By Stephanie Nolasco
Published November 21, 2019
Before the late James Dean was cast in a new film about the Vietnam War, its directors originally wanted "The King" to take on the controversial role.
Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh initially had their eyes on Elvis Presley for their upcoming $40 million movie titled “Finding Jack,” but were turned down by the singer’s estate, The Hollywood Reporter shared on Wednesday.
Presley died in 1977 at age 42. Since Presley’s passing, the rock ‘n’ roll icon appeared as a malfunctioning hologram in a scene for 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049.”
The directors ultimately settled on Dean, who perished in a 1955 car accident at age 24, for the CGI character.
Ernst told the outlet that there was also “a short debate” about deploying the same VFX technology being used on Dean to cast another deceased icon — a “young Paul Newman.” However, they quickly settled on just having Dean as the sole CGI cast member.
“We don’t want this to become a spectacle — more than it already is,” said Ernst, who added that the reactions to Dean’s posthumous casting are “nuts, just nuts.”
Still, Ernst said the team has a bigger challenge ahead aside from resurrecting Dean to take on a character with “significant” screen time — finding a living actor who can hold his own as a co-star.
“But it’s a good challenge,” insisted Ernst. “You’re going to need someone with big balls.”
According to the outlet, Dean will appear as a CGI model crafted from old footage of the Hollywood icon. When it comes to voicing the avatar, Golykh said she’s received “a lot of emails” from people claiming they can do “solid impressions” of Dean.
Ernst said an Australian AI company specializing in training computers to speak like people based on recordings have also reached out “but that’s where we drew the line.”
“We said no because that would have been a bit ghostly,” he explained.
Dean’s family recently came forward in response to the controversy surrounding the late actor being digitally inserted into the upcoming Vietnam War flick.
“James Dean was perhaps the greatest actor of all time and is admired by fans around the world,” Mark Roesler, the attorney and business agent for the Hollywood star’s family, told Fox News exclusively. “Despite his untimely death at the age of 24, technology allows us to continue to honor Jimmy’s legacy and inspiration to so many people.”
“We have represented his family for 38 years and they are confident that Jimmy’s rebellious and trailblazing personality is consistent with being the first to fearlessly embrace this new technology for Hollywood,” Roesler continued. “They are excited to be part of keeping his memory alive.”
The Hollywood Reporter previously shared Dean’s face and body will be used by Ernst and Golykh, who obtained the image rights from his family.
The outlet noted that a realistic version of Dean will be digitally inserted in the movie, which is based on Gareth Crocker’s 2011 novel about the abandonment of more than 10,000 military dogs after the end of the Vietnam War.
“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme[ly] complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean," said Ernst.
He added: “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."
THR reports that the filmmakers are hoping Dean's appearance ushers in a new era of using CGI cast members. However, several fans voiced their distaste for the posthumous casting on Twitter.
"Don't do it," one user wrote on Twitter. "Leave our legends to shine as they did and create new ones with living actors. There are a lot of great people who are alive with talent to share."
"Sorry but this is taking tech way too far! James Dean is an icon of 50's cinema and personally I find this disturbing and unnerving," another user shared.
"Imagine auditioning for a role and losing out to a dead guy from the 50s," a third user said.
"Rendered Without a Cause #JamesDean," another user mocked.
“This is awful,” tweeted the 38-year-old. “Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso.”
“NOPE,” tweeted the 38-year-old. “This shouldn’t be a thing.”
“I have talked to friends about this for YEARS and no one ever believed me that the industry would stoop this low once tech got better,” added Zelda Williams, the daughter of late star Robin Williams, on Twitter. “Publicity stunt or not, this is puppeteering the dead for their ‘clout’ alone and it sets such an awful precedent for the future of performance.”
"Finding Jack" is currently scheduled to hit theaters on Veterans Day 2020.
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.