Warner Bros. Shuts Down Akira Adaptation Over Budget Concerns; Is the Project Dead?
01.07.12 by Ryan
While there are variations on whether the project is dead or alive, one thing is for sure, the Americanized-adaptation of Akira is in trouble. THR reports that Warner Bros. has shut down production offices in Vancouver. "Everybody is being sent home," an insider told the site. What went wrong? Seemingly everything, as script, budget and casting issues continue to plague the long-gestating project.
Based on the highly acclaimed six-volume manga ("comic book" in Japanese) series created by Katsuhiro Otomo, Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way production company has been developing Akira for three years. After receiving a script polish from Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, Warners greenlit Akira, but apparently the script is still problematic.
According to THR, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) is going to "hunker down" with a few producers for the next few weeks to sharpen the script, though Deadline reports that Warners will bring in "a high-end writer" to do a polish on the script. Variety reports that Warners is interested in either Jonathan "Jonah" Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) or Michael Green (Green Lantern) to do the script polish, though nothing is official yet.
Part of what the script polish will likely address is budget issues. When Collet-Serra took over for departing director Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli), the budget was brought down from $150 million to $90 million, but THR's source says Warners would prefer a budget in the range of $60-70 million instead. Deadline says that Warners issues with Akira are more creative than budgetary, while Variety points out that Warners directive over its upcoming projects is simple: create another The Dark Knight-esque tentpole movie with big stars and directors or "built-in awareness." Akira certainly has some of the "awareness" Warners is looking for, but was struggling to put together an A-list cast.
Until the recent issues, only Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) was attached to star in Akira as Kaneda, the protagonist leader of The Capsules biker gang, who must stop his best friend Tetuso, who is drunk with power and unstable after accidentally being granted psychic abilities. Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga) had been offered the role of Kei, a powerful medium and Kaneda's love interest, while Ken Watanabe and Helena Bonham Carter were offered the roles of The Colonel and Lady Miyako, respectively, but an actor could not be found for the role of Tetsuo.
According to Deadline, Warners had Michael Pitt (HBO's Boardwalk Empire) and Dane DeHaan (the upcoming Chronicle) competing for the role of Tetsuo, but the studio then allowed the options for both actors to lapse, meaning that the actors are now free to schedule other projects.
So is Akira finished? Likely not. "It’s a very resilient movie," one insider told THR. "Warner Bros. just won’t let it die." Both Deadline and Variety point out Akira is far from being the first movie to be halted due to budget or script concerns, citing recent movies like Moneyball and upcoming projects like The Lone Ranger and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. However, should a new script and budget not be settled soon, or if Collet-Serra and Warners can't settle on a bankable actor for Tetsuo, Akira may be doomed to development purgatory.