James Dean: Dreams and Sexual Truths


By Jeremy Kinser

Director Matthew Mishory discusses his stunning (and provocative) film portrait of the late screen icon.

The film has played festivals around the world. It definitely has a European sensibility. How differently was the film received outside of the U.S.?
One thing that’s been sort of fascinating to me is that the film has been maybe more controversial and more splitting of audience not in its content but in its form. It’s formally very different than a standard Hollywood biopic. It’s not really told in the language of Hollywood filmmaking. It’s told in the language of dreams and memories because that’s really how Dean endures and that’s how we felt it was best to tell the story.

So I think one interesting difference in the reception is that in the U.S., the film is perceived as being more experimental or belonging to the canon of art cinema. And in Europe, the reception has been more of a mainstream film about an icon who is beloved the world over. And that’s more of how we saw the film. We just embraced a language of filmmaking that maybe is a little more challenging than what’s at the multiplex every week, but I think it was the only way to tell the story in an interesting and refreshing way. It’s also kind of a sexy film. And I think that’s definitely in the plus category when a movie comes out in Europe.

Are audiences surprised by the sexuality in the film?
Well, I don’t think that there’s anything particularly shocking about the movie. What I like about it is — unlike many films — there’s no hand-wringing about sex or sexuality in this movie. There’s no gay angst — in fact, there’s no sexual angst whatsoever. It’s a movie where the sex is actually sexy. So many American films — especially sort of mainstream studio American films — portray sex in a really crass and unappealing way. It’s either a joke or something to feel terrible about afterwards, and that’s not a part of our movie. I think the portrayal of sexuality in the film has certainly been well received abroad. It’s slightly more controversial here.

When and where can readers expect to see the film?
It’s opening theatrically December 12 in Southern California. The L.A. county theatrical release is at the Art Theatre in Long Beach for seven days, and then it’s going to expand from there to five or six cities around the country and possibly also around the world as it continues to play festivals through May or June 2013. And the DVD release will be in June or July of 2013. And that will be worldwide.

What’s your next project?
I am doing something very different but I think challenging and enjoyable in its own way. It's a political thriller with James Duke Mason who I think is known to Out readers.

Yes, he’s a past Out100 honoree.
This is essentially his star vehicle as an actor. His father, who’s kind of a legendary producer [Morgan Mason] in Hollywood, produced Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape and is coming out of retirement to produce. It should be a hugely exciting project. We start filming in the new year in the spring of 2013.

Any final words on why Out readers should seek out your film?
I do think that it’s interesting that in the last five or six years queer audiences have not really been turning out and supporting major queer films which are hard to make, so I’m hoping people will come out and support this movie.

Watch the trailer for Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean below:

Tags: Movies