Akira Adaptation Greenlit for Early 2012 Start Date; Tron Legacy's Garrett Hedlund a "Front-Runner" to Star
10.21.11 by BJSprecher
After three years of push-and-pull, Warner Bros. (WB) has finally given the green light to Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way-produced live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's acclaimed 6-volume manga ("comic book") series, Akira.
DiCaprio began developing Akira in 2008 after WB secured the rights from Japanese manga publisher Kodansha in a 7-figure deal, but the project stalled out almost immediately when Appian Way pitched the movie as a two-part, $300 million epic. It remained in limbo for a couple years while a string of writers took a crack at the script, and finally generated some momentum when Steve Kloves of Harry Potter fame was hired to polish the script and Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) signed on to direct. When Hughes dropped out over "creative differences" WB wasted no time in hiring his replacement, Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown), a sign that the the studio was serious about getting Akira into production. According to Variety, WB continued to haggle with Apian Way over the budget right up until last weekend, when the deal was finally sealed. With a planned "late February/early March start" in mind, it's now a matter of locking down a bankable cast.
Though both the manga and the incredible 1988 animated movie adaptation take place in "Neo-Tokyo" and feature a cast comprised of Japanese-looking characters, the setting of the movie adaptation has been changed to "New Manhattan" and will be comprised of Western actors in the lead roles of biker gang leader Shotaro Kaneda and his friend-turned-monster Tetsuo Shima. Over the years, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zac Efron and even DiCaprio himself have been rumored to be up for the coveted role of the heroic Kaneda, but in March of this year a new crop of actors were said to be on the short list: Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix. According to Variety, Hedlund is currently "considered a front-runner" for the role of Kaneda.
As for Tetsuo, who gains incredible psychic powers after coming into contact with a being who shares a connection to the all-powerful entity known as Akira, there is no clear front-runner. However, the same source that first listed Hedlund as being on the short list for Kaneda had Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy on the short list to play Tetsuo.
If you've never seen Akira (and shame on you if you haven't!), here's the trailer that was used to promote its release on Blu-ray to give you an idea of what to expect.