Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of death, and James Dean’s tragic and fatal car crash.

James Dean, cultural icon and original rebel without a cause, has been cast in a new action film set during the Vietnam war. His casting has caused something of a stir. Is it because a feel-good dog-centred war film isn’t quite in keeping with his disaffected teen filmography? Or could it be the frankly worrying 60 year gap between now and his last starring role?

Nope. It is because James Dean died in 1955. Two months before the Vietnam War officially started for America.

Why choose Dean for this role, as opposed to literally any living actor?

James Dean’s family have agreed for his image be used in order for him to be the star of this film. Dean, being dead, could neither confirm nor deny his willingness to participate in the project. Yes, we have entered the matrix where not even a car crash so awful you need a closed-casket funeral is enough to stop those who are supposed to have your best interests at heart from putting you up in front of the camera. The family says they think of it as the “movie he never got to make”. It’s ironic that the film he actually never got to make was titled Somebody Up There Likes Me. Dean, being, as previously mentioned, in a state of not-aliveness, could not be reached for comment.

I had to google everyone involved in this production. Co-director Anton Ernst has a Wikipedia page, but Wikipedia states that it doesn’t meet the guidelines for a biography page and is at risk of being deleted. The other director, Tati Golykh, doesn’t even have one. The page for the original book on which the film is based just redirects you to Ernst’s page. It is not exactly a glorious start.

There is much to be said about the difficulty of breaking into the movie industry as a director nowadays, when new talent is rarely given a chance. But somehow, I do not think the aim of this production was bringing underappreciated artists to the attention of the industry.

Aside from anything else, casting James Dean, a man who will have been dead for 65 years next September, in the main role does rather deny the opportunity to any living actor. Someone who might actually benefit from the exposure – or indeed the salary, which clearly must be immense if they have the budget to bring a dead man back to life. Jesus has nothing on these guys.

The choice of Dean for the role is truly mystifying, even if we accept this rather morbid act of raising the dead to make their corpses dance for us. As I mentioned before, he has been dead since before the Vietnam war started, so unlike Star Wars’ brief – yet still unnerving – recreations of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher in their cult classic roles, there is no clear logic or even pretension to fan service in disturbing this particular dead man.

The reason given as to why James Dean was chosen for this role as opposed to say, literally any living actor? Because the role has “because the role has extreme complex character arcs.” This is not quite the thrilling insight I was hoping for. I think it also provides grounds for a fairly solid defamation case to any actor working after 1955, if neither Ernst nor his casting director could find a single person capable of expressing more than one consecutive emotion better than a computer animation.


Mountain View

The Dead Don't Die but we’re all going to

I have to mention Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, who gives the beautiful line, “This opens up a whole new opportunity for many of our clients who are no longer with us”. The operative word in this sentence is “clients”. These “clients,” for whom he is so delighted, are dead. Dead.

I, for one, cannot tell you how delighted I am to be living in under 21st century capitalism. Not even death can save you now.