The team responsible for resurrecting James Dean for an upcoming movie now wants to bring back more dead celebrities. Recent news that a CG Dean would be used for a new Vietnam-era film made shockwaves last week, with many reacting with strong disapproval.
The film in question, Finding Jack, is an adaptation of Gareth Crocker’s novel of the same name and deals with the abandonment of over 10,000 dogs at the end of the Vietnam War. Despite the fact that there are literally thousands of living actors who are capable of taking on any role that a digital recreation of Dean could play, Finding Jack will go ahead with the controversial casting. This, of course, isn’t the first time that CG characters or use of the technology has been undertaken in cinema. Most recently, the technology has been used to duplicate or de-age actors, such as Will Smith in Gemini Man and Robert De Niro in The Irishman. However, actually casting an entire role with a deceased celebrity's likeness through the use of CG is a new level of visual effects wizardry, and one that not all moviegoers are comfortable with.
In fact, CMG Worldwide, the team that is helping to bring Dean back to life in Finding Jack, has now paired with immersive content creation studio Observe Media. Together, the companies have created Worldwide XR, and, according to Variety, the new company will focus on bringing deceased celebrities back for everything from films to commercials and virtual reality. As of this writing, Worldwide XR holds the rights for more than 400 celebrities, with the company’s CEO Travis Cloyd stating that, “Influencers will come and go, but legends will never die.”
Some of the celebrities that Worldwide XR holds the rights to include Burt Reynolds, Bettie Page, Andre the Giant, baseball star Lou Gehrig, Maya Angelou, and even slain civil rights activist Malcolm X. The discussion surrounding the initial announcement that a CG version of Dean had been cast in Finding Jack not only raised the ire of cinema fans, but also of actors such as Elijah Wood and Chris Evans. Now with the creation of Worldwide XR, the process is set to be expanded. It's sure to be the target of further objections, though it appears that there’s little critics can do. Worldwide XR owns the legal rights to many deceased celebrities' likenesses.
On the one hand, the ability to create virtual versions of beloved actors and actresses can be viewed as a way for new generations to experience the onscreen personas of many critically acclaimed stars. However, there’s something undeniably creepy about the entire process, and by resurrecting the dead – in some cases decades after their deaths – Worldwide XR and the films that utilize its services will have to do more than recreate a star's likeness. They will also have to attempt to understand and mimic how those celebrities would play any given role -- and there's no technology capable of that feat.