James Franco May Star In ‘Akira’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 24th, 2013 at 9:37 am,

It’s a James Franco world and we’re all living in it – at least, that’s the impression around the Hollywood water cooler lately. The latest bit of news concerning the former Freaks and Geeks lad pegs him as possibly starring in Warner Bros.’ big-budget, live-action adaptation of the 1980s Japanese comic book series, Akira.

This story comes just a week after Franco was rumored to be the most recent prospective star of Oz, the Great and Powerful, which would reunite him with his Spider-Man trilogy director, Sam Raimi. That’s not to mention Franco’s plans to shoot As I Lay Dying this summer, which he announced back at the end of January.

Filmmakers Albert and Allen Hughes (The Book of Eli) are collaborating with Iron Man/Cowboys & Aliens co-screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby on the live-action version of Akira, which shifts the setting from futuristic Tokyo to Manhattan. According to Just Jared, Franco would star as the leader of a biker gang (a character named Shotaro Kaneda in the original manga/anime), whose comrade is kidnapped by the government and subjugated to scientific experiments that cause him to develop dangerous psychic powers.

While Franco is arguably a more convincing choice to play the head of an anarchistic gang than Zac Efron, the 32-year-old actor seems a bit much on the mature side to star as an adolescent rebel. The Hughes Brothers movie might feature a significantly re-worked version of the Kaneda character, so that he’s more of a fully grown, Mad Max breed of ruffian than a futuristic James Dean type – if so, Franco being cast makes more sense.

127 Hours Review James Franco James Franco May Star In Akira

A number of Akira fans are already less than enthused by the prospects of an Americanized take on the story – especially since it looks to be Rated PG-13. The violently surreal visuals and often disturbing subject matter of the source material don’t readily lend themselves to the more consumer-friendly rating, but it’s not entirely unworkable. The Dark Knight is generally cited as a good example of a pic that pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, but even more recent pics like The Green Hornet or The Eagle have demonstrated that so long as the violence is largely bloodless or the gruesome payoff is kept off-screen, it’s possible to avoid getting branded with an R rating.

The Hughes Brother are very stylish filmmakers, with their own unique artistic sensibilities, which will serve them well in realizing Akira for a new generation. If there’s one particular concern about the look and design of the live-action version’s setting at this point, it’s that the similarities to the post-nuclear war environment and technology of a movie like Terminator Salvation or this summer’s Korean comic book adaptation, Priest (see below), might be a bit too much. On the other hand, neither of those pics are set primarily within the confines of a neon-lit metropolitan world like Akira, so that will help matters.

Priest Image 3 James Franco May Star In Akira

Franco is of course co-hosting the 2011 Oscars in two weeks time, and is in the running to snag a trophy for his efforts as the wilderness loving Aron Ralston in 127 Hours. The concern at this point is that Franco could be over-exposing himself, since he will have potentially appeared in five different movies before the year is out (including his Green Hornet cameo), and has been rumored as a candidate to play fellows ranging from the fictional Wizard of Oz to real-life adult filmmaker Chuck Traynor as well.

That said – would you like to see Franco star in Akira?

Source: Just Jared (via First Showing)

TAGS: Akira
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  2. Just a correction…Priest is not a Japanese comic book, it´s Korean.

    • Thanks for catching that, Arnold, it’s been fixed. :-)

  3. Much better than Zac. I just hope they make it grimey enough.

  4. I am very happy with this. Now get Joseph Gordon Levitt on this and we’re good to go!

  5. Count me as one of the pissed off fan boys. I mean, I like Franco in his work, but they have a lot farther to go to convince me they are honoring the source material. Oh well, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. I am not going to hold my breath, however.

    • This has long smelled of failure, and it continues to do so.

      I’ve also liked James Franco in many of his previous movies, from Spider-Man to Tristan and Isolde, but nothing I hear about “Akira” impresses me.

      Why don’t they just imitate the ideas in Akira and pass it off as something else. Honestly, are people who like the Akira movie from the 80s, and/or like the graphic novel, going to care enough to see this.

      It sounded awful from the start. And I’m still not riding Hollywood’s whitewashing bandwagon.

      They better change the names for their own sake. I think someone needs to show Hollywood execs links to stories covering Hollywood’s history of yellowface, which continues into the present time. The whitewashing and use of yellowface is even worse now than it was in previous decades. At least I could historically understand why it happened then. But now? It’s like a blatant disregard and intentional lack of concern. These people making such decisions seem to live in a bubble somewhere. But they’re not oblivious to reality, they’re consciously ignoring it. They choose to be racist.

      I understand why white actors get most of the jobs in Hollywood. Need white audiences to make something a huge hit, it’s a matter of numbers. But Hollywood’s also ignoring other ways to make money, by hitting other demographics. But their one main flaw in their whitewashing ways is that, if white moviegoers are indeed as racist as Hollywood execs deem them to be, why not just make movies based on white people, white history, and white characters, and nothing or no one else? Why make Akira, why make a movie based on Japanese characters, in a Japanese setting? Whites are racist, right? They won’t see it.

      The Hollywood execs just won’t admit that they’re racist.

      And they’re obviously not reaching out to the fans of the graphic novel, or of the well-known animated movie from the 80s. So, who are they reaching out to? People who don’t know about Akira. People who don’t care.

      Now only is it racist, but it’s going to utterly silly to see a bunch of white actors going by the names Tetsuo and Akira. Akira is another movie about the nuclear fallout from the U.S. dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan. America’s history has nothing on that level of immediate destruction and genocide.

      • I love when people through out racism with no proof or merit.

        It’s frankly laughable.

        If you don’t like the choice fine. If you don’t like the choice because the lead actor isn’t japanese, fine. But to say the decision is racist, is just … well … stupid. Was it racist when the cast Nick Fury as a black man. I am a “616” comic lover. Have never read ultimates. SHould I too, think they are racist?

        • I love when people go into denial mode, having an opinion on something they’ve neither studied, nor experienced.

          The proof is in the pudding, the proof is in the history, and what Hollywood’s been doing in terms of whitewashing movies is nothing new, and it still goes on today.

          And what you’re saying here is nothing new — I hear it from racial apologists and deniers quite constantly.

          The example you provide to counter me is just further proof that you don’t seem to know what racism is, nor do you know the history of racism in America. If you did, your counter would be a much more complex and intelligent one.

          • Gah, I’m with INK. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with Hollywood being “racist”. The main problem is 3 fold:

            1) Trying to find a COMPLETE cast that is both oriental (can speak English) AND can act.
            2) There are some good oriental actors out there like John Cho and Daniel Dae Kim but they have to also WANT to do it and be available during a specific time frame.
            3) To match Akira, the lead actors also need to be young which further compounds the casting issue.

            Aside from difficult casting would be filming in Japan which could also be prohibitively expensive.

            Face the fact that if it’s going to be done by Hollywood, for an American audience, it will have to be relocated to a place like LA or New York and an American cast be used. I do agree though that at this point using the Japanese names might not work which means a movie name change.

            It’s too bad no one in Japan has been willing to pick up this project. They proved they can bring big things to the screen like Space Battleship Yamato so why not Akira?

          • “you don’t seem to know what racism is, nor do you know the history of racism in America.”
            Well, I have not personally encountered nor have I been directly involved in anything racist so maybe you have an advantage on me, I know nothing about you personally and likewise you know nothing about me.

            “The proof is in the pudding, the proof is in the history, and what Hollywood’s been doing in terms of whitewashing movies is nothing new, and it still goes on today.”
            WHitewashing? Pot meet kettle.

            “If you did, your counter would be a much more complex and intelligent one.”
            I thought my post was in direct correlation to the intelligence of the post I responded to.

        • You have Overt and Covert racism, Hollywood has been doing this ever since it’s creation. At least they aren’t dressing Franco up to look a characture of an Asian… aka Charlie Chan
          Remember the old Westerns? None of the “Indians” were actually Indians.
          Black Face…
          Having said all that, in this case it’s consumerism.
          The real thing it boils down to is Majority Rules. They make the deals to relate to the “Masses.” How can they make the most money?
          “Blade” being the one movie to break the mold… and there you have a singular example.
          Asians outside of martial arts flicks are stuck there.
          I can’t remember the last time I saw a Native American character.
          Hollywood is stuck in the past because it’s where we’re very comfortable being and our movie spending habits show exactly that.
          Once our world view changes, then we’ll see changes in what Hollywood puts out.

  6. I’m still pissed with the americanization and casting non-japanese actors when the entire story takes place IN japan WITH japanese people. I like Franco too. Fantastic actor but they seem to be straying too far from just these simple basics of the story. If it continues like this I just won’t watch nor support it. It’s bs what they’re doing.

    • You can say that again. I Hate it Too.

    • i totally agree

    • Big thumbs up from me. I hope this movie flops, and flops hardcore.

    • Additionally, people need to speak with their money, by not spending it to see this movie.

      Enough of the “oh, it looks like crap, but I’m going to see it anyway” nonsense. And people wonder why Hollywood keeps on making crap.

      I was utterly disappointed in people who went to see Last Airbender, pushing it past the 300 million dollar mark.

      I saw just a few minutes of it on DVD at a family member’s place, and it was unbearable. The acting, dialogue and action scenes were laughably bad. It felt worse than a high school production.

      • It’s funny how you saw a movie is “crap”, but admit to only watching a few minutes of it. You’re denied the right to an opinion on the whole, just those few mintues. And before you assume that I’m “defending” the movie, I’m not. I’ve never seen it (and don’t plan too), so I don’t know if it’s good or bad.

        As for this movie, I couldn’t care less. Changing the actors ethnicity is only being done to Americanize the film, and give them an excuse for chaning the setting to Neo Manhattan (figueres) instead of Neo Tokyo. Besides, DRAGON BALL EVOLUTION destroyed any interest I had in making a live-action adaptation of an anime/manga title. The only one I’m interested in is BATTLE ANGEL, and that’s only b/c I think Cameron is the right man for the job.

        • Michael was loosely refering to the film makers changing main parts of the original story, that’s why he referenced The Last Airbender. Michael had a good point.

          I have seen The Last Airbender. I watched it with my nephew who is nearly 4 years old. He stood right in front of the tv for the whole film (that means he liked it). Good job my bro’s got a frikkin huge tv.

          My point being, that although main story changes from the original script occur, the film does still have an audience that doesn’t know of the original (as much the rest of us ALL hate the changes to the original script).

    • I second that emotion

  7. I’m sick of this James Dean wannabe. Can’t they find another actor? One that actually resembles Kaneda? Hollywood’s ridiculous with their f%#@ing-up-every-movie ways.

    • Good post.

      Another problem is, one typical of Hollywood execs, is that they’re taking something with a niche audience with very specific interests and tastes and trying to make it appeal to mainstream audiences.

      How many people in the mainstream even know of Akira?

      A similar example would be Watchmen. Watchmen is probably more accessible to the American mainstream, but that movie version didn’t do so well.

      I think Akira would only do even worse. If they cater to younger audiences as well, stripping it of much of its darkness and edge, what’s the point of even trying?

      I thought they made a similar mistake with that awful Last Airbender movie, but it still made a lot of money. Just goes to show, one can rarely lose by underestimating the intellect of the masses.

      • Totally agree.

    • Not True look at District 9, look at the Hurt locker, look at Kick Ass. these are all movies that where made first without studio backing and then where sold after being completed. Two of those movies were oscar nominated pictures. These also skipped the Big name stars for most part, and they made stars out of those that where in them.

    • dude, don’t you remember one of last year’s biggest FLOP which stars probably two of the most ‘STRONG’ of ‘TOP BILL’ actors Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

      there’s your answer.

      like I said, Akira has a huge fanbase. It will be a hit, even if it doesn’t have a god ***n huge leading white actor in it..

  8. I want so bad a freaking Naruto,Bleach and One Piece-live action movie..!!!!!!!!!!!

    • PLEASE not a live-action Bleach. I for one will never see a live-action Bleach, Inuyash, Gundam Wing,or Neon Genesis Evangelion. It just wouldn’t work. Besides, the creator of Bleach has stated he won’t do a live-action film, and hopefully he sticks to that.

      • LOL!!!
        The best movies are those made by Fanboys themselves and are able to secure funding one way or another. My prime examples are “The Matrix” and “Kill Bill”
        Tarantino F’n LOVES and believes in the movies he makes.
        I betcha if, Bill Gates said “I’m the biggest Silver Surfer fan in the world and I’m going to make a movie…” it would be a done deal, with very little interference.

        • The director of WING COMMANDER said he was a fan of the game, and look at how that turd turned out. It’s takes more than being a fanboy.

      • I agree 100%, leave them alone these are not comics and their source material is way to indepth for anyone to take on appropriately. The art is amazing already on them and they are already direct adaptions of their Manga source material. My problem is this when they can do such a great job adapting their manga to anime, but we cant do the same with comics to cartoons, its just sad. instead we are stuck with knock off versions of stories like Planet Hulk or Public Enemies.

  9. Please don’t make this movie with a re-worked story, the original is one of my favourite animations of all time.

    If the original material can’t be stuck to, then don’t make the film.

    I understand that to bring the story over to America names need to be changed, but THAT IS ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED!!!!


    Getting so tired of these make a buck d##khead execs….

  10. Akira, bored me.


    • Oh no…I find myself once more agreeing with you. I find it tedious, badly animated and unoriginal. COuldnt even watch it all. I left my flatmate to finish watching it on his own.

      • unoriginal, how so Dr.

        • It’s a dystopian future film, nothing new there. Personally, I hate anime and manga, cannot stand it, I know lots of people enjoy, but I am not one of them. I thought I would give Akira a try because it is well regarded as a film in its right. The part I saw did nothing for me.

          • to each their own , but I disagree, in fact what your saying is that there is nothing original out there cause every subject matter has been done, hell every action movie is unoriginal , every sci fi story has been told. So we should just throw our hands up and stop watching all the Regurgiated nonesense, come on. Thats just Laughable. As far as Anime and Manga goes, I can understand if you dont like them for whatever reason you have, art , story haveing to read it in reverse, whatever, but for me its great to see series that arent retreds and that have been going for years and are still fresh. This is teir Soap Operas and i wish we had more programs with this much substance. Instead we have cartoon series that are made for kids and are lucky to last as season or two. One piece is one of the highest selling books in the world, it has set records for publishing, look it up if you dont think so

  11. For Franco this is a much much better gig than being the Wizard in Raimi’s Oz prequel. The other one sounds like a career killer… hint hint, Sam.

  12. Ok heres, my problem with this im a Big Anime fan and I have and Love Akira, but I do not want this movie made, if it where to be made , I would want it made as a japanese movie, and shot with subtitles. However, this is not likely to happen why because it can not be made properly, which is the reason that they have not already made the movie. The other side of this is that if they were to make this film i think it should be done like the Magnificent Seven, which is based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai , which has been used as a model for tons of different movies and stories. How ever some may call it white washing the japanese them selves have reused this story on several different movies, anime, and manga. Its called having creative license. All cultures do it not just the Hollywood guys her in the US. Every country in the world that is into film making has there own versions of similar products. You just dont see them.

    • That’s bull. There is such a thing as white washing. The Last Air Bender is a recent example.

    • minstrel/blackface stuff can be easily twisted and be called having granted a “creative license” as well.. you’re bs’ing your way around here..

  13. If they choose Zac Efron he will destroy the film…

  14. I like Franco, but can’t see this happening and still being faithful to the material. If too many story elements change, they should just call it something else. Loco Lobo 73’s Seven Samurai concept and the Mad Max angle might be OK but the cool thing about the original was that they were street kids doing crazy things. A mature Kaneda in another story changed to NY is a cop out. It would seem like an urban Tron. And I would have to disagree with DrSamBeckett saying that it’s unoriginal and badly animated since he only saw a portion of the film. I would definitely like to know which part he saw and what he considers good animated movies? Or just the good parts of them he saw.

  15. Hollywood just want’s to ruin all anime. Dragonball (horribly ruined) and Avatar: The Last Airbender ( also ruined ) was not worth my money.

    I can understand somewhat in the idea of having white actors play some of the roles, but please at least have the right person play it. Nothing against James Franco (great actor), but the character Kaneda (Asian name and not a white American name) is a teenage bad-ass motorcycling kid and not the age James Franco is now (close to 33 years old). WTF!!!

  16. “but the cool thing about the original was that they were street kids doing crazy things.”

    Having one of the fans of the property say that, I challenge you to describe how to make an “Akira” that appeals to a broader audience than that? You also run into the whole limitation on what the MPAA will pass that the target audience will pay to see. The problems start to compile as the story centers around a space time reality that no longer exists. The world scene has passed on from the assumptions built into the story, and as retro or alternate history it doesn’t work because how can you have a Neo-New York when it would have been Atomic ash in even a limited exchange. That’s why Tokyo works so well for a post holocaust story. Today “Akira” seen through mature American eyes pays tribute to Science Fiction of the past decades prior to its release. From movies like “The Fury,””Scanners,” “Fire Starter” and many, many others too numerous to name. It even was honored in other good Anime like “Spriggin.” Which quite frankly, I like a whole lot better than “Akira.” The story itself and especially the Manga has core ideas that could be written into a movie that would appeal to American tastes, but it’s like taking “La Jetee ” and getting “Twelve Monkeys” or the story of “Seven Samurai” and getting “Magnificent Seven.” Will something get lost in the translation? YOU BET! Should they even call it “Akira” Heil no!!!