Actor James Dean Will Be Digitally Reanimated For A New Vietnam War Movie

It seemed inevitable. Digital technology has been improving. Older actors appear as younger versions of themselves in movies from Ant-Man to The Irishman. In 2016, a CGI version of the late actor Peter Cushing appeared in the Star Wars flick, Rogue One. Dead actors have been resurrected for commercials, to sell everything from vacuums to chocolate. So really, it was only a matter of time before a beloved, long-dead celebrity had their likeness reappropriated for a starring role in a film. That’s exactly what’s set to happen in Killing Jack, an upcoming Vietnam War film which will star James Dean—who passed away in 1955, almost decade before the events of the movie.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh will helm the project under their new production house, Magic City Films, which obtained the rights to Dean’s likeness from his family. Imagine Engine, a Canadian VFX company, will work with South African VFX house MOI Worldwide to recreate “a realistic version of James Dean.” The film is based on a novel of the same name by Gareth Crocker, about the abandonment of roughly 10,000 military dogs at the end of the Vietnam War. Dean will play a character named Rogan.

If you’re wondering how, exactly, James Dean will make his way to the big screen 65 years after his death, well—it’s about as creepy as it sounds. According to THR, his body will be fully recreated with CGI using photos and footage as a reference. A different actor will voice the scenes. Which begs the question… why not just hire an actual living actor if you’re going to go through all of this trouble? Moral implications aside, it sounds like a lot of unnecessary work and a huge waste of resources to go this far, when there are plenty of young, capable, living young men who could take on the role.

The filmmakers didn’t provide much of a defense. “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 told THR. Interesting that he says they searched for “the perfect character” to portray Rogan, not “the perfect actor.” Was this always intended to be a CGI recreation? And how did poor James Dean draw the short straw? We have a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers.

James Dean was one of the most iconic actors of his generation, despite only starring in a handful of films. He became associated with teen disillusionment, and was an idol thanks to turns in movies like East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause. He passed away when he was just 24 in a car crash, and went on to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for the film Giant. We can’t imagine an actor so associated with transcending social norms would enjoy having his likeness resurrected in such a way, but it’s up to the filmmakers now to convince us otherwise. Finding Jack is set for a release on Veterans Day 2020.

Featured Image: Warner Bros.

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