James Dean, dead 64 years, will be resurrected via technology to star in new movie – USA TODAY
Cool or creepy? A Hollywood film company plans to resurrect iconic actor James Dean, killed in a car wreck in 1955, and “cast” him in a new movie via special effects technology.
Magic City Films announced Wednesday it has obtained the rights from Dean’s family to cast him posthumously in a secondary lead role in a Vietnam-era action drama “Finding Jack.”
It’s the first time Dean’s family has ever agreed to this, now that digital technology has improved enough to make it practical and possible, according to Mark Roesler, head of CMG Worldwide, a licensing company that represents the family.
The movie, based on a novel of the same name by Gareth Crocker, will tell the true story about the abandonment of thousands of canine units as “surplus military equipment” after the end of the Vietnam War, and the adventure that ensues when a smitten soldier refuses to leave his best friend behind, according to IMDb.
Casting of live actors (and presumably dogs) for the film is underway, according to a news release from public relations company Falco Ink.
Dean, born in Indiana in 1931, lived fast, died young (he was 24), and made a big impression in Hollywood with only three film roles as troubled and surly youths: “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), “East of Eden” (1955) and “Giant” (released in 1956 after his death).
These films, and his messy death – Dean collided with a farm truck while driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder to Salinas, California, for a car race – branded him forever as an icon of teen alienation. Many baby boomers still swoon over Dean.
The film’s producer, Anton Ernst, noted in a statement that Dean’s family considers “Finding Jack” to be Dean’s fourth film role.
“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,” Ernst says. “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.”
On Instagram, Dean has more than 183,000 followers “who actively engage with the account,” says Roesler, whose firm has handled the Dean intellectual property rights for his family for 38 years. He says people around the world continue to be inspired by “his iconic style, his unabashed rebellious attitude and free spirit.”
The producers hope to release the film on Veterans Day 2020.
The filmmakers will be using VFX, or visual effects, the process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot, to re-create Dean. A Canadian firm, Imagine Engine, will be working with a South African company, MOI Worldwide.
Roesler says that rapidly evolving film technology opens up a new frontier for his firm’s long-deceased clients, including more than 1,700 entertainment, sports, music and historical personalities.
“This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us,” Roesler says.
Dean’s family consists of the descendants of his aunt and uncle who raised him in Fairmount, Indiana, with his two cousins after his mother died when Dean was 9.
“His childhood farm home has not really changed since his death,” Roesler told USA TODAY. “His cousin still maintains the home and there are two museums in his small town (population 2,900), where fans still converge to see where perhaps Hollywood’s greatest male icon grew up.”
Roesler’s firm has sold Dean’s image around the world, on products such as Dolce & Gabbana clothing, Montblanc pens, Levi’s in Asia and Mercedes-Benz commercials. He says there’s a restaurant and nightclub in Prague and a Broadway musical in the works, plus plans to use virtual reality technology to create a James Dean “digital human” in a project about his life and legacy..
Dean once said “immortality is the only true success,” Roesler notes.
“What was considered rebellious in the ’50s is very different than what is rebellious today, and we feel confident that he would support this modern day act of rebellion,” Roesler says.
Meanwhile, the news was greeted with some skepticism on Twitter, even among those too young to remember Dean onscreen. Some mordant posts about the icon’s comeback used pictures of skeletons.
Some celebs were not impressed.
“I’m sure he’d be thrilled,” was the sarcastic post from “Captain America” star Chris Evans on Twitter, using a eye-rolling emoji. “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.”
“NOPE. this shouldn’t be a thing,” added “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood.
Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, had a particularly scathing commentary, calling it “bad taste & a bad call” and railing against “puppeteering the dead.” She predicted a grim future for the industry full of “corporate ghosts.”
“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,” 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.”
Non-celebrities were no more impressed:
“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” lamented a tweet by Courtney Pochin, a writer for the British tabloid Daily Mirror.
“This is among the most ghastly things to ever happen,” commented Nerdist contributing editor Lindsey Romain.
” ‘We couldn’t find a non-dead actor for the role of a white guy in a Vietnam war movie’ is truly an amazing take,” tweeted feminist writer Andi Zeisler.