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SYFY WIRE Elijah Wood

James Dean’s family responds to CGI casting backlash as Hollywood weighs in

By Josh Weiss
James Dean

Hollywood insiders and observers were not at all pleased with the news that James Dean would be brought back from the dead via CGI for a supporting role in Finding Jack, a drama film set during the Vietnam War.

Dean, who was killed in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24, became an icon for his portrayal of "bad boy" Jim Stark in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause.

In a statement obtained by SYFY WIRE, the Dean family lawyer and agent, Mark Roesler, said:

“James Dean was perhaps the greatest actor of all time and is admired by fans around the world. Despite his untimely death at the age of 24, technology allows us to continue to honor Jimmy’s legacy and inspiration to so many people. We have represented his family for 38 years and they are confident that Jimmy’s rebellious and trailblazing personality is consistent with being the first to fearlessly embrace this new technology for Hollywood. They are excited to be part of keeping his memory alive.”

"We don't really understand it. We never intended for this to be a marketing gimmick," Finding Jack's director, Anton Ernst, told The Hollywood Reporter following backlash from the likes of Chris Evans and Elijah Wood. "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."

CGI and VFX have reached a point where they can de-age actors or bring them back to life. While not entirely seamless, the technology has been used extensively for recent projects like Rogue One, Ant-ManGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Captain Marvel.

Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Kurt Russell (Ego), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), and Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson) were all de-aged and/or resurrected for these films.

In the case of Finding Jack, the plan is to bring James Dean to life via stock footage and photos. His voice, however, will be provided by a different actor doing an impersonation.

 "Anyone that is brought back to life — you have to respect them," added Ernst in his THR interview. "I think the line should be ... you must always honor the deceased's wishes and try to act in a way that is honorable and full of dignity."