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Row sparked by use of virtual James Dean in forthcoming film Finding Jack over dignity of the dead

James Dean died in a car crash at the age of 24. Credit: PA

Long-dead actor James Dean is being "resurrected" in a forthcoming film and the people behind it are hoping it will only be the beginning of the actor's second career from beyond the grave.

The team at Worldwide XR are bringing Dean back to life in the Vietnam War film Finding Jack - currently in pre-production - and they are hoping this digital Dean will go on to have other roles.

But digital de-ageing and duplication of real actors has sparked controversy about the immortality and dignity of the dead.

“Our focus is on building the ultimate James Dean so he can live across any medium, “ said Travis Cloyd, Chief Executive of Worldwide XR, who is leading the design on the Dean project.

“That’s not only for one movie, but going to be used for many movies and also gaming and virtual reality."

Legally, they have every right to do it, via the full agreement of the Dean estate and his surviving relatives.

James Dean epitomised Hollywood glamour. Credit: AP

Dean was the embodiment of Hollywood youth and glamour, his death at 24 in 1955 and career - he made just three films: East Of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause and Giant - only cementing his status.

Worldwide XR have not obtained the rights from Warner Brothers to use footage from those films, but they have a large trove of photos and Dean’s dozens of TV roles.

These will be run through a machine to create a virtual likeness.

That will be added to the work of a stand-in actor using motion-capture technology as commonly done now with CGI characters, along with the overdubbed voice of another actor.

The announcement of the role last year caused a quick backlash, with responses like that of Captain America star Chris Evans on Twitter: “Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso.

“Or write a couple of new John Lennon tunes.

“The complete lack of understanding here is shameful.”

Carrie Fisher appeared after her death in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

For the people behind the Dean project, the negative reaction is as inevitable as they believe the eventual acceptance will be.

Mr Cloyd foresees a Hollywood where even living actors have a “digital twin” that helps in their work.

“This is disruptive technology,” Mr Cloyd said.

“Some people hear it for the first time and they get shaken by it.

“But this is where the market is going.”

The revival of the dead, often done clumsily, has been happening for much of Hollywood’s existence.

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman used extensive ageing and de-ageing techniques. Credit: AP

Footage of Bela Lugosi, combined with a double holding a cape over his face, was used in 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, released after the horror star’s death.

Bruce Lee’s film Game Of Death, left unfinished before his 1973 death, was completed using doubles and voice overdubs and released five years later.

The Fast And The Furious star Paul Walker died in 2013 before shooting was done on Furious 7.

His two younger brothers and others acted as stand-ins so his scenes could be finished.

Even Lennon, and many other dead historical figures, were digitally revived in 1994 in Forrest Gump.

But the technology of recreation and resurrection has taken a major leap forward in quality and prestige, with the extensive de-aging and re-aging used in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman; a young Will Smith digitally returning to play opposite the current version in last summer’s Gemini Man; and Carrie Fisher, whose younger self briefly returned digitally in 2016′s Star Wars: Rogue One and appeared again after her death, in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

These instances have elicited scattered scepticism — both of the quality of the technology and the propriety of the revivals — but audiences have largely accepted them..

James Dean died in a car crash in 1955 Credit: Richard Vogel/AP

Dean will be playing a supporting role in Finding Jack.

The limited screen time is, at this point, as far as those recreating him want to go.

But they hope the digital avatar can eventually carry a movie, possibly even playing James Dean himself at different ages.

“At some point there’s going to be the James Dean biopic,” Mr Cloyd said.

“I think the technology is not necessarily there today to take the risk.”