James Dean’s knock out performance as the lead character Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, would forever cement him as a pop cultural icon. But, the role could have gone to someone else.
Warner Brothers had been attempting to adapt Rebel Without a Cause into a film since the late 1940s, after they bought the rights to psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner’s 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath — with the intention of just using the title.
• In 1947, the studio had a partial script and they had Marlon Brando come in for a five-minute screen test.
• Brando wasn’t auditioning for the Jim Stark role, but rather an early character named Harold (who was also a rebellious teen).
• The movie, as it later appeared, was the result of the film’s director Nicholas Ray. In the early 1950s he decided to throw out everything the studio had worked on up to that point, and developed a new treatment for the film.
• Four years after the screen test, Brando had his breakout performance in A Streetcar Named Desire.