Actor James Dean might be familiar to many as an icon of the 1950s, where he starred in feature films until his untimely death in a motor vehicle accident in 1955. While his spirit lives on in both style and his legend persists in cinema, the actor is now slated to return to the big screen in what many are calling a breakout role – for many different reasons.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Dean is set to take a secondary role in a Vietnam-war era film called ‘Finding Jack’, which will centre on “the existence and abandonment of more than 10,000 military dogs at the end of the Vietnam War’.
Dean is set to reprise his role on stage and sound through CGI imagery, while the studio behind the picture (Magic City Films) has confirmed that his lines will be voiced by a voice-over artist.
The news has set Hollywood abuzz, as the announcement continues the fierce debate around the use of actor’s semblances (and in some case, their archived or unused performances) in new feature films.
The most recent advent, before Dean’s return, was the use of complex motion-capture, lighting, and acting work to restore Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) from Star Wars to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, alongside the depiction of a youthful Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) using not only imagery, but a convincing vocal performance and and unused dialogue, respectively.
Regardless of whether James Dean’s return is a marketing stunt or not, the news has shifted industry dialogue around how actors will handle their estates and digital portrayals of their likeness going forward. The music industry has faced similar debate, where rap legend Tupac was restored to perform through a hologram recording.
In a twist for South Africans, Finding Jack director Anton Ernst also added that similar technology could be used to restore other actors as well as cultural and political figures to life, quipping “our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance.”
What are your thoughts? Should actors digital legacies be used to depict portrayals far into the future, or should their likeness cease to be used after their passing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.