According to the trades (this time Variety), Warner Bros. has given the official greenlight to a live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Akira” for domestic consumption, with the start of production set for as early as late February or early March. Which, if you’ve been keeping track of the project’s progress, is a major leap forward in terms of actually coming to fruition.
There are, of course, some potential worries (this wouldn’t be “Akira” without them, right?), including the budget, which Warner Bros. has settled on somewhere in the $90 million dollar range. This … is pretty low for a film like “Akira”, which, if they even stick to the source material a little bit, would require the destruction of a futuristic city, not to mention a hell of a lot of “Matrix”-like action scenes for the finale. The trailer for the original anime below should give you a good idea of the film’s crazy action-packed Third Act.
In any case, with a budget and a greenlight in its pocket, the film will now move into the pre-production stage with “Unknown’s” Jaume Collet-Serra directing (replacing Albert Hughes, who had been in place for a while before eventually dropping out). As for the casting of the film’s two main characters, “Tron: Legacy’s” Garrett Hedlund is the undisputed frontrunner for one of the roles, though an offer hasn’t gone out yet, but is expected to be delivered very soon. As you’ll recall, Keanu Reeves was a wanted man. Unfortunately he didn’t want the movie back. Well, if nothing else, Garrett Hedlund’s certainly got the bodysuit tights/motorcycle look down (right).
Which means, yes, Kaneda and Tetsuo will probably both be white. That is, if they even keep the Japanese names, since they’re already transplanting the setting form “Neo Tokyo” to “New Manhattan” anyway, why even bother keeping the names and pissing off the fanbase of the original even further? Of course, pissing off the fanbase has never really been something the studio has cared about in the past, so I suppose they’re probably not going to start now.
Leonardo DiCaprio will produce the film along with Otomo, though how much input he’ll have on the Americanization of his work remains open to debate. Usually when Hollywood buys a foreign property for a remake, they’ll usually keep the original creators on as a producer, if just to help sell the film and quell any fears from the diehards.