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Use of CGI version of James Dean in post-Vietnam War film sparks criticism

The film’s director said he was “saddened” and “confused” over the negative comments to the choice to ‘cast’ a CGI Dean.

James Dean portrays the emotionally complex character Cal Trask in East of Eden.
James Dean portrays the emotionally complex character Cal Trask in East of Eden.
Image: East of Eden

THERE’S BEEN WIDESPREAD criticism of a decision to ‘cast’ a CGI depiction of cultural icon James Dean in an action-drama called Finding Jack, set in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

A number of actors have criticised the decision, including Bette Midler, Elijah Wood and Chris Evans. The director of the film said he was “saddened” by the reaction and that it wasn’t intended as a “gimmick”. 

James Dean died in 1955 at the age of just 24. He had starred in three films at the time of his death: East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, and Giant.

He was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar posthumously for East of Eden, and his complex portrayal of the raw emotional turbulence of teenagers in the 1950s film Rebel Without A Cause drew him great acclaim (many of Dean’s scenes were ad libbed).

He’s the only actor to have been nominated for two posthumous Oscars.

On Wednesday, a Hollywood Reporter exclusive revealed that a CGI creation of Dean woud co-star in the live action film ‘Finding Jack’, created from actual footage and photos of the young actor with another actor’s voiceover.

Dean’s family is reported to have given their permission to use his image.

Tweet by @Chris Evans Source: Chris Evans/Twitter

Adapted from Gareth Crocker’s novel, Finding Jack is a live-action film about the US military’s abandonment of canine units following the Vietnam War.

Rights to Dean’s likeness were acquired by the filmmakers and the production company Magic City Films through CMG Worldwide.

The company represents Dean’s family along with the intellectual property rights associated with many other deceased personalities including Neil Armstrong, Bette Davis and Burt Reynolds.

Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide said he hoped this “opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us”.

“James Dean was known as Hollywood’s rebel and he famously said ‘if a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live after he’s died, then maybe he was a great man. Immortality is the only true success’,” said Roesler.

What was considered rebellious in the 50s is very different than what is rebellious today, and we feel confident that he would support this modern-day act of rebellion.

In response to strong criticism of the announcement, the film’s director Anton Ernst said he was ”saddened” and “confused” over the negative comments on social media.

“We don’t really understand it. We never intended for this to be a marketing gimmick.”

He added that the film wouldn’t have gone ahead without the support of Dean’s estate.

I think they would have wanted their family member’s legacy to live on. That’s what we’ve done here as well. We’ve brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean.

The film is to be released on Veterans’ Day 2020.

- with reporting from the Press Association

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