The live-action adaptation of the classic manga-turned-anime Ghost in the Shell has been a long time coming. Rumors have been floating around for years now, from a 2008 story about Steven Spielberg showing interest in the film to talk in 2014 of Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie landing the lead role.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, it turns out Spielberg’s involvement in the movie will be minimal at best, with his company Dreamworks producing it, and Margot Robbie is busy with her role as Harley Quinn. Instead, Snow White and the Huntsman‘s Rupert Sanders has been picked as director and another veteran of comic book movies, Scarlett Johansson, will be starring as the film’s protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Now there is news of new casting as well: that of the movie’s main villain.
As recently as November, Maleficant‘s Sam Riley was thought to be the front runner for that role. Instead, THR now reports that it will be played by Hannibal‘s Michael Pitt. Specifically, Pitt is cast as The Laughing Man, a character from the original manga described as “a bitter and vengeful man with a body that is part robot.” That is not a far cry from the character he played in Hannibal, a bitter and vengeful man with a face that was cut off and fed to dogs.
The casting comes just in time, too, with Just Jared reporting that Johansson was spotted in New Zealand on the set of Ghost in the Shell back on February 1st. That means filming for the movie is now underway, which is not surprising given that it has a release date in March of next year. Johannson, of course, has kept busy playing Black Widow in multiple Marvel films, including the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. Pitt has been busy as well since being replaced as Mason Verger on Hannibal, and will be appearing on the big screen this year in the action-thriller Criminal alongside a roster of stars including Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.
While Ghost in the Shell certainly has some star power going for it, the big question is whether or not it will be any good. Live-action adaptations of anime have not fared so well in the past, with the recent example of Dragonball: Evolution turning out not only awful but arguably a little racist. Still, the source material is strong enough to have inspired other live-action films such as The Matrix, so hopefully that will carry over into a movie that doesn’t leave fans shaking their heads.
Ghost in the Shell opens in U.S. theaters on March 31st, 2017.