A little over two weeks ago a rather strange announcement was made concerning an upcoming movie called ‘Finding Jack’, the announcement in question was that a rather prolific actor was cast who had not been in a film since 1955.
The actor in question; James Dean.
Naturally the first reactions were simple confusion. Dean tragically perished in a car accident, how exactly were they going to use him for a movie. Eventually the response turned to outrage when the announcement clarified that they were using voice samples and digital reconstruction to effectively bring Dean back to life for the role.
While some are interested to see how exactly this will translate to the end result, most people are seeing this as an insult to Dean’s legacy and a depressing usage of a technology.
Chris Evans (Knives Out, Avengers Endgame, Snowpiercer) recently spoke out about it, saying that it was; “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”.
Evans does bring up a valuable point, however, some others have criticised him and the naysayers since this effect was used before in Disney’s Star Wars: Rogue One. In the film, the character Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by Peter Cushing, was completely CGI due to his original actor having passed away.
Also worth noting; this effect was also used in the Terminator films as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s likeness was needed for the younger T-1000 Terminators during either flashbacks or action scenes.
Unfortunately, the issue here is that while there was a lack of celebrity blowback to this idea. Peter Cushing is a familiar name to cinephiles who recognize him from classic films. He was not much of a name to people that only knew him as Tarkin from Star Wars.
Fans were noticeably upset over it however. Citing that it was too much of an ‘uncanny valley’ feeling to truly enjoy the usage of the technology and that it felt disrespectful to Cushing’s legacy.
With James Dean however, it is a little more troublesome.
Dean is not a supporting character or a recurring character. He is being cast as one of two leads in the upcoming film. He is going to have a fair amount of dialogue and screen time.
This raises some moral considerations for his usage, it does bear remembering that as long as Dean’s Estate gives consent, there is no legal recourse to say that film studios cannot do this.
Unfortunately, this will become a more common trend among Hollywood films, either by using CGI to de-age actors as seen in films like Gemini Man, or using it to completely reconstruct characters like in Rogue One, Terminator or Finding Jack.
There are some ways to justify the usage in non speaking roles, in the case of Finding Jack, it seems like too much.