James Dean will return to the big screen and Twitter isn't happy: 'a disgusting publicity stunt'

Along with Marlon Brando, Hollywood icon James Dean is credited with changing big-screen acting as we know it. His raw, naturalistic performances in movies only three films — East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant — made him a seismic star in the 1950s, and influenced an entire generation of actors who came afterwards. Unlike Brando, we never got to see where Dean’s career would have gone after his initial burst of celebrity: the actor was only 24 years old when he died in a car accident in 1955.

But through the magic of digital technology, we’re on the cusp of seeing an all-new James Dean performance in the upcoming movie Finding JackAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, the directors of this planned Vietnam War-era drama have secured the rights to use Dean’s likeness from the actor’s surviving family. “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,” remarked Anton Ernst, who will co-direct the film with his collaborator, Tati Golykh. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”

Based on a 2011 novel by Gareth Crocker, Finding Jack follows a young soldier named Fletcher, who has only been able to maintain his sanity amid the horrors of war by taking care of an injured dog, Jack. As the U.S. military presence in Vietnam neared its end, the military infamously disposed of military canines through abandonment or euthanization. But Fletcher refuses to surrender Jack, and embarks on a difficult journey to protect his best friend. One of the people who helps him along the way is Lt. Rogan, the character that the directors want Dean to play. “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,” Ernst told The Hollywood Reporter.

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American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) lies in the dirt with his head leaning on his hand, 1950s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Dean, James - Actor, USA, (*08.02.1931-30.09.1955+) , - um 1950, - Erschienen in 'B.Z.' 05.11.1956 (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Dean, James - Actor, USA*08.02.1931-30.09.1955+- Portrait- around 1950- Published by 'B.Z.' 27.10.1956 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
American actors Betsy Palmer and James Dean (1931 - 1955) dance together in a production still from an episode of the anthology series 'Danger' called 'Death Is My Neighbor,' August 25, 1953. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Dean, James - Actor, USA*08.02.1931-30.09.1955+- with fans- around 1950- Published by 'Brigitte' 03/1957 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
circa 1954: American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) with Swiss actress Ursula Andress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
CALIFORNIA - 1954: Actor James Dean poses for a photo on the set of the Warner Bros film 'East Of Eden' in 1954 in California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
CALIFORNIA - 1954: Actor James Dean poses for a photo on the set of the Warner Bros film 'East Of Eden' in 1954 in California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1954: Actor James Dean chats with his girlfriend actress Pier Angeli on the set of the Warner Bros film 'East Of Eden' in 1954 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1954: Actor James Dean poses for a photo on the set of the Warner Bros film 'East Of Eden' in 1954 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 10: Movie star James Dean and Italian born actress Pier Angeli attend the premiere of the re-release of Gone With The Wind on August 10 1954 in Los Angeles, California. The Oscars won for the movie are in the background. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 1954: Actor James Dean poses for a photo in December, 1954 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Movie icon James Dean (1931-1955) and co-star Corey Allen (who later went on to direct 'Star Trek: The Next Generation') in a scene from the Warner Brothers movie 'Rebel Without A Cause'. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) holds American actor Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) in a scene from 'Rebel Without A Cause,' directed by Nicholas Ray, 1955. (Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy of Getty Images)
1955: James Dean (1931 - 1955) plays the angst-ridden Cal Trask in 'East of Eden', directed by Elia Kazan and based on the novel by John Steinbeck. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
1955: American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) starring in a 'Rebel Without A Cause'. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
1955: James Dean (1931 - 1955) as Jim Stark and Sal Mineo (1939 - 1976) playing Plato in a scene from 'Rebel Without A Cause'. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
1955: Portrait of American actor James Dean (1931-1955) on the set of director Elia Kazan's film, 'East of Eden.' (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1955, American actors Sal Mineo (1939 - 1976), James Dean (1931 - 1955) and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) in a still from director Nicholas Ray's film 'Rebel Without a Cause'. (Photo by Warner Bros./Getty Images)
American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) leaning against a wall on the set of director Nicholas Ray's film, 'Rebel Without a Cause', 1955. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actor James Dean poses for a portrait sitting on his Porche Speedster in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actor James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'Rebel Without A Cause' at the Griffith Park Observatory in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
American actor James Dean (1931-1955), circa 1955. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
SALINAS, CA - 1954: Actor James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'East Of Eden' in 1954 in Salinas, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actor James Dean and director Nicholas Ray discuss a scene from the Warner Bros film 'Rebel Without A Cause' at the Griffith Park Observatory in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actor James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'Rebel Without A Cause' in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actors James Dean and Natalie Wood in a scene from the Warner Bros film 'Rebel Without A Cause' at the Griffith Park Observatory in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1955: Actor James Dean in a scene from the Warner Bros film 'Rebel Without A Cause' at the Griffith Park Observatory in 1955 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
MARFA, TEXAS - 1955: Actor James Dean poses for a photo on the set of the Warner Bros film 'Giant' in 1955 in Marfa, Texas. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
James Dean hanging from train car in a scene from the film 'East Of Eden', 1955. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
Natalie Wood and James Dean in movie art for the film 'Rebel Without A Cause', 1955. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
James Dean and Natalie Wood, 1955. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 1: Actor James Dean on the set of the Schlitz Playhouse production of 'The Unlighted Road' broadcast on CBS Television on April 1, 1955 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 29: Movie star James Dean attends the Thalian Ball on August 29 1955 at Ciro's nightclub in Los Angeles, California. Dean died one month later. (Photo by Earl leaf/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
American actor James Dean (1931 - 1955) sits behind the wheel of a sportscar in a still from the documentary movie 'The James Dean Story,' directed by Robert Altman and George W. George, 1957. (Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy of Getty Images)
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Preproduction on Finding Jack is expected to start on Nov. 17; as of now, the role of Fletcher remains uncast, but Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren has penned a tune for the film. Meanwhile, Dean’s return to the big screen will reportedly be accomplished via CGI, with the F/X artists using archival footage and photos for reference and a voiceover actor recording Rogan’s lines. While the Star Wars blockbuster Rogue One first dipped a toe in these waters by digitally resurrecting Peter Cushing to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin, Finding Jack will be the most extensive “performance” by a deceased actor yet. And if it works, it could open the door to more posthumous on-screen appearances. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Mark Roesler — CEO of CMG Worldwide, which represents the Deans, as well as the families of such deceased celebrities as Burt Reynolds, Bette Davis and Christopher Reeve — who said: “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”

But should it? Both audiences and filmmakers are wrestling with that question. When Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Ang Lee last month about his latest film, Gemini Man — which employed digital technology to create a younger Will Smith — he didn’t express an ethical objection to doing the same thing with a deceased performer, but did caution that the technology wasn’t where it needed to be for it to be successful. “I think we can crack it, but we’re not there yet. Before that, I don’t think it’s a good idea. You might do a brief moment, but to sell a story or a situation without a [living] person driving the performance, I don’t think it’s believable.”

On Twitter, film lovers are generally in agreement that a new James Dean performance isn’t a good idea—led by Captain America himself, Chris Evans.

You might say that they’re rebelling against this idea with good cause.

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