It’s been nearly 60 years since James Dean was forever immortalized as the troubled Jim Stark in “Revel Without a Cause” but did you know that the film was in development for nearly a decade before Nicholas Ray delivered his version to their world? During that long process another legendary actor tested for the lead role, joining the countless other near-castings in cinema history—Tom Selleck famously was nearly Indiana Jones and Eric Stoltz shot a couple of weeks of “Back To The Future.” Since this is the internet, that actor’s screen test has, of course, been making the rounds online.
The 1955 film is officially an adaptation of psychiatrist Robert M. Linder’s “Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath” despite the finished film bearing no resemblance to the 1944 book. The studio had no interest in actually adapting the book, their sole reason for buying the rights to the book was so the title could be used for a future project.
In 1947 Warner Bros. began doing screen tests using incomplete scripts and ended up testing a very young Marlon Brando, pre-“A Streetcar Named Desire.” As you can see in the five-minute-long video below, Brando’s character is similar to the role Dean ended up playing—troubled youth—but goes by Harold instead of Jim Stark. When Ray joined the film in the mid-'50s, he threw out all the previous drafts and broke the new story—with new character names!—before handing it over to Stewart Stern and Irving Shulman to hammer out the final screenplay for the film we all know and love. Still, the screen test of a fresh-faced 23-year-old Brando is an interesting window into what might have been. Watch the screen test below. [via Reddit]