Depp: The 'New' Dean

06/20/2001 11:00AM

TNT's biopic "James Dean" doesn't premiere on the network until Aug. 5, but Monday night, at a special Manhattan screening of the movie, several stars reflected on the real-life '50s acting rebel, reports PEOPLE. As for who is the James Dean of today, Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn said, "Johnny Depp carries some of that charisma, beauty and talent. But James Dean was one of a kind." Designer Mary McFadden concurred. "He's fabulous," she said of Depp, 38. Bette Midler couldn't think of any star today to compare and contrast with Dean, but she did tell PEOPLE that "Rebel Without a Cause" was her favorite Dean movie, of the three he made. ("East of Eden" and "Giant" were the others. Dean was killed in a car crash in 1955, at the age of 24.) Mark Rydell, who directed and executive-produced the TNT movie (and who plays studio head Jack Warner), was a friend of Dean's. "We used to walk around the city and look for jobs," Rydell, 67, recalled. "One Sunday afternoon, we were walking down Madison Avenue at 63rd Street . . . Jimmy was talking to me about bullfighting, one of his passions, and a bus came hurtling down Madison. Jimmy took his jacket off, leapt in front of the bus and did a pass like a bullfighter. I jumped back and he laughed. I knew at that moment that his future was a short-lived one."

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