People often idolize actors and actresses, so even if we’ve never known them personally, it still hurts when they pass away. We mourn the loss and look back on the legacies they’ve left behind—legacies that should be left alone. But as technology advances, some people can’t seem to let go.
Many people are in an uproar upon discovering that a new film, Finding Jack, plans to resurrect the deceased actor James Dean through computer-generated imagery (CGI) for one of the movie’s main roles. Dean, most famous for films like Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, passed away in 1955, but it seems Hollywood studios won’t let him rest in peace. Directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, Finding Jack is based off Gareth Crocker’s novel of the same name and is a story that takes place during the Vietnam War.
The backlash against this casting decision was immediate, with celebrities like Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, and Dylan Sprouse expressing their disappointment. Zelda Williams also tweeted her stance on the issue, saying, “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.”
Many of the complaints and concerns of this concept revolved around this question: How do they know that James Dean would have wanted to play this role?
What if he didn’t agree to some of the choices of this role and what it represents? Using his identity without that choice and permission is disrespectful. It’s different for actors like Paul Walker in Furious 7, who was already playing that role before his death, or Star Wars which only used previous unseen footage of the late Carrie Fisher to recreate her appearance in The Rise of Skywalker.
Walker and Fisher consented to their roles. Dean never got the chance.
Another reason people were upset with casting the deceased was because it takes away opportunities for actors and actresses who are alive and struggling to get roles. Even if the directors cast the living for Dean’s body and voice, those people behind the screen won’t get the real recognition that they deserve.
The technological advancement in this recreation is terrifying, because it doesn’t just stop with James Dean. Worldwide XR is a new company that revolves around this idea of creating digital humans to cast in movies, and to use in augmented and virtual reality, as they have rights to hundreds of celebrities who already passed away.
“There is a lot more to come for James Dean,” said Worldwide XR CEO Travis Cloyd in an article. “Think of it as James Dean 2.0.”
The notion of Dean having his legacy tampered with and marketed like a product after his death is hurtful because corporations are abusing intellectual property rights for monetary gains rather than contributing positively to cinema.
In response to resurrecting the dead through technology, people online are bringing back one of Jeff Goldblum’s most memorable quotes as Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”