Well, the future is officially here. Last week, a Hollywood studio announced it would bring back James Dean via CGI (computer-generated imagery) for a new role. While some consider it an innovative project, many others, including some celebrities, feel it crosses the line. Read on to learn all the details about this divisive decision…
James Dean Is Back – Via CGI
Despite passing away in 1955, actor James Dean remains an American legend who symbolizes youthful rebellion. He may have died before his time, before he even truly became a star, but the Rebel Without A Cause never left our thoughts. Now, Hollywood will bring the Dean back to life using CGI for the film Finding Jack. The film, based on Gareth Crocker’s novel, which takes place immediately after the Vietnam War, focuses on some 10,000 dogs abandoned at the end of the war.
The production company behind the movie, Magic City Films, obtained all of the rights to use Dean’s image from his family. The plan is to use real footage and photos of the actor, to accurately recreate him in CGI. Then two other actors, one for the voice and another for the body, will fill in the details. While it might seem strange, it’s been done before – by the biggest studio in the world no less! Disney used the exact same technique to “bring back” actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, for the 2016 Star Wars film Rogue One.
“A Whole New Opportunity”
For the actual CGI work, Magic City Films will contract out to two big VFX companies: Imagine Engine, located in Canada, and MOI Worldwide, from South Africa. Together, they are working on bringing back “a realistic version of James Dean.”
Anton Ernst, one Finding Jack‘s directors, explained the studios’ bizarre choice: “We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extremely complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean. 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 family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”
Finding Jack begins filming this month, with a Veterans Day 2020 release date. The CEO of CMG Worldwide, Mark Roesler, who represents Dean’s family, also commented, saying: “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”
Massive Online Backlash
Many James Dean fans felt excited to see their favorite star on the silver screen again. However, not everyone shared their enthusiasm. Specifically, many in Hollywood had some negative thoughts. Deceased comedian Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda tweeted, “I have talked to friends about this for YEARS, and no one ever believed me that the industry would stoop this low once tech got better. Publicity stunt or not, this is puppeteering the dead for their ‘clout’ alone, and it sets such an awful precedent for the future of performance.”
Former Captain America actor Chris Evans’ also tweeted a gloomy prediction, a future where machines simply replicate great artists’ artwork. “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,” he wrote.
Actress Julie Ann Emery believes Magic City Films is being too coy. She wants to know the details, as resurrecting a dead actor is dangerous for every entertainer’s job out there. “That’s not James Dean,” Emery tweeted. “It’s his face on a motion-capture performance and an ‘anonymous’ actor providing voice pattern and choices. I’d like to know how it will be credited. How the real actors will be paid. And how little this team understands the acting craft.”
Even actor Devon Sawa, who auditioned for another role in Finding Jack, found the decision puzzling. “They couldn’t give this role to an actual human?” he tweeted.