James Dean Was "Disdainful" of "Giant" Co-Star Rock Hudson Being Closeted, New Doc Claims
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed digs into the actors' contentious working relationship.
The set of the classic 1956 film Giant was a tense one, according to Hollywood historians, and there are a few possible reasons why. The movie stars Rock Hudson, James Dean, and Elizabeth Taylor as three people involved in an epic rags-to-riches tale of oil being found on a Texas ranch. During filming, Taylor got along with both of her male co-stars, but the relationship between Hudson and Dean was reportedly much less friendly. According to the upcoming HBO documentary film Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed (out June 28), the source of some of the discord between the two heartthrobs was the difference between Hudson's private life as a gay man and his public image as a heterosexual leading man. Read on to find out why Hudson "didn't like" Dean and why Dean was reportedly "disdainful" of Hudson's choices.
Dean wasn't impressed by Hudson's double life.
Mark Griffin, who wrote 2018's All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson, gives some insight into the dynamic between the two Giant stars in the HBO film.
"According to some accounts, James Dean was rather disdainful of Hudson," Griffin says in the doc. "Dean considered it hypocritical that Rock was maintaining this hetero façade in public while privately hitting on Dean, if we're to believe the rumor mill."
Though many of his friends and co-stars in Hollywood knew Hudson was gay, he kept his sexuality private from the public his entire life. It wasn't until after he died in 1985 of AIDS-related complications at age 59 that friends confirmed to the press how he identified.
Griffin says Dean was being hypocritical, however.
Griffin continued that it actually may have been Dean who was being hypocritical, given what was believed about his own sexuality. Dean is thought to have been bisexual, and there are accounts of him having relationships with famous men in Hollywood as well as women.
"Some might say that that's a case of the pot calling the kettle black," Griffin goes on to say in All That Heaven Allowed. "You know, it's pretty well documented that early in his career James Dean was kept by a gay radio executive, who was indeed friends with Rock's agent, Henry Wilson. If you're talking about shrouded sexuality, they weren't all that different."
Hudson owned up to not liking Dean either.
All That Heaven Allowed also includes an interview clip from later in Hudson's life, in which he isn't keen to talk about his co-star.
"[Director] George [Stevens] chose Jimmy, because Jimmy was new and hot, hot, hot," he says of working with Dean. "I didn't particularly like him, personally." Hudson then asks to pause the interview so he can smoke.
Later he continues, "As I said, I didn't like the fellow too much. I don't know if I should say anymore. Jimmy was dead before the picture was over. I don't like to talk against anybody, and I don't like to talk against the dead, so I think I should shut up."
Dean died in a car accident in 1955 when he was just 24 years old.
As reported by Vanity Fair, Hudson once told a reporter of Dean, "I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but he was a prick."
Dean supposedly expressed his feelings about Hudson's sexuality.
According to the Daily Mail, Don Graham wrote in the 2018 book Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film that Dean lived with Hudson during production on Giant, but said he moved out because the actor tried to "queer him." The book also claims that Dean called Hudson a "fairy" and French-kissed him one day as a way to offend him.
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Hudson and Dean's acting styles were also in conflict.
Neither Dean nor Hudson are around to confirm or deny whether or not Hudson being closeted was an issue between them, but it is well-documented that their processes clashed.
"Both Rock and Elizabeth hated James' methods or antics really," Graham told Fox News in 2018. "He wouldn't really hit the mark where he was supposed to be… He would mumble or do tricks with this little rope that he would carry or pull his hat down. He was always busy doing something to capture the reality of his character. But these two were more formally trained to stand, read their lines, hit the mark and take direction."
In a 1982 interview, Hudson said of Dean, "He had his own absolute style. He could not alter that style, you had to go along with him. You could not get him to go along with you."
And they were competitive over Taylor's attention.
In Giant, Dean and Hudson's characters are also at odds and both romantically interested in Taylor's character. This mirrored what was happening behind the scenes, as both actors got close to their leading lady.
"Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor spent many nights drinking vodka and eating chocolate," Graham told Fox News. "They stayed up until 3 a.m. only to be at work by 6 a.m. Rock really valued her friendship. And then James Dean started intervening on that. He would also competitively steal Elizabeth's affections away from Rock… Rock would then fear that James was stealing Elizabeth Taylor and the film away from him."
Similarly, Giant co-star Carroll Baker said in the All That Heaven Allows biography (via Vanity Fair), "We were all having a wonderful time and then Jimmy arrived and he stole Elizabeth away from us. She went off mysteriously each evening with Jimmy and none of us could figure out where they went."
Hudson and Taylor remained close until he died, and his diagnosis, along with that of other friends, inspired her to become an AIDS activist.