Gary Oldman Passes On ‘Akira'; Ken Watanabe Now Being Sought

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 8:47 pm,

Nothing seems to get the blood of fans boiling faster nowadays than the mentioning of Warner Bros.’ live-action Americanized adaptation of Akira. However, while some of the film’s important roles could possibly be filled by less-popular young stars like Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, respectable stars like Gary Oldman and numerous well-regarded young actors have been approached to tackle other pivotal parts in the film.

Reports are now in that a deal has failed to materialize between Warner Bros. and Oldman, meaning the latter will not play “The Colonel” in Akira. However, another acclaimed actor – one who is also (gasp!) Japanese – has been offered the role.

Twitch says that, since Warner Bros. was “unable to close the deal” with Oldman, they are now looking to bring Academy Award-nominee Ken Watanabe onboard to play the aforementioned militaristic character. The bulk of the actor’s American-made films have been produced through the studio (including, most recently, Inception) so he is clearly on good terms with Warner Bros. – something that should only encourage Watanabe to sign on for the project.

In Akira, “The Colonel” at first appears to be an antagonistic figure, a stern and powerful man who is involved with the secret government operation that exploits the untapped psychokinetic abilities of “gifted” individuals, including a newly-captured biker gang punk. However, when that young patient develops god-like powers of destruction and threatens to slaughter countless civilians, “The Colonel” proves himself to be an honorable man who is determined to protect the people, no matter the cost to himself.

While Oldman could have easily been good (or great) in the role, the part is also one that Watanabe would be pretty much perfect for. He’s especially well-renowned for portraying complex, yet ultimately decent, “disciplined” men in most of his Hollywood productions, including The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha, Letters from Iowa Jima, and Inception. Watanabe can also be quite fierce, as fans will recall when he briefly played a (fake) Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins.

Many people have argued that Akira should still feature cast members of Japanese heritage (regardless of the film’s new U.S. setting), which works in Watanabe’s favor. More importantly, though: the guy is just a really good actor.

Albert Hughes Leaves Akira Movie Gary Oldman Passes On Akira; Ken Watanabe Now Being Sought

One thing that should have become clear to hardcore Akira fans a long time ago: the new live-action adaptation changed cultural settings, partly to justify the casting of more bankable Caucasian actors and actresses in the film (that’s just business as usual in Hollywood…). At this point, the bigger concern is whether the project can still work as a multi-layered allegorical tale which reflects the history and current state of U.S. society (like the original Akira did for Japan), or if it will simply be yet another mindless, effects-driven, sci-fi Hollywood blockbuster. That’s a dicy proposition, especially since the masses are only going to turn out for Akira it if looks first and foremost to be a stylish cyberpunk thriller.

Neither Hedlund nor Stewart are the horrible thespians a lot of people make them out to be; both are ultimately decent fits for the Akira roles they’ve been offered. The “meatier” dramatic parts are those that (more talented) people like Watanabe or Paul Dano are being sought for, which is actually a good sign. While that won’t be enough to change the minds of many Akira fans who have already written off this live-action adaptation as blasphemy, it should offer some comfort to those who have decided to hold off on making their final judgement just yet.

We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Akira as more information is released.

Source: Twitch

TAGS: Akira
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  1. Please let this stop people complaining about Asians not being cast in the film.

    • so one asian actor been casted stop the fact that hollywood dont respect asian-american people at all. sorry thats just b.s. look at the shortlist of the lead characters all the actors mention are white actors.

      • I find it funny that people still complain about casting non-Asians in this film, but nobody complained when Sony didn’t cast any for their Godilla remake. You know why? Because IT WASN’T SET IN JAPAN!!! The same applies to this film.

        • do the characters’ names are in Japanese in Godzilla? I mean, come on. When hollywood decided to create: fist of the north star in the 90s, it failed.
          when they decided to create: dragon ball, it failed.
          don’t forget about The Last Airbender, where it clearly showed Asian culture, but they tried to “Americanized” the movie.
          At the end? all the movies are failed to satisfy the audience, both die-hard fans as well as the regular audiences.

          If they want to use Asian actors & actresses, at least change the names. I know the title is Akira, can’t they use Asian actors who really fits for the role?

          Any white guy named Akira that you know? does it make any sense?

          • When I said:
            “If they want to use Asian actors & actresses, at least change the names.”

            I meant:

            “If they want to use American (Caucasian, African-American, etc) actors & actresses, at least change the characters’ names.

          • Wow. I didn’t know there was a line of prejudice when it comes to naming someone. I was never aware of “white names” or “Asian names”. Racist much?

            • What I left out was, who’s to say a white person can’t be names Kaneda or Tetsuo? It’s uncommon, but there’s no rule to say you can’t give a white person an “Asian name”.

              • I’m not saying I’m racist. Dude, my name is Max and I’m asian. Chill.

                I know it’s people’s right to have those names.

                But on this context, will people buy it??

                they changed the setting, it’s not japan anymore, it’s america.
                why can’t they just change their names?

                have you seen “THE DEPARTED”? it’s based on hong kong movie called “INFERNAL AFFAIRS”

                they changed the setting, it’s in america, not hong kong.

                but did you see the characters names?

                Leonardo diCaprio name in that movie is not: LAU KIN MING right?

                exactly my point, kind sir.

      • But he hasn’t been cast yet,just offered the role.

  2. That is better casting. Love Gary Oldman, but I think this is a better fit.

  3. STUDIO EXEC: “Oldman isn’t onboard, find an asian/american actor to end all the interweb fanboy hate.”

    TOADY: “But sir, only one? What about Tetsuo? we haven’t cast him yet.”

    STUDIO EXEC: “I think we got one of the True blood guys for Tetsuo! And a Kawasaki endorsement!”

    TOADY: “Yes sir.”

  4. hopefully Watanabe sees through this abomination and passes on the the offer. Who wants to be the token Asian? And screw anyone who thinks that the fans or Asian culture should be happy because execs chose to hire 1 Asian actor for this ridiculous film.

  5. I like how they chose an Asian actor to play quite possibly the least Asian character, they could of easily had a white guy portray The Colonel without any fanboy criticism. I love the irony of things. Also, HARRY SHUM JR. FOR TETSUO!!!!!

  6. Well IMO it doesn’t matter how well they do the casting, because the biggest problem is going to be capturing the feeling of the Anime.

  7. he’s too good to be the token.

  8. I love reading about people passing on this project it gives me a tiny spark of hope that this may not happen. Of course I know someone will eventually bite besides there is a load of broke crappy actors out there.
    -Awe man, this is gonna be soo bad, lol.

  9. I love how everyone is complaining that no one (so far) in this cast is asain. It’s an AMERICAN ADAPTION! That’s like complaining that there is not enough Swedish actors in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaption. Get over IT!!

  10. FOOK YU Warner Brothers!!!
    All i ask is that you change the name of the movie to something else instead of “AKIRA” and change the names of the characters. you can keep the storyline because i know you’ll change that anyways.

  11. Good, now recast the rest with Japanese actors and change the setting to Japan and you’ll be on the right track. Still boycotting if things stay the same despite Watanabe if he’s on board.

  12. I will not even watch this movie when it comes out on HBO. I will not spend my money on a “white washed” akira flim. This movie will be nothing like the anime film by the same name, by the time it is all said and done the movie will just be a sad attempt at hollywood trying the same old stuff. If you want to pretend that race has nothing to do with how this movie is being made, then you are only fooling yourcself. Now that the location, race of the main actors and the cultural background of the movie has been changed. The current movie that is being made is not akira. Do not take my word for it, go rent or buy the anime film and judge it for your self.

  13. hello

  14. If Hollywood decides to set the movie outside of Japan, then of course the actors should be chosen according to where the movie is set. But if they set the movie in Japan, and choose all non Japanese people to play the Japanese people roles, then that’s not cool.