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James Dean will be resurrected with CGI for new movie

The late actor just landed a role in Finding Jack, which is slated to come out next year. The move is drawing criticism from some.

James Dean

James Dean is coming back to the big screen.

Getty Images

Welcome to the 21st century, where even death can't stop actors from being cast in new roles. 

James Dean, who died in 1955, has been "posthumously cast" in Finding Jack, a film about military dogs during the Vietnam War era. Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are making the film, an adaptation of the Gareth Crocker novel by the same name, through their production house Magic City Films, which acquired the rights to use Dean's image from his family. Magic City Films on Thursday confirmed the news, which was first shared by The Hollywood Reporter. 

Dean will take on a secondary lead role, playing a character named Rogan. 

"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 on Wednesday. "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."

Dean's character will be constructed with full-body CGI using footage and photos of the late actor. The character will be voiced by another actor. 

Preproduction for the film kicks off Nov. 17. A worldwide release is slated for Veterans Day of next year. 

This could, of course, mean future opportunities to digitally resurrect other influential people. 

"This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us," CMG Worldwide CEO Mark Roesler told The Hollywood Reporter. CMG Worldwide represents Dean's family.

But some actors aren't so sure of the move.  

"This is awful," Chris Evans tweeted. "Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes. The complete lack of understanding here is shameful."

Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, tweeted: "It's bad taste & a bad call. What's to stop a pharma from resurrecting Chaplin to sell pills, or casting Bacall in a bad action flick? A famous bombshell back for porn? If all it takes is money & a distant relative's permission, the future is GRIM and full of corporate ghosts."

And Westworld star Shannon Woodward tweeted: "big what up to all the actors that actually read for this role and had to hear they lost the job to James Dean."

Magic City Films didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the criticism.

Originally published Nov. 6.
Update, Nov. 7, 10:06 a.m. PT: Adds confirmation from Magic City Films. 3:53 p.m. PT: Adds celebrity criticism.