At the time of his shockingly premature death at age 24, James Dean had only starred in three films – Rebel Without A Cause, East of Eden, and Giant, garnering posthumous Academy Award nominations for the latter two. But what kind of roles could Dean have gone on to play, if he hadn’t been tragically taken from this world in a car accident?
For South African-born filmmaker Anton Ernst, the answer is simple. After acquiring the support of Dean’s estate, Ernst has tentatively cast a CGI recreation of the legendary actor as the lead in his upcoming Vietnam flick Finding Jack, a decision which caused immediate uproar.
In an exclusive announcement to The Hollywood Reporter, Ernst claimed that his team had “searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan,” a Vietnam vet who sets out on a mission to rehome military dogs at the end of the international conflict. “After months of research,” Ernst asserted, “we decided on James Dean.”
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“We feel very honoured 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.”
Okay, hold up – firstly, you couldn’t find any contemporary actors who could pull off the lead role in your treacly-ass, Oscar-bait-ass, sad dog movie? What about Dane Dehaan, who did a great job portraying Dean in Life? Or, if you insist on making questionable choices, longtime Dean impersonator and lookalike James Franco?
Secondly, the family members in question who approved the film are two of Dean’s cousins on his father’s side. Dean was estranged from his father for most of his adult life, and the estate earns around $5 million a year. Both facts are enough to bring this tick of approval into question, considering the vast amount of money that some distant relatives of Dean stand to gain by okaying Ernst’s film.
Lastly, Ernst has defended himself against criticism by stating that he has “brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean,” and that the social media reaction has become a “distraction of what the film’s story is about.”
A suggestion: maybe if you didn’t want critics to be distracted from what your movie is about, you shouldn’t have cast an actor who died in 1955. And I highly doubt Dean would’ve wanted “his legacy to live on” and scour the wallets of a “new generation of filmgoers.” Imagine trying to begin to describe the zombification of deceased celebrity likenesses to him in a bid for his approval! His reaction probably would’ve been something like this:
Finding Jack is currently in pre-production, slated for release in 2020.