Despite having passed away back in 1955, actor James Dean remains a popular cultural icon. Which explains why he’s just been cast in a new movie about the Vietnam War that will premiere 65 years after his death. Say what?
Dean’s likeness will appear in the film Finding Jack not through the use of archival footage, but rather as a fully-rendered CGI character. The digital version of Dean will be created using old photos and footage of the actor, while a different actor will provide his voice. Magic City Films, which is producing the film, has obtained the rights to use Dean’s likeness from the late actor’s estate. “We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact,” the film’s producer Anton Ernst said in a statement, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.” Dean previously starred in the 1955 films Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, and the 1956 Western, Giant.
Despite Dean’s family okaying the move, the decision to digitally resurrect the iconic actor is not sitting well with… basically everyone else. Numerous publications have voiced their opposition to the move, while even some actors have spoken out against it. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, said of the news on Twitter, “I’m sure he’d be thrilled. This is awful. Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes. The complete lack of understanding here is shameful.”
Regardless of the backlash, Magic City Films is moving forward with the movie, which is slated for a November 2020 release. Finding Jack is based on a novel about the abandonment of over 10,000 military dogs at the end of the Vietnam War, and the fake James Dean will play a secondary lead character in the movie named Rogan. “We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” Ernst said in a statement, presumably with a straight face.
This sort of digital resurrection has been done before. Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, posthumously reprised his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in the 2016 Star Wars movie Rogue One. That move, too, generated controversy, but ultimately didn’t hurt the film’s bottom line, as it grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. We’ve also seen over the past several years a number of deceased musical artists from all genres perform live concerts via hologram, including 2Pac, Roy Orbison, and Ronnie James Dio.
It certainly seems like these types of digital recreations of dead artists will be the norm going forward rather than the exception, and one day soon, all entertainers may simply be virtual representations of the past. Welcome to the future.