As what would have been his 85th birthday approaches, James Dean’s best friend, Lew Bracker, speaks to Closer Weekly revealing new details and fond memories from the stars last days before his tragic death.

Bracker was James’ best friend for the last 16 months of his life and whom he confided his dreams for the future with before his tragic death in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1955.

“There’s all this talk of a death wish,” Bracker, author of Jimmy & Me: A Personal Memoir of James Dean, tells Closer. “Jimmy didn’t have a death wish. He had a life wish.”

james dean getty images

James in 1953.

Bracker tells Closer that the pals had plans to open a car dealership and an Italian restaurant — and to start families together, with their wives becoming best friends.

“We used to sit up on Mulholland Drive and talk about girls,” Bracker, who is a Korean War vet, tells Closer. “We didn’t discuss acting — that was probably one of the things that attracted Jimmy to me.”

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Outside of work, Bracker tells Closer that James knew how to have fun, drinking wine with 7UP and playing practical jokes, like pretending to be a vice cop and busting up a jazz joint. The man who died so young never had the chance to grow up. “Jimmy had a lot of little boy in him,” his pal tells Closer.

For the full interview with Lew Bracker, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!