Hollywood has been known to reboot a successful franchise and now they're using technology to take collective nostalgia to new heights: rebooting actors from the past.
The iconic James Dean will return to the silver screen next year in his first posthumous role for Finding Jack. The action-drama, directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, is based on the Gareth Crocker novel which is set during the Vietnam War.
In order to make Dean's casting possible, the filmmakers have teamed up with South African VFX studio MOI Worldwide and Canadian VFX company Imagine Engine. They will use video footage and photos to produce an all CGI version of the actor which will be voiced by another person. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter 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."
Ernst went on to share that the project has the Dean family's blessings and they view Finding Jack "as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down." Knowing that those closest to the actor are fully supportive of this is sure to ease many minds. Still, the concept itself is unnerving. Especially when people like Mark Roesler, the CEO of CMG Worldwide, represents more than 1,700 late personalities, icons like Bette Davis and Burt Reynolds, according to THR.
"This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us," says Roesler to THR. Roesler claims this new opportunity is for clients like James Dean. Referring to artists who have been dead for decades as "clients" is strange. Especially when your client can't make decisions for themselves. Essentially, the legacy of an artist's career is no longer in their hands. Of course, when an artist passes away they no longer have a say in how they are remembered, but that is very different than someone recreating their image, giving them a new voice, and placing them in new projects.
While I can't speak on the merit of the film yet (preproduction begins later this month) the press surrounding it is also another point of concern. If Finding Jack is a success will studios begin to posthumously cast actors for the sake of getting people into theaters?
Ernst does make a good case for the good that this CGI technology could bring about. "Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance," he told THR.
Yet doesn't the very genesis of new art and political movements lie within how we work through the deaths of significant figures and eras? James Dean's role could have been given to an actor who had the potential to forge a new path in the history of film. Maybe this seems like an overreaction. It's only a secondary role, after all. But could this technological advancement prove to be a sociological setback for the faces and voices of future generations?