The CGI resurrection of James Dean and what this means for the future of film

James Dean (yes, that James Dean) will be starring in another film. Sort of. For those who don’t know, Dean was an actor best known for his roles in films such as “Rebel Without a Cause,” “East of Eden” and “Giant.” He’s been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actor and is considered one of the greatest actors in the history of film.

He’s also been dead for 64 years. Tragically, Dean died at the age of 24 in a car crash. How then, one would ask, could he be starring in an upcoming movie? The answer is the magic of CGI. The production company Magic City Films, through another new company, Worldwide XR, will be using footage and photos of Dean along with CGI technology to put his face on another actor’s body — this will make it appear as though it is Dean himself.
The film he will be “starring” in is called “Finding Jack,” in which he will play a Vietnam soldier. Anton Ernst, co-director of this film, explained the decision by assuring that they “will take every precaution to ensure that [Dean’s] legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact.” Ernst also mentioned that Dean’s family supports the film, and even views it as his “fourth movie, a movie he never got to make.”
The decision to use Dean’s likeness in such a way has sparked outrage from many in the film industry, including actor Chris Evans, who tweeted “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.” I, for one, agree.
Despite the public outcry, Magic City Films has no intention of changing their plans. The company that owns the rights to James Dean’s likeness, Worldwide XR, also owns the rights to hundreds of other dead celebrities, ready to be digitally brought back to life. The company’s new CEO, Travis Cloyd, confirms this concept is something they are prepared to do a lot of in the future.
In reference to the backlash, Cloyd insisted “there is a lot more to come for James Dean,” and actually claimed people should “think of it as James Dean 2.0.” This is beyond insulting, not only to Dean’s fanbase, but to the greater film audience as a whole. To try and pretend that putting Dean’s face on some actor’s body is the same as if Dean were still alive is asinine.
If this trend becomes the norm in filmmaking, count me the hell out. As the late Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda Williams put it, “this is puppeteering the dead for their ‘clout’ alone and it sets an awful precedent for the future of performance.” Williams is 100% correct.
No matter how Cloyd tries to spin it, the fact remains that Dean is dead. He will not perform in “Finding Jack or any other movies because he is dead. He will not be paid for this role because he is dead. He will not receive an award for his performance in this movie because he is dead. Despite everything being said, Dean is not appearing in this movie. Why? He died in a car crash on Sept. 30, 1955.