| November 07, 2019 01:12 PM
James Dean once said acting was the loneliest thing in the world. And yet, it was full of meaning.
“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor’s duty; to interpret it his problem and to express it his dedication,” he mused.
He died in 1955, many years before he could have imagined how technology would take the actor’s duty upon itself.
CGI replicas and de-aging have become increasingly common in blockbuster hits, and it’s not always clear whether the actor you see on-screen would look the same in real life — or even exist.
The Star Wars franchise troubled some fans when it announced that Peter Cushing, dead for over two decades, would reprise his role as the Death Star commander in Rogue One. Carrie Fisher, still living at the time, was de-aged by several decades.
Fans had their concerns about the creepiness of watching a computer-generated actor on-screen, but it didn’t seem like this would become a trend. As recently as 2016, a gaming website ran the headline, “Don’t worry, digital doppelgangers won’t replace real actors any time soon.”
And yet, CGI has come for Dean.
You may have wished that some dead actor was still alive today so he or she could still star in today’s films. That’s what modern actors are for, though, since they have the advantage of living. But filmmakers really can’t get enough of the old ones.
The upcoming film Finding Jack will star Dean in a supporting role, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Newly created production house Magic City Films got the rights from his family, and he will be recreated on-screen through old footage.
“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,” co-director Anton Ernst said.
Another actor, however, will voice the character. So, what’s the point? Have we run out of hot people?
“This is awful,” tweeted actor Chris Evans (who has a bit of Dean’s brooding appearance). “Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes. The complete lack of understanding here is shameful.”
Well, at least this might be a one-off thing. Creating actors out of thin air isn’t going to catch on, right?
Mark Roesler, CEO of the company that represents Dean’s family and the names of more than 1,700 other celebrities, said it could just be the start.
“This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us,” he said. For backup, Roesler even quoted Dean himself, according to Associated Press.
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.’ 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.
The “act of rebellion” is a nice spin for a creepy cash-grab. Films without real actors further reduce their commitment to artistry, a lost element about which director Martin Scorsese has lately complained about. Are we to relinquish the duty, the problem, and the dedication of the actor to a CGI figure? Let’s hope not.
Dean is already immortal. We make him less so by recalling not his legacy, but instead his computer-generated ghost.