Giant is a 1956 American epic Western drama movie, directed by George Stevens from a screenplay adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat from Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel. The movie stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean and features Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Elsa Cardenas and Earl Holliman. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Giant.
1. Giant was the last of James Dean’s three movies as a leading actor, and earned him his second and last Academy Award nomination.
2. James Dean was killed in a car accident before Giant was released. Nick Adams was called in to do some voice dubbing for Dean’s role.
3. In 2005, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being, “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
4. Carroll Baker, who plays Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter, was actually older than Taylor.
5. When Rock Hudson was cast, director George Stevens asked him whom he preferred as his leading lady, Grace Kelly or Elizabeth Taylor. Hudson picked Taylor, who was cast and ended up becoming lifelong friends with Hudson.
6. James Dean refused to undergo a lengthy make-up process for his later scenes, claiming, “a man of 45 shows his age in thoughts and actions, not in wrinkles.” He only allowed them to gray his temples and put a few lines on his forehead.
7. The start of the movie was delayed a few months so that Elizabeth Taylor could give birth to her son. This gave Warner Brothers time to cast James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
8. In the 1940s and 1950s, the usual policy for movies where characters would start young and get older was to cast older actors and de-age them to show them as their younger selves. Giant took the then largely radical step of doing the opposite, casting younger actors and using make-up to make them look older.
9. George Stevens wanted to cast fading star Alan Ladd, whom he’d previously cast in Shane, as Jett Rink, but his wife advised against it. The role went to James Dean.
10. Clark Gable was considered for the role of Bick Benedict, but was rejected as too old by producer Jack L. Warner.
11. Although appalled by his lack of professionalism, George Stevens was always highly complimentary about James Dean’s acting abilities. He even conceded that some of his lateness was a result of his intense work getting into character before shooting.
12. Rock Hudson and James Dean didn’t get along. Although later rumors would suggest that Dean had rejected a pass from the actor, most sources reported that each had little respect for the other’s approach to acting, and Hudson resented what he considered Dean’s unprofessional behavior.
13. James Dean was so completely immersed in his character that he hardly ever changed out of his costume.
14. Rock Hudson, in a later interview, claimed that when he viewed the movie for the first time with an audience, he was booed throughout, but when the audience cheered him in the diner scene he realized that the reaction was to his character and not to his abilities as an actor.
15. Giant was the highest grossing movie in Warner Brothers history until the release of The Exorcist in 1973.
16. The character of Jett Rink inspired Larry Hagman’s characters J.R. Ewing in Dallas.
17. According to Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, the day after James Dean’s death was announced, George Stevens required a distraught and inconsolable Taylor to complete reaction shots for a scene she had played with Dean. The actress never forgave him.
18. James Dean called the shooting style of director George Stevens the “around the clock” method, because Stevens would film a scene from as many different angles as possible, which made everything seem to take longer to do.
19. Elizabeth Taylor was said to be so upset the day after James Dean died, that she was excused from working on the picture for the day.
20. The massive painting seen on the set of the Benedict home is now in the Manger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. It has hung in several spots in the original 1800s section of the hotel.
21. Originally budgeted for about $2 million, the movie ended up costing over $5 million. Despite the worries of studio head Jack L. Warner, it went on to become Warner Brothers biggest hit up to that time.
22. Shooting in Texas during the summer was far from comfortable, with temperatures rising as high as 120 degrees in the shade. Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor bolstered each other’s spirits as much as possible, often staying up late drinking together.
23. George Stevens made the movie for no upfront salary but a percentage of the back-end profits.
24. Although Dennis Hopper plays the son of Elizabeth Taylor, in real life, he was only 4 years younger.
25. James Dean was so desperate to be in the movie that he offered to work for a minimal salary.
26. Giant spent an entire year in the editing suites.
27. Wanting to emphasize the height of the Benedict mansion, the oil wells and Rink’s hotel, George Stevens eschewed the use of the CinemaScope format, as he felt that he lenses tended to distort the image. In terms of his story, he felt that height was much more important than width.
28. The screenplay was only 70 pages of dialogue for a three hour movie.
29. One night during location shooting, Mercedes McCambridge and James Dean were so mad at George Stevens that they sat up eating a jar of peanut butter, a box of crackers, six Milky Ways and 12 Cokes.
30. Production notes claim that of the hundreds of Texans hired to play extras in the movie, ten were millionaires.