It's difficult to say who should play the role of Shōtarō Kaneda, a teenage delinquent and motorcycle gang leader, in the live-action adaptation of the 1988 Japanese animated feature, Akira. However, we feel quite certain that it's not the star of the High School Musical movies.
Warner Bros. clearly disagrees and has - according to BD Horror News- offered the lead role (presumably, that of Kaneda) in the Hughes Brothers' Akira adaptation to none other than 23-year-old heartthrob Zac Efron.
The original Akira was set in the neon-lit dystopian world of "New Tokyo," a city under the control of a brutal, fascist government willing to murder ordinary citizens while it engaged in battle against domestic terrorists (rebels, in essence). When Tetsuo Shima, a member of Kaneda's motorbike gang, is captured by the government and subjected to strange experimentation, he eventually develops incredible psychic powers that neither the authorities nor Tetsuo himself can control. Tetsuo's sudden evolution echoes the fate of Akira, another psychic child prodigy who it turns out was responsible for the outbreak of World War III and the destruction of the original Tokyo.
Akira can very much be described as the Japanese equivalent of Watchmen in terms of its themes, tone, and graphic subject matter. Warner Bros.' plans for Akira to be Rated PG-13 are absurd enough, but the idea of casting eye candy like Efron in the role of a hard-bitten, futuristic punk like Kaneda? We'll put it in the simplest terms possible: no thanks.
We understand where Warner Bros. is coming from with this move: Akira is foremost an extremely violent, neo-Noirish tale that will require a significant production budget in order to fully realize its futuristic setting and sometimes surreal visuals on the big screen. The material has a solid cult following, but mainstream appeal is limited, even more so than it was for Watchmen, so clearly the studio hopes to reach out to a wider range of moviegoers by casting someone like Efron as the film's protagonist.
The Hughes Brothers' adaptation will take place in America and the film's cast will be by and large populated by U.S. performers. We can only hope that Efron passes on the lead role in Akira and that Warner Bros. instead recruits an actor who looks to actually capture the essence of Kaneda's character - as opposed to someone that (primarily) just appeals to the teenage demographic.
No word yet on when Akira will go into production or when it is slated to hit theaters. Stay tuned.
Source: BD Horror News