I struck up an acquaintance with Michael Mann in the summer of ‘97, when I was working as an in-house People freelancer. He knew I was a fanatical longtime fan, etc. One afternoon Mann invited me over for a brief sitdown at his office (Olympic near Bundy), and it was strictly about feeling me out. No quotes or notes.

It was right in the first cautious blush of that relationship that Mann allowed me to look at a James Dean screen test that Leonardo DiCaprio performed in ‘93. It was filmed footage on a VHS cassette, and Leo was wearing a red Rebel Without A Cause jacket and ‘50s Brylcream pompadour hair.

The deal was that I couldn’t mention to anyone (not even my mother) that I’d seen it, and there could certainly be no filing of any kind.

I agreed, of course, but I was so knocked out by how well DiCaprio had captured Dean’s expressions during his big scene with Jo Van Fleet in East of Eden (‘55)…I was so turned around that it broke my heart to have to sit on my impressions forever. But now that Mann has discussed the DiCaprio-Dean thing in a chat with Deadline ‘s Michael Fleming, it seems okay to mention my quick peek.