A new movie set in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War has just found its leading man: James Dean, who has famously been dead for over 60 years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dean's family have granted permission for filmmakers to use his image, in a project entitled Finding Jack.
Magic City Films, the production company launched by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh (who will also direct the film), has teamed up with VFX houses Imagine Engine and MOI Worldwide to create "a realistic version of James Dean" using existing footage and images combined with full body CGI.
"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," said Ernst. "The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down."
This new version of Dean, to be voiced by a separate actor, will play a character named Rogan in the movie, which is based on the true story of the 10,000 military dogs who were abandoned at the end of the Vietnam War. "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 Ernst.
Dean, who was best known for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, died in a car crash in California in 1955 at the age of 24.
His casting in Finding Jack sets a new precedent for the role that deceased public figures can continue to play in pop culture, which some might find ghoulish. Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, said: "This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us." Those late clients include icons such as Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, Bette Davis, Jack Lemmon, Ingrid Bergman and Neil Armstrong.
We've already seen this happen, with questionable success; the Star Wars prequel movie Rogue One featured a lengthy sequence involving a CGI representation of Grand Moff Tarkin, who was originally played by Peter Cushing in A New Hope, as well as a digital "cameo" by a younger version of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Both depictions of these characters were widely criticized for looking unrealistic and taking the viewer out of the moment, while critic Catherine Shourd called the use of the late Cushing's image a "digital indignity."
But it's not just celebrities whose likenesses are open to being hauled out and repurposed without their consent after they die. As Ernst explained, partners MOI Worldwide, who are based in South Africa, are especially excited by the possibilities of this technology as it "would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance." As if 27 years in prison weren't insult enough.
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