Many fans of the Japanese manga-turned-anime Akira were glad when Warner Bros.' planned adaptation of the cult-classic sci-fi tale hit a wall. However, since losing both The Hughes Brothers (Book of Eli) as directors and Keanu Reeves as a potential star, WB's Akira has pushed ahead into production under the guidance of Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra.
Rumors about who will star in Akira's two key leading roles - that of biker gang leader Kaneda and biker-turned-psychic-powerhouse, Tetsuo - have been running rampant for some time. Today, however, we learn that one of those roles is close to being filled.
We previously reported that TRON: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund (who has been on WB's shortlist for Akira for some time) was the frontrunner for the role of Kaneda, and now Variety reports that the young actor is currently in talks with the studio to seal the deal. It will likely be a short wait before we hear Hedlund officially confirmed for the role.
Akira takes place in a future where society is in a state of upheaval, while a militaristic government tries to keep anarchy from erupting. On the lower end of the societal hierarchy, rival biker gangs battle for supremacy of the streets. When Kaneda's friend Tetsuo is injured in a bike crash, he becomes the focus of government experiments in which his psychic abilities are unleashed, turning the shy and downtrodden Tetsuo into a wrathful force of nature.
Hedlund is about as believable a Kaneda as any young Hollywood actor, and even has an 'anime look' to his features, if such a thing even exists. It won't be a disaster if he indeed lands the role, but the question then becomes: who would be a fitting Tetsuo to play against him?
WB's shortlist of actors for Akira has included names like Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, and Robert Pattinson for the role of Tetsuo. All of those guys are now bigger stars than they were a year or two ago, but therein lies the issue: they may be too big (or too busy) to take on this kind of role. There's also the issue that all three of them could likely overpower Hedlund in terms of acting skill (yes, even Pattinson).
After watching the recent 21 Jump Street trailer, one crazy idea could be to take a look at James Franco's younger brother, Dave Franco, who plays the villain role in the Jump Street movie. While we can't yet vouch for the kid's acting ability (aside from brief appearances in films like Superbad and Fright Night), there is just something about him that seems like he'd A) Be able to handle the arc of Tetsuo from shy boy to mad-god, and B) would be a good onscreen foil for Hedlund. Just a few thoughts to mull over.
Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter have already been approached to co-star in Akira, and their inclusion would definitely give this project some sorely needed cred - more so than Hedlund's casting. After all, there are still a LOT of people who don't want to see this movie get made in the first place.
Akira is currently in development - as always, we'll keep you up to date on what...develops.