There have been holographic performances by long dead musicians (including an upcoming tour with Whitney Houston), and some films and TV commercials have used previous footage to insert dead celebrities into them, but never before has a film star been cast in an entirely new role for a project. That is until now. It was announced yesterday that James Dean would be starring in a new film, his first in 63 years. While the technology does exist to make such a thing happen, one can’t help but wonder if it’s really the right thing to do.
The film is a Vietnam War era drama called Finding Jack, and it is an adaptation of Gareth Crocker’s novel of the same name. It’s based on the true story of 10,000 canine units that were abandoned after the end of the Vietnam War, and the friendship that was developed between a lost and lonely man who didn’t plan on returning from the war and the critically injured Lab he stumbled upon there.
Dean will play the secondary lead in the film, and the filmmakers even received support from the family. In a released statement, producer Anton Ernst said “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.”
Dean only made three films before his untimely death in 1955 at the age of 24. He received Oscar nominations for two of them, East of Eden and Giant.
While technology obviously exists to bring actors and actresses from the past back to “life”, is it actually the right thing to do? The CEO of CMG Worldwide, who is the business agent for the family of James Dean said “With the rapidly evolving technology, we see this as a whole new frontier for many of our iconic clients. This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.” The argument for the other side though would say that this is simply a PR stunt to try and get more people in the seats for the film. After all it obviously isn’t a way to make the film for a lower cost, because the special effects to make this happen will be more expensive than casting a live actor. Some also view this as a lack of respect for the dead, because they aren’t actually under contract to make an appearance. This even takes money out of the pockets of today’s actors, because if this works, what’s to stop Hollywood from using the technology to resurrect more stars, or even make an entire movie only using dead celebrities. There wouldn’t even be any need to have actors play real life historical figures either, as they could be created next. And could these recreations win awards?
Only time will tell how this all plays out, but for the moment there are more questions than answers, and a whole lot of debates on the morality of it all.