“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today,” is a quote often attributed to James Dean, the man who defined cool in midcentury Hollywood.
The actor shot to fame with his roles in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, and Giant, before dying in a car crash in 1955 at age 24. He received a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor nomination (the first to receive the accolade after death), and quickly became a cultural icon.
And now, he’s headed for the big screen once again—sort of. According to a story in the The Hollywood Reporter, filmmakers Anton Ernst and Tati Golykhbehind have cast Dean in what is considered “a secondary lead role” in their war drama Finding Jack. The film is focused on the story of 10,000 military dogs who ended up abandoned after the Vietnam War.
Using photos of Dean’s face and entire body, he will be constructed as a CGI figure for this live-action film.
It all begs the question—who asked for this? Hiring a living actor would not only cost less—CGI runs into the millions—but give a working, breathing person a chance to showcase their talents. And besides, wasn’t the Tupac Coachella hologram enough? Aren’t we all still reeling from the news that Whitney Houston will be leading a hologram tour in 2020?
And who even owns a celebrity’s image or likeness in the first place? Well, in this instance, Ernst and Golykh’s production company, Magic City Films, acquired the rights to use Dean’s image from his family. According to Ernst, there was no other living actor who could do the job. “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,” he told THR.
And Dean is, no doubt, just the tip of the iceberg. How long will it be before we see CGI Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Fred Astaire?
In fact, the CEO of CMG Worldwide, an agency that represents not only Dean and his family but plenty of other late icons such as Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeve, Ingrid Bergman, Neil Armstrong, Bette Davis, and Jack Lemmon, told THR that “this opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”
They won’t stop at actors, either. Historical icons and political leaders are being considered for resurrection with this same CGI technology. “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,” Ernst said to THR. Donald A. Barton, a producer from Artistry Media Group, echoed the sentiment: “Now that we have closed with this iconic figure, we look forward to rapidly closing our remaining actors.”
And we all thought that the biggest Hollywood drama of the month would be the battle between Marvel and Martin Scorsese.