On September 30, 1955, tragedy struck when Hollywood star James Dean was killed in a car accident, cutting short his promising young career. At the time he had only appeared in three starring roles, not counting uncredited and television appearances: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. The latter two of those three titles weren’t even released until after he had passed away. And still, his short time in the spotlight led to two Academy Award nominations—one for East of Eden and one for Giant. Both Oscar nominations came after his death, and his East of Eden nomination was the first posthumous nomination in Academy Awards history.
Now, 64 years after Dean’s untimely death, it’s been announced that the actor will be starring in one of the lead roles in his fourth feature. The film, titled Finding Jack, is described as a “Vietnam era action-drama.”
The biggest question is of course “How?” We’ve seen actors appear in roles posthumously before, sometimes using digital effects to bring them back to life and sometimes using previously unused footage. Here, it will be the former.
A production company called Magic City Films has acquired the rights to use Dean’s likeness from his family, and they have visual effects studios Imagine Engine and MOI Worldwide working to re-create a realistic digital version of James Dean to appear in the film. What the plan is for his voice has not yet been revealed.
Finding Jack is an adaptation of the novel of the same name from author Gareth Crocker. The adaptation is written by Mari Sova, with Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh of Magic City directing. Ernst and Golykh are also producing alongside Donald A. Barton of Artistry Media Group.
Here’s a description of the story from the book’s Amazon page:
Following a tragic accident, Fletcher Carson joins the flagging war effort in Vietnam. Lost and lonely, he plans to die in the war. But after stumbling upon a critically injured yellow Lab, Fletcher unexpectedly finds a reason to live. He finds Jack. Fletcher and Jack are a team, and like the hundreds of other U.S. Military dogs and their handlers in Vietnam, they serve their country, saving countless lives. To the men, the dogs are heroes.
But at the end of the war, the U.S. government announces that all the dogs serving in the war have been declared “surplus military equipment” and will not be transported home. Ordered to leave Jack behind, Fletcher refuses – and so begins the journey of two friends who will go to the ends of the earth to save each other. Based on the actual existence and abandonment of canine units in Vietnam, Finding Jack is more than just a story of man saves dog. It is a story of friendship and love, and a moving tribute to the forgotten heroes of a desperate war. And proof that sometimes it is dog that truly saves man.
And here’s a few quotes from those involved with the project from the press release:
Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide ( www.CMGworldwide.com ), the business agent for the family of James Dean said, “With the rapidly evolving technology, we see this as a whole new frontier for many of our iconic clients. CMG is in its 4th decade of representing over 1,700 iconic entertainment, sports, music & historical personalities, recently acquired an extended reality company Worldwide XR (www.WorldwideXR.com) which according to Roesler, “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”
Film Producer (Little One, Momentum) and co-director Anton Ernst says “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. 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.” Ernst continues “Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to recreate historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance.”
Barton added “Now that we have closed with this iconic figure, we look forward to rapidly closing our remaining actors.”
Laurent Eyqyem will compose the film’s score, and legendary songwriter Diane Warren wrote a key track to be used in the movie. Warren has penned numerous number one hits, including many for movies and television. She has 315 credits to her name on IMDb, and she’s been nominated for 10 Academy Awards for her work.
Warren’s Oscar nominated songs include Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” from 1996’s Up Close and Personal; Trisha Yearwood’s “How Do I Live”—which was performed by both LeAnn Rimes and Yearwood, resulting in a bit of history when both artists were nominated for a Grammy Award in the same year and same category for their renditions (Yearwood ultimately won)—for 1997’s Con Air; Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” for Michael Bay’s Armageddon in 1998 and Pearl Harbor in 2001; and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (co-written with Albert Hammond) for 1987’s Mannequin.
No release date has been set for Finding Jack yet, but pre-production is set to begin on November 17th and the hope is to release the movie a little over a year from now on Veterans Day 2020.