If you thought that filmmakers were going to stop themselves at de-aging movie stars using CGI — like Robert De Niro in The Irishman or Will Smith in Gemini Man — you were sorely mistaken. The next obvious, slightly dystopian step is to use CGI to bring dead actors back to life. And it looks like we’re a lot closer to that step than you might think.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a movie called Finding Jack is headed into production with a surprising star. The film, a Vietnam War action drama, will feature a man who died almost a decade before the Vietnam War even began: James Dean, who passed away in 1955. Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh’ purchased the rights to use Dean’s image from his family, and two different VFX companies are making what is described as “a realistic version of James Dean” to appear in Finding Jack in a “secondary lead role.”

Here is Ernst’s comment to THR on the news:

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.

As slightly horrifying as this concept is, it’s probably a bit overdue in the world of movies, which has been creeping in this direction for a while. The long-deceased Laurence Olivier appeared in 2004’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, although that was through the careful use of existing footage, not a new CGI version of the actor. A CGI Peter Cushing did appear in a key supporting role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In that case, the results were not very encouraging — and that was from the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic and in a role that Cushing had previously played onscreen. So the artists tasked with bringing James Dean back to life for a character he never played before face a very tall order.

In the world of music, dead artists are already big business; holograms of Roy Orbison and Frank Zappa make big money on tour. It doesn’t feel like too far off from a time when dead actors will be the feature attractions in movies, instead of curiosities and supporting players. Who will be the first person to try to make a Casablanca sequel “starring” Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman?

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