There’s a New James Dean Movie, and quite a few movie fans, Hollywood notables and film historians aren’t happy about it. Finding Jack director Anton Ernst doesn’t “understand” the current backlash for casting a digital James Dean. Ernst and Tati Golykh announced earlier this week that they were making the Vietnam War movie and using Dean as the star.
The duo apparently searched “high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan,” but later came to the conclusion that the only actor who could play the role in the way that they imagined, died at the age of 24 in 1955. Somehow, Dean’s family signed off on the deal and now it’s a reality. The initial reactions to the casting have been less than favorable, to say the least.
Avengers: Endgame star Chris Evans was one of the first to come out and bash the decision to cast a digital James Dean in Finding Jack. “The complete lack of understanding here is shameful,” said Evans in response to the original report. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams says, “It sets such an awful precedent for the future of performance.” However, Anton Ernst doesn’t get why people are angry. “We don’t really understand it. We never intended for this to be a marketing gimmick,” says Ernst.
It’s hard to see the casting of a digital James Dean as anything but a gimmick from the outside perspective, even after Anton Ernst claims that “respect” is the key to making Finding Jack work. He admits to being “confused” and “saddened” by the backlash against their idea. Rogan is a “very brilliant, complex character,” which is “pretty much how James Dean was perceived,” notes Ernst when talking about the decision to cast the iconic actor in the new movie.
Anton Ernst maintains, “We’ve brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean.” This could be true, but there are still a lot of people who are not into the idea at all. While more people are aware of Dean, it’s also surrounded in negativity. Ernst had this to say about the backlash possibly tainting Finding Jack.
“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.”
Anton Ernst went on to compare the CGI casting of James Dean to the Star Wars franchise’s decision to Carrie Fisher’s return in The Rise of Skywalker. The main difference here is that when Fisher was alive, she was involved in the franchise and had plans to star in three movies. The latest movie is comprised of eight minutes-worth of leftover footage from The Force Awakens augmented with digital technology. “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. Finding Jack is expected to hit theaters on November 11th, 2020, Veterans’ Day. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to interview Anton Ernst over the controversy.