James Dean died in a car accident at the young age of 24 more than sixty years ago, but just yesterday it was announced that the late actor would be digitally resurrected to take on a leading role in FINDING JACK, a Vietnam War movie which tells the story of an American soldier who travels to Vietnam after losing his wife and befriends a war dog who saves his life. “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,” said co-director Anton Ernst. “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.“
Naturally, this prompted quite the backlash from many of those in the entertainment industry, and Ernst told THR that he was “saddened” and “confused” by the negative comments his film has already received. “We don’t really understand it. We never intended for this to be a marketing gimmick,” Ernst said, adding that those in charge of James Dean’s estate, two cousins on the actor’s father’s side, have been supportive of the film and didn’t expect a backlash to occur.
I think they would have wanted their family member’s legacy to live on. That’s what we’ve done here as well. We’ve brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean… At the end of the day, what we really want people to know is the movie is about love and friendship, the veterans that served in the Vietnam War and especially the dogs that were with them. We never want to lose that emphasis and this [social media reaction] becomes a distraction of what the story is about.
If I may pull out my soapbox for a second here; if you didn’t want something to distract from your heartwarming story of love and friendship, then perhaps you shouldn’t have cast an actor who has been dead since the ’50s! The plan is to bring James Dean to life via full body CGI which will make use of archival footage and photos, while another actor will voice him. “Visual effects is a tool,” Ernst said, while using THE IRISHMAN and STAR WARS as examples of visual effects being used to digitally de-age or resurrect actors. “Anyone that is brought back to life — you have to respect them,” Ernst explained, adding that a line would be crossed only if the role “tarnished” the actor’s legacy. “I think the line should be… you must always honor the deceased’s wishes and try to act in a way that is honorable and full of dignity,” Ernst said. If James Dean had been aware that computers could be used to digitally recreate an actor back in 1955, then maybe he would have had something to say about it. Pre-production on FINDING JACK is expected to kick off later this month and the film is aiming for a November 11, 2020 release.