Director Anton Ernst addresses James Dean controversy
Director Anton Ernst has responded to the backlash surrounding his upcoming film Finding Jack, which has met criticism due to its controversial decision to utilize CGI technology to cast iconic film star James Dean in the lead role. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ernst admitted he was “saddened” and “confused” by the negativity surrounding the film.
“We don’t understand it,” he said. “We never intended for this to be a marketing gimmick.” Ernst also pointed out that Dean’s two cousins on the actor’s father’s side have been supportive of the film and see this as the icon’s fourth film.
“I think they would have wanted their family member’s legacy to live on,” the director continued. “That’s what we’ve done here as well. We’ve brought a whole new generation of filmgoers to be aware of James Dean … At the end of the day, what we really want people to know is the movie is about love and friendship, the veterans that served in the Vietnam War and especially the dogs that were with them. We never want to lose that emphasis and this [social media reaction] becomes a distraction of what the story is about.”
James Dean died at the young age of 24 in 1955 due to a car accident. Even though he had only starred in three films, Dean has been a pop culture icon known for his rebellious image onscreen.
Directors Ernst and Tati Golykh acquired the rights to use Dean’s image from his family and partnered with Canadian VFX, Imagine Engine and South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to digitally create “a realistic version of James Dean” by using actual footage and photos from his past works.
“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,” Ernst said in a statement. “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.”
Bases on author Gareth Crocker’s novel of the same name, Finding Jack is set during the Vietnam War and is inspired by actual events when more than 10,000 military dogs were abandoned at the end of the War. It will tell the story of an unlikely friendship between a man and a yellow Labrador. The CGI James Dean will be playing the film’s secondary lead named Rogan with another actor set to voice the character.
The book’s official synopsis reads: “After losing his young family in a tragic accident, Fletcher Carson joins the flagging war effort in Vietnam. Deeply depressed, he plans to die in the war. But during one of his early missions, Fletcher rescues a critically wounded yellow Lab whom he nurses back to health and names Jack. As Fletcher and Jack patrol and survive the forests of Vietnam, Fletcher slowly regains the will to live.
At the end of the war, the U.S. Government announces that due to the cost of withdrawal, all U.S. dogs serving in the war have been declared “surplus military equipment” and will not be transported home. For the hundreds of dog handlers throughout Vietnam, whose dogs had saved countless lives, the news is greeted with shock and disbelief. For Fletcher, he knows that if he abandons Jack, then he too will be lost. Ordered to leave Jack behind, he refuses—and so begins their journey.”
Finding Jack will be directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh through their Magic City Films banners with Maria Sova writing the film’s screenplay. Ernst and Golyk also serve as producers along with Artistry Media Group’s Donald A. Barton.
The film is eyeing for a worldwide release on November 11, 2020.