Magic City Films said Wednesday that it has secured rights from the family of Oscar-nominated actor James Dean to use a CGI version of the actor to play a role in its upcoming Vietnam War action drama Finding Jack. Pre-production starts later this month.
The news has piqued the interest of Twitter, where Dean is trending — more than 60 years after the young star was killed in 1955 in a car crash at age 24. Most of the reaction to the “casting” has been negative.
“I’m sure he’d be thrilled,” actor Chris Evans tweeted after the news broke this morning. “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.”
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Added Preacher‘s Julie Ann Emery: “Yeah, that’s not James Dean. It’s his face on a motion capture performance and an ‘anonymous’ actor providing voice pattern and choices. I’d like to know how it will be credited. How the real actors will be paid. And how little this team understands the acting craft.”
Magic City’s Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are directing Finding Jack, which is based on Gareth Crocker’s 2011 novel of the same name. Mari Sova adapted the script, and Magic City is handling foreign sales. Donald A. Barton of Artistry Media Group is producing with Ernst and Golykh.
Dean will play a character named Rogan in the pic, of which Ernst said: “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.”
Canadian VFX company Imagine Engine will work with South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to re-create a realistic version of Dean for the film. There’s no other cast yet, but producers said Diane Warren has written an original song for it.
Added Ernst: “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.”
Crocker’s novel centered on a man who enlist in the Vietnam War after the tragic death of his young family. He plans to die there, but rescues a dog he names Jack that becomes his unit’s mascot. After the war, he is told he can’t bring Jack home, so they desert and attempt to make it to safety in Thailand. The pic is based on the true story of the abandonment of over 10,000 canine units at the end of the Vietnam War.
CGI re-creations are a mixed bag in entertainment, from holographic projections of Tupac Shakur to Marilyn Monroe in Snickers commercials. That isn’t expected to slow down though given new technologies.
“With the rapidly evolving technology, we see this as a whole new frontier for many of our iconic clients,” CMG Worldwide CEO Mark Roesler, the business agent for the Dean family, said Wednesday. “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”
Dean had only three major movies in which he starred: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant. He earned Best Actor Oscar noms for the latter two and was just wrapping production on Giant when he was killed in 1955.
The producers are eyeing a Veterans Day 2020 release for the film.