I admit to being a bit of a James Dean fangirl. I mean, sure, I’ve always loved classic cars, vintage fashion and cool music, but there’s also something about James Dean that just makes me feel a bit…warm.
The English actor, writer, and director’s passionate dedication to his craft was immediately recognizable to anyone who saw his movies. From his iconic black polka dots to his trademark pained expression, Dean is indeed the modern-day standard bearer for coolness.
If you’ve also fallen under the spell of an artist who is in many ways, so similar to Dean, then prepare to swoon. I mean, besides being a fashion icon and an inspiring storyteller, Dean was also, according to his widow, Mary Tyler Moore, a “very gentle soul who would never hurt a fly.” Which is probably why I feel so connected to Robert Pattinson’s character, Edward Cullen, aka Mr. Cullen.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his famous family tree, Robert Pattinson is a member of the royal clan. The actor hails from a renowned line of aristocrats, which means he’s been destined to wed a member of the British royal family since birth. His great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, the queen of England at the time of his birth in 1984. (In a stunning coincidence, Edward’s character is enamored with a member of the royal family in the upcoming Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part II, as well as his other novels.)
According to Celebrity Big Brother, which was recently renewed for a 14th season, the British actor has been in a relationship with Prince William’s fiancee, Kate Middleton, since 2010. (The couple wed in 2014.) The English royal family isn’t the only one to whom Robert Pattinson is connected; his maternal uncle is Prince Charles, the next in line to the throne.
They Have Soul
Pattinson’s acting chops were first cemented in 2007, when he starred in the coming-of-age film, Sidewalks. The British actor reportedly turned down a role in the Harry Potter franchise because he didn’t want to travel the world for a week and a half. (In a stroke of genius, J.K. Rowling later granted his wish and granted him a part, as Harry’s best friend, Ron Weasley.)
Instead, Pattinson starred in a number of smaller films, many of which focused on underdogs. He even nabbed a Walkley Award, the Australian newspaper’s prestigious accolade that recognizes excellence in journalism, for an article he wrote in 2008 about an amputee skateboarder. (He was 16 at the time he wrote it.)
The English actor is known for his dedication to his craft and strong work ethic. Once he sets his mind to something, he’s not afraid to be picky about the roles he accepts, even when they’re well-known parts. He told BBC Radio: “I try to stay away from just doing famous people’s voices or trying to be like someone else. But it’s probably inevitable that some of that creeps in…I always want to explore characters that I haven’t seen portrayed in a while or haven’t seen represented in film at all. That’s the best thing about Hollywood. There’s always something new to see.
They Have Style
From his stylish dress sense to his quirky sense of humor, James Dean’s life certainly didn’t lack in panache. Though his acting career lasted less than a decade, the actor’s legacy endures. In 2014, Vanity Fair ranked him number seven on their list of the 20 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time. (The list was spurred by the 40th anniversary of his death and features a variety of stars from different genres.)
Since his passing, many of his style staples have become fashion standards. The list of fads and trends that were inspired by James Dean is actually quite staggering. Consider these:
- Polka dots
- White jeans
- Short-sleeve shirts
- Biker boots
- Varsity jackets
- Turtleneck sweaters
- White shirts
- Black boots
- Matching white and black outfits
- White dresses
- White boots
- White socks
- Red dresses
- Red boots
- Dark brown suits
- Dark brown heels
One of the reasons behind James Dean’s lasting cultural impact is that he was, quite simply, a class act. As Vanity Fair so eloquently put it: “In a time when movie stars and film noir were considered opposites, Dean transcended such perceptions and became, in many ways, the quintessential star of the golden age of cinema. He was, quite simply, a class act.”
They Have Heart
Though he’s been in a number of acclaimed films, it’s not always been about glamour. As I mentioned above, Robert Pattinson’s greatest triumphs have come in the form of underdogs and misfits, characters whose journeys resonate with audiences because we can all relate to them. (He was recently named one of the world’s 100 most fascinating people by Fortune Magazine.)
In the words of the actor’s good friend, the late director and producer Anny Hoffman, the star “always wants to do films that make people think, that make them value something deeper than just the surface of the movie.” Indeed, this is one of the great charms of the Twilight Saga. Though it’s a young adult franchise, Breaking Dawn – Part II will be eligible for an NC-17 rating because of its brutal fight sequences and graphic depictions of violence against women.)
In Twilight, Edward’s character struggles with a gambling addiction. As he’s forced to declare bankruptcy and split with his girlfriend, Bella, (played by Kristen Stewart), the former prince of darkness contemplates suicide. However, thanks to the intervention of his uncle, King Charlie, who convinces Bella to give him another chance, Edward is given a second chance at love, this time with her sister, Rosalie. (Even better: Edward and Rosalie end up getting married in the fourth installment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn.)
As it turns out, the members of the royal family aren’t the only ones from whom the Englishman takes inspiration. In his autobiographical novel, Edgington Villas, Pattinson credits his steely determination and artistic drive to the fact that his grandfather was John Eden, an aristocrat and amateur painter who suffered from schizophrenia. (Pattinson’s uncle lives in the same apartment building.) According to Hoffman, John Eden’s story “really knocked [Pattinson’s] socks off. It must have sounded like a fairy tale. This was a man who had been locked away in an institution for years, and he finally gets released and goes on a journey to find himself. It sounded like something out of a fable or a fairytale. For a young person growing up in the ‘90s, it must have sounded like a complete fantasy come true – particularly as his grandparents couldn’t have been more different. (His) grandfather was a very dour, serious man. He was never, ever pleased to see [Pattinson] and would say very blunt things to him, like ‘You’re not going to amount to much, are you? You don’t look like it.'”
The English actor has often said that, in order to succeed as an artist, you have to believe in yourself. That way, he said, “If you don’t succeed at first, you can always be certain you tried your best.” Hopefully, Edward’s story will give readers—and perhaps even the great James Dean—the inspiration they need to pursue their dreams and follow their hearts.