The popular Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell was adapted to film in the '90s, and became a cult-hit anime, influencing such films as the Wachowskis' Matrix series. After a stalled attempt to bring the manga to the big screen a couple years ago, DreamWorks then reinvigorated the project last year by tapping Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders to helm the feature.
Earlier this year Scarlett Johansson signed on to play the lead, and the film was scheduled for a March 2017 release date. Though there haven’t been too many updates since then, DreamWorks recently brought in Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) to rewrite the script and added Pilou Asbæk (Lucy) to the cast. Now, another actor could potentially join Ghost in the Shell as the film's antagonist.
Deadline is reporting Sam Riley (On the Road, Maleficent) is talks to play the villain, The Laughing Man, in the Ghost in the Shell adaptation. However, according to Deadline there's no deal set between the studio and the actor, claiming "the situation is still fluid, but there is a desire from both sides for one to get made." So, while it seems close to finalized, Riley has not yet officially signed on to Ghost in the Shell.
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow, the story of Ghost in the Shell is set in near-future Japan and follows a special ops cyborg (Johansson) who leads a counter-cyberterrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 for Hanka Robotics. She is tracking an extremist group of terrorist hackers, led by The Laughing Man, who want to destroy Hanka's work with cyber technology. Asbæk was cast as Johansson’s character’s second in command for Section 9.
With these casting announcements coming in quick succession, it seems DreamWorks and Sanders are gearing up to begin production on Ghost in the Shell early next year, as Johansson previously stated. After years of delay or stalled projects, it seems that this live-action iteration of Ghost in the Shell is moving forward with more momentum than ever before (at the same time that Warner Bros. is adapting popular manga series Akira and Death Note), so it seems fans hoping for this adaptation will finally be able to see it on the big screen in a few years.
That being said, Ghost in the Shell has also already received some criticism from fans of the source material for changing the ethnicity of the protagonist - and, if Riley is cast, the antagonist as well. This is a problem that extends across Hollywood, though it is especially apparent in adaptations of non-white media. With the casting of Riley (again, if he's cast), it seems Ghost in the Shell will skew more toward a white main cast. Still, it's possible that if the film is a success it could open the door for more adaptations of manga series - and perhaps more diverse casts. But, that remains to be seen until after Ghost in the Shell hits theaters.
Ghost in the Shell opens in U.S. theaters on March 31st, 2017.