Last week, directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh announced the details of their new film Finding Jack. Telling the story of a soldier in the Vietnam War, it sounds unremarkable enough except for one small detail: its star has been dead for 64 years.

Using the latest CGI technology, the film plans to resurrect James Dean, whose career was cut short prematurely by a car accident in 1955. Although the filmmakers have obtained permission from the late actor’s estate, the announcement has caused outrage amongst actors and film-lovers alike.

Many see it as disrespectful to Dean’s memory, and a worrying sign of things to come. Taking to Twitter, a furious Chris Evans said, “This is awful. Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple of John Lennon tunes. The complete lack of understanding here is shameful.”

While it could be argued that living actors are against the idea for selfish reasons as much as out of respect for the dead – i.e. it’s hard enough to get parts in Hollywood without having to compete with your deceased heroes – many film fans are also upset by the decision.

While this isn’t the first example of using technology to resurrect a dead entertainer, (Carrie Fisher was added to the ending of Star Wars: Rogue One after her death in 2016 and Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram at the Coachella festival in 2012), there is a key difference here. Carrie Fisher was performing a role that she had already accepted and Tupac was performing songs that he had written himself, whereas we have no way of knowing what James Dean would have thought of Finding Jack, especially considering that he died before the Vietnam War even took place.

Of course, it’s tempting to use the latest technology such as CGI to bring our favourite actors back from the grave, but we should be wary of this impulse. Part of what makes these people special to us is their limited body of work.

James Dean only made three films and that is part of his appeal. To add another would be to dilute his legacy. Even if Finding Jack is great, it’s only a matter of time before the same technology is used to put a great actor in a terrible film without their permission. Perhaps we should let the dead stay dead and focus on fostering new talent in Hollywood instead?

Photo: James Dean by twm1340 licensed under Creative Commons 4.0