'Unknown' Director Jaume Collet-Serra to Direct 'Akira' Remake

According to a new report, director Jaume Collet-Serra is set to direct the long-gestating live-action Akira remake. That's right -- a Spanish director is helming an American remake of a classic Japanese anime. How very international!

Prior to Collett-Serra's confirmation, several directors were attached to the project, most notably Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli). However, Hughes left the project in May about a week after Keanu Reeves passed on playing the lead in the film, leading to a fresh round of contenders.

As noted in Variety, Collett-Serra is a relatively smart (and safe) choice to direct the project. Since his directorial debut with the horror film House of Wax (which was mostly memorable for impaling the God-awful Paris Hilton), Collett-Serra has successfully taken on a range of increasingly large-scale projects. Most recently, he directed the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown, which, while not a critical success, was a sleeper hit at the box office.

Obviously Akira will be a much more high-profile project for the director, but given the film's rocky road thus far, it makes sense to give it to someone known for his stability. Now we just have to wonder whether or not the studio can cast the right actors for the project.

As we reported back in May, studio executive were eyeing a wide range of young talent for the movie. Quoting our report:

The five actors reportedly in contention to play Kaneda are Michael Fassbender, Garrett Hedlund, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pine, and Justin Timberlake. The trio of men in the running to star as Tetsuo are Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, and Robert Pattinson.

Many readers were incensed that the studio was looking at so many white actors, as opposed to casting Asian actors in the roles to stay true to the source material. Personally, I was non-plussed by the news. It's a well-known fact that Hollywood whitewashes its movies, and that's not going to change as long as the dominant moviegoing demographic is young white males.

Frontrunner actors Kaneda Tetsuo Akira live-action movie
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The really interesting question is whether a live-action Akira remake will go over well with audiences regardless of its cast. Although the film plays a prominent role in the history of anime, and is widely admired by genre fans for its cyberpunk plot and layered themes, I'm not certain that mainstream audiences will connect with the story. In fact, I'm not even sure most mainstream audiences are familiar with the original film. Then again, maybe that will make it easier for the studio to market, since it means lower expectations.

In any case, Akira is a perfect fit to launch that age-old Screen Rant debate on remakes. Might Akira be better off as a beloved, but niche, cult film than a Hollywood blockbuster? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Variety

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