Who Owns James Dean? (Or: How They’re Going To Digitally Bring Back Dead Actors)

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You have no doubt heard of by now the upcoming Vietnam War movie Finding Jackwhich will (as of this writing) star a CGI-resurrected James Dean.

Dean’s “casting”—and the public furor that followed—brought up an interesting question.

Who “owns” James Dean?

I mean, where are the paychecks getting sent?

Well, the “rights” to Dean as far as “digital recreations” are concerned are managed by Worldwide XR, described on their website as “the leading solution provider of cinematic and computer generated XR experiences.” Presumably the company worked with the estate of James Dean to make the Finding Jack deal.

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the Worldwide XR homepage

“XR,” or “X Reality” is defined as a type of “mixed reality environment that comes from the fusion (union) of…ubiquitous sensor/actuator networks and shared online virtual worlds…” This encompasses virtual reality, augmented reality and “cinematic reality,” basically blending virtual and physical worlds in different ways.

This is apparently all really good to know, as XR will (in my opinion) dominate entertainment in the next decade.

Now, one look at the impressive roster of deceased entertainers and public figures Worldwide XR represents is quite the rabbit hole, in terms of the possibilities. In addition to Dean, they offer Christopher Reeve, Bettie Page, Jimmy Stewart, Jackie Robinson, Rock Hudson, Jerry Garcia, Malcolm X, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, and, of course, Pimp C.

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some of Worldwide XR’s celebrity offerings

Now, repping Dean for stuff like new movies seems to fall under the rubic of “Digital Human Representation” for Worldwide XR, and they claim to be experts at “all stages of this process—from the clearance of an icon’s image rights to the finished digital avatar.”

This is a good time to remember that this is not something Worldwide XR created out of whole cloth, but that even a such hallowed institution as LucasFilm has been digitally scanning their actors and even bringing a couple of the dead ones “back to life” in new films.

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“Carrie Fisher” in “Rogue One”

In a similar vein, while I can appreciate actor Chris Evans’ outrage at the news regarding Deansurely Marvel Studios had a hand in popularizing some of the basic principles behind XR as well?

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And there you have it, folks. Amelia Earhart starring in a remake of Erin Brockovich. It’s coming.