After we met on the set of East of Eden, Jimmy began calling for advice or to suggest a night out. We talked on the phone and ran into each other at parties, but never became close. I think he regarded me as a kind of older brother or mentor, and I suppose responded to him as if I was. I felt a kinship for him and was sorry for him. He was hypersensitive, and I could see in his eyes and in the way he moved and spoke that he had suffered a lot. He was tortured by insecurities, the origin of which I never determined, though he said he’d had a difficult childhood and a lot of problems with his father. I urged him to seek assistance, perhaps go into therapy. I have no idea whether he ever did, but I did know it can be hard for a troubled kid like him to have to live up to sudden fame and the ballyhoo Hollywood created around him. I saw it happen to Marilyn, and I also knew it from my own experience. In trying to copy me, I think Jimmy was only attempting to deal with these insecurities, but I told him it was a mistake. Once he showed up at a party and I saw him take off his jacket, roll it into a ball and throw it onto the floor. It struck me that he was imitating something I had done and I took him aside and said, “Don’t do that, Jimmy. Just hang your coat up like everybody else. You don’t have to throw your coat in the corner. It’s much easier to hang it up than pick it up off the floor.”
Another time, I told him I thought he was foolish to try to copy me as an actor. “Jimmy, you have to be who you are, not who I am. You mustn’t try to copy me. Emulate the best aspects of yourself.” I said it was a dead-end street to try to be somebody else. In retrospect, I realize it’s not unusual for people to borrow some else’s form until they find their own, and in time Jimmy did. He was still developing when I first met him, but by the time he made Giant, he was no longer trying to imitate me. He still had his insecurities, but he had become his own man. He was awfully good in that last picture, and people identified with his pain and made him a cult hero. We can only guess what kind of actor he would have become in another twenty years. I think he could have become a great one. Instead he died and was forever entombed in his myth.