Talk about a comeback.
Hollywood icon, screen legend and debatably queer actor James Dean will make his return to films in 2020, a full 65 years after his death. Production company Magic City Films has announced that Dean will star in the war drama Finding Jack, courtesy of groundbreaking CGI techniques.
“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,” director Anton Ernst tells The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Ernst will co-direct the film with Tati Golykh. The pair have said that a body double will physically portray Dean’s role during filming before effects artists will graft Dean’s likeness onto the body. A sound-alike actor will also provide Dean’s voice in the role.
The announcement of James Dean’s “resurrection” comes at a sensitive time in Hollywood, when special effects can revive long-dead actors for full performances using a mix of archival footage, body doubles, and sound-alike actors. Recently, the 2016 Star Wars film Rogue One allowed Peter Cushing–who died in 1994–to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin from the original film. Studio Disney/Lucasfilm have also said similar techniques will allow the late Carrie Fisher to complete her role as General Leia in the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker.
Yet with this new era of technology come moral questions: Should studios have the right to use the likeness of long-dead actors in their films? Is a performance cobbled together through archive footage and sound-alikes a genuine performance? For the moment, these questions remain unanswered, even as Hollywood rushes to give beloved superstars like James Dean a return to the screen.