Ken Watanabe May Replace Gary Oldman as The Colonel in Akira; New Contenders Up for Tetsuo
11.23.11 by Ryan
Warner Bros. casting for their upcoming live-action adaptation of Akira, based on the Japanese manga ("comic book") series by Katsuhiro Otomo has been pretty, well, Caucasian so far. Garrett Hedlund is set to play heroic biker gang leader Shotaro Kaneda, while Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga) has been offered the role of Kei, a powerful medium and Kaneda's love interest, and Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter were offered the roles of The Colonel and Lady Miyako, respectively. Like we said, pretty Caucasian.
Of course, the live-action Akira will take place in New Manhattan, unlike the Neo-Tokyo of the manga series and 1988 anime adaptation, but that hasn't stopped a furor of online criticism. George Takei (Star Trek) has led an online petition against the "whitewashing" of Akira and recently told The Advocate that if the studio continues with its casting, they could "offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans". Whatever the motivation, it seems like Warners is finally looking to bring an Asian actor onto the cast, with Ken Watanabe possibly stepping in for Oldman.
Twitch reports that Warners was unable to close the deal with Oldman and have instead turned to Watanabe, though the casting is unconfirmed at this time. Oldman recently told MTV that he was "open at the moment" to the role but told Collider that he was "approached" but that "nothing has been confirmed". Twitch clearly knows someone associated with the project, as they were the first to report the offers to Oldman and Bonham Carter, as well as the offer to Stewart.
Should Watanabe be confirmed for the role, that might quiet the storm surrounding the casting, though the studio is still looking to fill the role of antagonist Tetsuo with a white actor. THR recently reported that a while new crop of actors are being tested for the part, just weeks after Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro) were reported to be the names that are "surfacing most often" for the role (Miller recently refuted the casting, saying the role "will not be a reality").
Ehrenreich is still a possibility, as are several up-and-coming actors:
D.J. Cotrona (the upcoming G.I.Joe 2: Retaliation), Logan Marshal-Green (the upcoming Prometheus), Toby Kebbell (the upcoming War Horse), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Rami Malek (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2) and Paul Dano (Cowboys & Aliens). Tetsuo, first a friend of Kaneda's, quickly becomes his enemy after learns of his latent psychic powers. According to the report, Warners wants to have the role cast before the Thanksgiving holiday, so expect a resolution shortly.
Akira has been under development by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company for years now. After seeing several writers work on the script, the studio was encouraged to move forward with the project after Steve Kloves (Harry Potter) finished the final "polish" on it. Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) will direct the movie, which will start production in early 2012.