady slaying rebel bad boy who lights up on the screen with only a look from out of the corner of his eyes.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I auditioned like normal. I dressed up fully like Jimmy and went in to the room nervous as hell. Eddie Singletary who plays Rodger in the film was reading opposite of me. I remember when I walked in he said “well you look like Jimmy, but can you act?”. I kinda laughed hiding my nerves. When I set down Eddie told me to find the truth in the scene and not to worry too much about being James Dean. I remember really connecting with Eddie on my first read. Then I was brought back to read with the directors and producers. I remember sitting across from them about to read my scene. Once we finished the scene I felt good about it. The read was better than the first and the vulnerability that they were searching for was definitely there. Later that day I received a phone call saying “wanna play Jimmy?”. I remember being extremely excited. This began the journey of ‘JT1951’.
How would you say this film tries to stay true to the ‘legend’ of James Dean?
Depends of what truth you’re searching for.
The film stars your good self, Dan Glenn, Dalilah Rain, Erin Daniels, Rafael Morais, Edgar Morais and Clare Grant – with Matthew Mishory onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
To be honest with you it was all a bit of a blur for me while shooting for whatever reason. I know that I wouldn’t have chosen anyone different to direct such a complex artistic look at this brilliant icon. The cast and crew are the most amazing talented people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting out here and we are all still friends to this day. As for me I just remember smoking an endless amount of non-filtered smokes and being a lost soul-searching for a connection, or love in a time where not everything loved back.
Let’s talk a bit about you James. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I try not to talk to much about myself as I was always told it was bad manners – although I will tell you I caught the acting bug when I was about 15 years old and have stayed infected ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Find something aside from acting that makes you happy because that will keep your acting passionate. Those who persevere prevail.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
Hmmm I really have been blessed to work with a number of amazing people in my short career as an actor. I would say that working on ‘The Gates’ with Frank Grillo was quite a treat. He is such a pro at what he does and was always open to giving advise any time I needed. I really loved the young guns on ‘The Gates’ as well – we really formed a family I felt. There are numerous stories that could be told, but what happens in Shreveport stays in Shreveport.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Everything country or from the 70’s. Right now I’m really into Harry Nilsson, Neil Young, Dylan, The Old Crow Medicine Show, Kasey Musgraves, Dirks Bently – the list goes on and on and keeps changing. I love music so much because I feel like it transcends…… such a beautiful form of art.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Jesus lol because I have a lot of un-answered questions, second I would say Dali because I feel like his perspective on life has to be so interesting to paint and draw the way that he does, and third would probably be Bob Dylan. I can’t ever tell what he’s thinking and I feel like the four of us could keep up a pretty interesting conversation.
What was your favourite film of 2012 and why?
I was bedridden for most of 2012 so I would say ‘This Means War’. I thought it was hilarious and I loved Tom Hardy’s acting. First time I was really able to laugh in 2012 as well.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I’m excited to be working with a director by the name of Samuel Gonzalez Jr. who I think has a very promising future ahead of him. We will be working on a short film that is ironically in black and white and is set in the 1950’s. Very different to ‘JT1951’ but I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Also I planned to release an EP if my schedule permits. Keep tuned in and I’ll certainly have some entertaining stuff to come. Thanks for talking with me.
Thanks for the interview!