We knew that it was coming eventually. We should have been prepared. All the signs were there: Tupac holograms, de-aged Robert DeNiros, movies where Will Smith inexplicably fights his younger self. Late 70s Carrie Fisher had a cameo in that 2016 Star Wars spinoff. But now, finally, it looks like someone has taken this trend to its terrible, logical conclusion—and cast a CGI James Dean in an upcoming movie. On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that the brooding heartthrob who captivated mid-century America and died tragically in 1955 will now be brought back to life on the big screen in 2020, all thanks to the wonder-slash-terror-slash-tastelessness of movie magic. And he's, uh, heading to Vietnam?
Per the Reporter:
Directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, the project comes from the filmmakers' own recently launched production house Magic City Films, which obtained the rights to use Dean’s image from his family. Canadian VFX banner Imagine Engine will be working alongside South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to re-create what the filmmakers describe as “a realistic version of James Dean.”
The so-called "realistic version" will be created with archival photos and video of Dean, with an as-yet-unannounced actor doing the voice acting, apparently. The movie will be based on historical fiction novel Finding Jack, which is basically a boy and his dog story, except the boy is a depressed soldier, the dog is a military scout animal, and the whole thing is set in the middle of the Vietnam War. The CGI Dean will play a second lead named Rogan, or the third lead, if we're counting the dog.
"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," Magic City's Anton Ernst told 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." Magic City is apparently the company behind such classic film fare as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Wake of Death, so take that as you will.
It shouldn't have to be said, but it does, so here goes: James Dean was a brilliant, electric actor who helped change Hollywood and American teenage culture at large in the 1950s, and his roles in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, and Giant made him an indelible piece of 20th century cinema. No amount of weird CGI zombification will take that away from him. But truly, for the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be. We do not need to see him tramping through Vietnam jungle to "Lodi" or whatever CCR song the movie's budget can afford after they cut the check to Dean's estate, OK?
In any case, Finding Jack is set to hit theaters on November 11, 2020 whether we want it or not. Get ready for CGI Humphrey Bogart to star as Wolverine in the inevitable X-Men reboot, everybody. This is what the world has come to.