Filmmakers Say James Dean’s Family is ‘Fully Supportive’ of Bringing Back Actor for Vietnam War Drama

Dave McNary

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The director-producers of “Finding Jack” are doubling down on their defense of bringing back James Dean through CGI visual effects for the Vietnam War-era indie drama.

Producer-directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh of Magic City Films and producer Donald A. Barton of Artistry Media Group told Variety at AFM on Friday that they were surprised by the reaction and promised that they will respectful of Dean’s legacy. They intend to use Dean’s likeness in approximately 30% to 40% of the film.

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“The family has read the script and has been fully supportive,” Barton said. “We felt that using James Dean would be an excellent way to convey this character.”

Magic City Films announced on the opening day of the American Film Market that it had obtained rights from Dean’s family to cast Dean posthumously as the secondary lead role in the movie. The actor died in a car crash at age 24 in 1955.

Finding Jack” will be adapted from Gareth Crocker’s novel. Based the story about 10,000 canine units who were abandoned at the end of the Vietnam War, “Finding Jack” explores themes of friendship and love under desperate circumstances. It revolves around a deeply depressed man who finds a reason to live when he stumbles upon a critically injured yellow Lab.

Ernst said the filmmakers decided Dean would best fit the role of Rogan, a complex yet by-the-book military officer. He also said that Dean’s estate has been “supportive” of the film. “I think we will bring awareness of James Dean to a new generation of moviegoers,” he added.

Canadian VFX studio Imagine Engine and South African VFX company MOI Worldwide are working on re-creating Dean’s body using CGI technology. Another actor will voice his lines.

Licensing rights to Dean’s estate are controlled by cousins on the actor’s father’s side of the family, and managed by CMG Worldwide.

The announcement triggered a wave of protest on social media from actors including Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, Bette Midler and Dylan Sprouse. “This is awful,” Evans said in a tweet. “Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes.”

Magic City Films is handling the foreign sales. The producers said that they’ve received strong expressions of interest during the first three days of AFM.

Pre-production on “Finding Jack” is set to begin Nov. 17, with a goal for a worldwide release on Nov. 11, 2020, Veterans’ Day.

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