The live-action American version of Akira is a fascinating beast. Fans of the original cult Japanese comic book/animated movie are (almost) universally against it, the majority of casual moviegoers are unfamiliar with the source material, and it’s a project that has nearly died multiple times without even getting past the development stage. And yet, Warner Bros. just refuses to give up on it completely.
Studio heads have halted production on Akira, with initial reports claiming that it was due to budgetary concerns. Now, however, word has gotten out that it’s because Warner Bros. simply wants the film’s screenplay reworked again - and they’re eying some pretty noteworthy talent for the job.
Variety has it on good authority (re: according to its insiders) that WB isn’t primarily interested in slashing Akira‘s budget down even further from the already-reduced $90 million it was previously set at; rather, executives apparently feel more “fixes” need to be completed on the screenplay for the dystopian sci-fi cyberpunk thriller.
Quick project history: Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) was first brought onboard to pen the new Akira, but it seems his script work was largely discarded when screenwriting duo Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man) were hired on for the project, back in 2009. Whitta was reportedly brought back to work on the Akira screenplay back when the Hughes Brothers were set to direct the project; thereafter, Albert Torres (Henry Poole Is Here) took a stab at it, followed by Steve Kloves, the writer responsible for 7 of the 8 Harry Potter movies. Little-known screenwriter David James Kelly was responsible for tweaking and polishing off the most recent Akira script draft.
(Take a moment to process all that before continuing on…)
Warner Bros. is now looking to hire on someone else to work on the Akira screenplay and focus on certain “character elements and particularly [the] pic’s look.” The top two candidates are: Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, Person of Interest) and Michael Green (Green Lantern, Heroes).
Between the two new potential Akira writers, it’s fair to say that Nolan definitely has the stronger overall track record and his involvement would lend the project some much-need credibility, in many fans’ eyes. Combine that with the news that Warner Bros. has narrowed down its choices for the dramatically-meaty part of Tetsuo to Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Pitt and Dane DeHaan (who looks to play a very similar role quite well, in the upcoming Chronicle) and there is yet some glimmer of hope for this film.
Still – after all the directing change-ups, numerous re-writes, and the questionable nature of this project in the first place, it’s hard to not suspect that Akira will ultimately amount to another over-cooked and expensive gamble that doesn’t pay off nearly as well as studio heads had hoped (recent examples include Cowboys & Aliens and TRON: Legacy).
We will continue to keep you updated on the status of Akira as more information is released.