Brow Beat

James Dean, Who Is Dead, Will Co-Star in a New Movie About Dogs

James Dean and a very good boy.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Bettmann via Getty Images and Dennis Kleinman/UpperCut Images via Getty Images Plus.

Hollywood Icon James Dean—whose legendary career was cut short following a fatal automobile accident—is now slated for a return to pictures with a posthumous performance in South African filmmaker Anton Ernst’s Vietnam War action-drama Finding Jack.

Dean, who has spent the past six decades resting in seclusion at Park Cemetery in his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana, will reportedly play a “complex” secondary lead role, platoon leader Lt. Rogan, with the aid of “movie magic” courtesy of Canadian F/X shop Imagine Engine and South African F/X concern MOI Worldwide. The team hopes to build a “a realistic version of James Dean” using computers, according to a press release issued today. The actor’s unforgettable, youthful, and brooding voice, last heard by audiences in such classic films as Elia Kazan’s East of Eden (1955) and the teen weeper Rebel Without a Cause (1955), will reportedly be supplied by new talent, a company spokesperson tells the Hollywood Reporter.

The film, based on a novel of the same name by South African scribe Gareth Crocker, will chronicle the efforts of a U.S. armed serviceman searching for his military patrol partner, a yellow Lab named Jack, in the waning days of the Vietnam War. The story of Jack the dog’s life, per Crocker’s publishers at St. Martin’s Press, was inspired by the real events of many hundreds of American military canines abandoned as “surplus military equipment” at the close of the conflict, which historical experts say also resulted in somewhere between 1.23 and 1.35 million human civilian casualties.

Finding Jack will be produced by Los Angeles–based Magic City Films and co-directed by producer Ernst and actress-producer0model Tati Golykh. Ernst’s last major production venture, the Cape Town–set action thriller Momentum (2015), was described by the Los Angeles Times as “spectacularly generic,” with the Hollywood Reporter adding that Morgan Freeman’s performance was “slumming” and “might well have been shot in half a day.” James Dean’s performance in Finding Jack is expected to take considerably longer to produce: preproduction on the film’s computer animation wizardry begins on Nov. 17, with a scheduled worldwide release date of Veterans Day 2020.

Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide—which represents Dean’s family and life rights among its many other deceased clients and their families, including sexy pinup Bettie Page, R&B songstress Aaliyah, Superman Christopher Reeves, and historical notables like Malcolm X and Amelia Earhart—has expressed cautious hopes for closing similar picture deals for departed members of the CMG roster.

“With the rapidly evolving technology,” Roesler said via press sheet, “we see this as a whole new frontier for many of our iconic clients.” Adding: “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us.”

Producer-director Ernst voiced similarly lofty ambitions, saying, “Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance.”

In other words, as Ernst and Golykh’s Magic City’s website puts it, “Things of quality have no fear of limits.”

A blurry image of someone walking on the beach with the words "Things of quality have no fear of limits" written in all caps, diagonally.
Magic City Films