James Dean is the latest actor to get the posthumous CGI treatment, as upcoming film Finding Jack will star a completely computerised version of the late actor.
The studio behind the project obtained the rights to his likeness from his family, though the move has drawn anger from some of Hollywood’s biggest names including Captain America’s Chris Evans, Elijah Woods and more.
The news was announced by the Hollywood Reporter, who spoke with the director Anton Ernst of Magic City Films (who is producing the project). Ernst revealed that a real-life casting call had taken place for Dean’s role, a Vietnam War soldier called Rogan, but the decision was eventually made to use CGI.
He said, “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.”
“We feel very honoured 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,” he continued.
Dean passed away at the age of 24 years old over 60 years ago in 1955 in a car accident. His death cut short an illustrious career that included classics such as East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause.
His digitized likeness is said to be a “full body” CGI recreation, unlike previous instances as with Fast and the Furious 7 where the late Paul Walker’s face was superimposed onto the body of his brother, Caleb Walker.
Digitized Dean will be based on existing footage and pictures of the actor, while he will be voiced by another actor who is yet to be announced.
The film centres around the numerous military dogs that were abandoned following the Vietnam War.
CMG Worldwide, a talent agency specialising in past and present “legends” that purports to “protect our clients’ image and likeness and perpetuate their remarkable legacies”, represents Dean’s family. The agency said the film “opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”
Ernst added that they had “partners in South Africa” who were excited about the technology, as they planned to “re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela”.
The move has received backlash online, with Knives Out star Chris Evans calling the move “shameful”.
He tweeted, “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.”
Elijah Wood responded simply with, “NOPE. this shouldn’t even be a thing.”
The Breakfast Club’s John Cusack tweeted, “That’s capitalism right there – able to exploit a person even after they are dead… BREAKING: no living actors available.”
Patton Oswalt also hinted at how the move could harm jobbing actors, tweeting, “his expression in the picture is the same as every out-of-work living actor upon hearing this news”
Actor Tom Brittney revealed that he had “actually auditioned” for the project and called the move a “truly terrible, creepy, distasteful idea”. He tweeted, “I actually auditioned for this film. And didn’t get it. Because they cast a dead actor instead. I have also just heard I’m getting fired from Grantchester because CGI Marlon Brando has just become available.”
Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late Robin Williams, said she expected that “the industry would stoop this low once tech got better”.
She tweeted, “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.”
She continued in a separate tweet, “I personally think we should let the great performers of the past rest. They took their bows themselves.”
The only person who seemed to be receptive to the news was Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Terry Crews, who tweeted jokingly, “I hereby give permission to bring me back via CGI and put me every Fast & Furious movie for eternity. Signed, Terry Crews.”
Dean is not the first star to be recreated for the big screen via CGI, though most usually stray away from a full CGI recreation.
A younger version of the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia was also created for Star Wars Rogue One, with Norweigian actress Ingvild Deila standing in for Fisher as her face was digitally manipulated.
The late singer Whitney Houston will also be brought back to life for a 2020 stadium tour, which will see her rendered as a hologram using “digital and laser imaging, and CGI techniques” for the public.