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Film

The supernatural encounter between Alec Guinness and James Dean

Although Alec Guinness is best known for playing the wise sage Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie, the actor was also a beloved British icon whose influence in cinema eclipses the mere impact of the science fiction franchise. 

Pursuing acting since the 1930s, Guinness took leave from his pursuit of stardom to play his role in WWII, serving as a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and a Temporary Lieutenant throughout his time in the conflict, before his rapturous return to stage and screen. In the years that followed, from 1946-1949, the actor released some of his finest movies, including Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and Kind Hearts and Coronets.

This set the actor up for a glittering career that saw him star in some of the greatest movies of the 20th century, working with David Lean for a trilogy of classics, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

Among the milieu of Hollywood icons by the mid-20th century, Guinness was rubbing shoulders with some of the industry’s biggest stars, even meeting the captivating icon James Dean during a supernatural encounter in 1955. 

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Meeting Dean on September 23rd, 1955, mere days before the actor’s tragic car accident on September 30th, Guinness revealed the strange conversation they had on BBC’s Parkinson Talk Show many years later. 

Meeting Dean by his Porsche 550 Spyder that would ultimately be the death of him, Guinness recalled how he warned the 24-year-old that if he drove the car, he would be killed. The conversation between the two actors occurred when Guinness and a close friend were turned away from a packed Hollywood restaurant, when, shortly after, they were approached by Dean who offered them to join him at his table. 

Taking him up on his offer, before they went inside the restaurant, Dean eagerly showed the actor his new car. As Guinness recalled to Michael Parkinson, “There in the courtyard of this little restaurant was this little silver thing, very smart, all done up in cellophane with a bunch of roses tied to its bonnet,” Guinness told Parkinson, adding that he asked how fast it could go. Dean replied, “it would do 150 mph”. 

Telling Guinness that he had not yet taken the car out for a spin, the Star Wars actor rather peculiarly recalled, “some strange thing came over me. Some almost different voice and I said, ‘Look, I won’t join your table unless you want me to, but I must say something: Please do not get into that car, because if you do’ — and I looked at my watch — and I said, ‘if you get into that car at all, it’s now Thursday (Friday, actually), 10 o’clock at night and by 10 o’clock at night next Thursday, you’ll be dead if you get into that car’”.  

Brushing off the supernatural warning, Dean and Guinness had a “charming dinner,” though, sure enough, one week later the young American icon tragically died whilst cruising in his Porsche 550 Spyder along California 46. Concluding his thoughts on the strange incident, Guinness adds, “It was one of those odd things. It was a very, very odd, spooky experience. I liked him very much, too. I would have loved to have known him more”. 

You can watch the eerie original interview between Alec Guinness and Michael Parkinson, below.