The company that's helping bring a "full-body" CGI version of the late James Dean to screen doesn’t intend to stop with the Rebel Without a Cause star. Intellectual licensing specialist CMG Worldwide has officially merged with Observe Media to create Worldwide XR, which intends to bring digital humans to modern movies in addition to exploring augmented and virtual reality opportunities.
"Influencers will come and go, but legends will never die," Worldwide XR CEO Travis Cloyd told Variety. The CEO of CMG Worldwide, Mark Roesler, is set to join the fledgling company as chairman and co-founder.
Worldwide XR has the representation rights for more than 400 celebrities, athletes and sports teams. If a deal were to be brokered, other deceased names such as Bettie Page, Burt Reynolds and Andre the Giant could be brought back through CGI for modern audiences.
The company allegedly wants to license these celebrity likenesses for different media projects, as well as assisting creatives in making use of their existing services and helping to transform these images into digital representations. Cloyd described the process they might undertake, explaining that needs differ depending on the celebrity and project. He also explained how some may rely entirely on CGI models formed through reference materials such as photos and movies featuring a particular star. Other endeavors may need to combine these assets with lookalike models and actors to achieve the desired goals.
Dean will be resurrected for the movie Finding Jack -- a decision director Anton Ernst defended as he addressed the immediate criticism the announcement received. He stated how he was "saddened" and "confused" by the backlash. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, called the concept "awful," saying, "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."
Responding to this kind of criticism, Cloyd called the negative response "disruptive" as he conceded that "some people dislike it." His argument, however, revolves around the inevitability of what detractors are referring to as digital humans. He added that Worldwide XR would thoroughly research and vet any potential partners and clients, ensuring that any celebrity likeness is treated with respect and dignity, noting "We will do our due diligence."
Looking to the future, Cloyd stressed his interest in exploring augmented and virtual reality with these deceased celebrity likenesses, allowing a more direct interaction between digital human and viewer as he teased that Dean’s appearance in Finding Jack may not be the last time we see the actor resurrected: "There is a lot more to come for James Dean,” Cloyd said. “Think of it as James Dean 2.0."
Finding Jack is currently in pre-production and is set to begin filming on Nov. 17 with a planned release date of Nov. 11, 2020.