The English film adaptation of Death Note has been long-in-development. While the metaphysical thriller manga has already been adapted into a successful two-season anime series and a 2006 Japanese film, last April it was reported that Warner Bros. had purchased the rights to make their own Americanized version of the story. Shane Black (The Nice Guys, Iron Man 3) was once attached to direct, but later backed out, leaving Adam Wingard (You’re Next) to pick up the project with a script by Jeremy Slater (Fantastic Four). Things looked to be gaining some traction on the project as Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars) was cast as the series protagonist, Light Yagami a.k.a Kira, and Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys) as his obsessive fangirl/sidekick Misa Amane. Then Warner Bros. dropped the project, likely as an early casualty of their “no-more-risks” initiative, and their option passed to Netflix, who picked up right where WB left off.
For those not familiar with the property, Death Note involves a young student, Light, finding a notebook that allows him to kill people simply by writing their names in it. After Light begins a vigilante campaign to purge criminals from the world, a reclusive detective known as “L” begins the hunt for the supernatural serial killer.
Now there’s one more name written in the Death Note, as Variety is reporting that Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton) will co-star. Stanfield’s role has not been announced, but considering he’s only a few years older than Wolff, it’s possible this might be our “L” – though he could play another character from the source material or an entirely original role.
While there’s certainly no shortage of talent attached to this project, and fingers are crossed that it will stand on its own merits, it’s difficult to imagine a faithful representation of Death Note that doesn’t feature a Japanese cast and setting. Besides the protagonists’ names, the very concept of shinigami (gods of death, who in the story are the rightful bearers of the Death Notes) is incredibly foreign to Western society.
This isn’t to say that Eastern spiritualism should be barred from Western understanding or interaction, but with so few Asian stars getting top billing in American films it certainly begs consideration when roles they might be especially suited to are claimed by white actors. (See the furor over Scarlett Johansson’s casting in the Ghost in the Shell reboot.) Then again, that’s nothing compared to the American reboot of Akira (that never seems to die), which hopes to appropriate the imagery of nuclear fallout that added immense cultural weight to the original story.
Still, the production of Netflix’s Death Note is still in the early stages, so it remains to be seen how this adaptation moves forward. Are you excited about the American reboot of Death Note? Sound off in the comments section.
Filming on the Death Note remake is scheduled to begin this summer.