Disgruntled fans and Hollywood actors have recently come forward to comment on a computer-generated James Dean being resurrected on screen in an upcoming film called Finding Jack.
How does one feel about one of the world’s most iconic film and pop culture individuals being brought back to life on the Silver Screen? Especially one who’s been dead for over sixty years.
The iconic Hollywood actor who died in a car crash in 1955 had only starred as a lead actor in three major Hollywood films, East of Eden (1955), Giant (1956) most notably A Rebel Without A Cause (1955).
Is There A Fundamental Purpose For Using Deceased Actors?
The discussion that sprouts to mind on using famous dead actors in a new project always sparks the question: is there a reason in bringing dead icons back for artistic purposes or is the film industry simply trying to make profit from an iconic film legend?
As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Director Anton Ernst, along with co-director Tati Golykh, have announced that their Vietnam War-era drama Finding Jack (based on the novel by Gareth Crocker) will feature the late actor as the character ‘Rogan’ as the secondary lead. Ernst believes the key to the whole process is “respect”.
When searching for an actor to play Rogan, Ernst said he and his co-director did audition live actors. They ultimately decided Dean was the perfect fit for the role, as Rogan is a “very brilliant, complex character” which is “pretty much how James Dean was perceived.” – Anton Ernst.
Finding Jack, will be the first project from the filmmaker’s recently launched Magic City Films company. Relatives of the Dean family have given the rights to the company to use Dean’s image.
The film’s plot is similar to the novel which tells the story of an American soldier, Fletcher, who, after losing his wife, travels to Vietnam and befriends a war dog that saves his life.
What is crucially alarming is the placing of Dean in the era of the Vietnam War. The plot is set ten years after Dean’s death, meaning a CGI Dean is not relevant towards the cultural understanding of the film’s context.
Feeding into Dean’s counter-culture image that he is famous for simply for the purpose of media attention, demonstrates a tarnishing of Dean’s legacy. Finding Jack may constructively misuse Dean as a plot vice if the filmmaker’s are going to incorporate elements of the tumultuous social and cultural underpinnings of the Vietnam War.
One could also ask why an up and coming actor couldn’t be used, considering the technical ease and cost efficiency that would come with casting a live-human being as opposed to a CGI impression of a person.
The public and Hollywood actors such as Chris Evans and Elijah Wood have vented their frustration on Twitter:
I’m sure he’d be thrilled ?
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. https://t.co/hkwXyTR4pu
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) November 6, 2019
NOPE. this shouldn’t be a thing. https://t.co/RH7jWY5cAG
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) November 6, 2019
‘Finding Jack’ will NOT be James Dean’s “fourth film”. You cannot add to the legacy of one of the greatest stars the world has ever seen. Nor can you practically dig up the man’s corpse and make it dance for money. The sheer disrespect of it all is mind blowing.
— James Dean (@littlexprince31) November 7, 2019
Examples Of Computer Generated Imagery On Living And Dead Actors
There has been many contemporary films that have either been incorporating CGI of older actors e.g. Robert DeNiro in The Irishman and Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel to make them look younger.
There has also been the use of late actors such as British actor Peter Cushing from the Starwars films (Rogue One), Paul Walker in Fast & Furious 7 and Oliver Reed in Gladiator. These examples however, are only used to push the narrative forward or encourage the plot for a specific purpose.
One example of an renowned icon who was resurrected for the screen that received backlash was Bruce Lee in a Johnnie Walker commercial in 2013. Fans reacted negatively towards the commercial because of the misconception that Bruce Lee, a teetotaler, contradicts Lee’s renowned philosophy on health and fitness whilst promoting the use of alcohol.
Zelda Williams who is the daughter of late comedian and actor Robin Williams came forward on Twitter to explain why using deceased artists is disrespectful towards their legacy and against their will.
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. 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. https://t.co/elS1BrbDGv
— Zelda Williams (@zeldawilliams) November 6, 2019
Williams’ has a point on the negative consequences of “puppeteering” the likeness of James Dean. Will the final result of Finding Jack present a disturbing James Dean caricature? Will audiences expect a representation of how he behaved in the films he was alive in? Or a complete different representation of the icon?
Preproduction on Finding Jack is set to commence on November 17th. The film is expected for a worldwide release on Nov. 11, 2020.
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