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Finding Jack Director Defends CGI James Dean Casting

Despite having died almost seven decades ago, actor James Dean is set to star in a new movie, Finding Jack. The film takes place during the tail end of the Vietnam War, with the character that Dean will portray -- made possible through modern CGI trickery -- featuring as a core character to the story. Now the director of the project, Anton Ernst, has responded to the negative backlash the news received, saying that he is both “saddened” and “confused” by the response.

"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. “I think they [the Dean family] would have wanted their family member's legacy to live on. That's what we've done here as well. We've brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean.”

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Ernst explained that, despite auditioning live actors, he instead decided that the deceased actor is the perfect casting choice. He described Rogan as a “very brilliant, complex character,” which he noted is "pretty much how James Dean was perceived.”

Canadian VFX studio Imagine Engine will work alongside South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to bring Dean back to CGI life. They will achieve this feat through “full-body” CGI, archival footage and photos. Another actor will provide Rogan’s voice.

Attempting to justify his position, Ernst noted how “visual effects is a tool,” juxtaposing his intent to utilize Dean’s image with how Star Wars posthumously included Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing in their recent movies. He emphasized how “Anyone that is brought back to life -- you have to respect them. I think the line should be ... you must always honor the deceased's wishes and try to act in a way that is honorable and full of dignity.” The director also pointed to Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming movie, The Irishman, which uses digital effects to de-age actors.

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"At the end of the day, what we really want people to know is the movie is about love and friendship, the veterans that served in the Vietnam War and especially the dogs that were with them. We never want to lose that emphasis and this [social media reaction] becomes a distraction of what the story is about.”

The movie is adapted by Mari Sova and is based on Gareth Cocker’s novel. The script apparently focuses on how more than 10,000 military dogs were abandoned at the end of the Vietnam War.

Finding Jack is currently in pre-production and is set to begin filming on November 17 with a planned release date of November 11, 2020.

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