[Update: Keanu Reeves has officially passed on the role of Kaneda in Akira. Read the updated report - HERE.]
The Hollywood Reporter is dropping the exclusive that Keanu Reeves is in early talks to join the cast of the Hughes Brothers' (The Book of Eli) live-action adaptation of the classic manga-turned-anime film, Akira.
Word is that Reeves is being eyed for the headlining role of Kaneda, the leader of a futuristic biker gang who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy involving his kidnapped best friend, government experiments, and dangerous psychic abilities.
Aside from some amusing name jokes (Keanu, Kaneda, Keanu, Kaneda) this news is likely to be as welcome amongst Akira fans as the news that Warner Bros. was making this movie in the first place. The project has had several positive upticks recently (relatively speaking), specifically when a shortlist of actors to play Kaneda - including names like Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) - hit the Web. At the very least, fans were able to say "Glad they're not still considering Zac Effron," which admittedly is a small grace, but an important one, nonetheless.
With Keanu, I'm sure the reaction won't be positive. THR reports that WB wants Reeves attached to Akira in order to lure another big name actor to the pivotal role of Kaneda's best friend / psychic powerhouse, Tetsuo. Previously rumored candidates to play Tetsuo include Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man), James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) and Twilight's Robert Pattinson. I'm not sure any of those names would be a proper fit against Reeves, though.
Let me be clear: I'm not a Keanu Reeves hater. I like most everything in the action/sci-fi genres the guy has done, and I'm even looking forward to his starring turn in the samurai epic, 47 Ronin. That said: I do believe you have to be VERY careful how you use your Keanu. In the right role (characters who are stoic, robotic, detached, or zen-like), the guy is solid; but a role like Kaneda (as any fan of the anime film can tell you) requires someone who can emote, to say the least. I'm not sure that Keanu Reeves and emoting are two things that can even co-exist in the same time or place.
Right now, it's being said that talks with Reeves' reps are going well, so the guy may end up landing the gig. If he indeed does end up playing Kaneda, I can only guess at this point who the studio will select as Tetsuo - though I wouldn't be mad if they went with James Franco for the role.
All I do know is: I'm still not happy that this movie is even being made.
We'll keep you updated on the status of Akira and its cast.