Recently it was reported that the late actor James Dean was cast in the upcoming movie Finding Jack. Dean may have died over six decades ago but, thanks to the power of modern CGI technology. the actor will be “reanimated,” so to speak, for this movie. The studio Magic City Films own the legal rights to Dean’s image, and are legally allowed to use Dean’s likeness in this way.
However Dean’s “casting” has attracted some major backlash online. Several well known actors and actress including Chris Evans,Elijah Wood, and Zelda Williams the daughter of the late Robin Williams, took to Twitter to express their distaste for the way Dean’s image is being used. Many people are concerned about how this movie will affect casting in the future, while others questioned why the studio didn’t simply cast a living person.
Anton Ernst, one of the directors of Finding Jack, has since responded to the controversy. Ernst told the Hollywood Reporter that he does not really understand why Dean’s casting is so controversial, and that he is “saddened” and “confused” by the negative response. He also explained that he and his co-director, Tati Golykh, actually did audition several living actors before deciding that only the deceased Dean seemed to fit the part. Ernst claims that he and the studio are treating Dean’s legacy with nothing but respect, pointing out that he is not the only deceased actor previously resurrected with CGI. Based on his statements, it sounds like Ernst does not believe that he or the studio have crossed some moral line by “reviving” Dean.
Production on Finding Jack will begin this November. Still, Hollywood needs to sit down some time and have a deep conversation about the ethics of “reanimating” deceased actors. And they should do it soon, because this technology is not going away.