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WB Greenlights Live-Action Akira, Eyes Garrett Hedlund for Lead Role

After going through two directors, one co-financier and at least five screenwriters, Warner Bros. has finally greenlit its live-action adaptation of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s pioneering cyberpunk manga and anime.

Variety reports that production could begin as soon as late February or early March, with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra at the helm. The budget, at one point estimated to be is much as $140 million, is presumably now in the $90 million range.

Serialized from 1982 to 1990, Akira is set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo  — it’s changed to New Manhattan for the U.S. movie — gripped by gang violence and anti-government terrorism. When Tetsuo, a young member of a biker gang, manifests telepathic powers, he draws the attention of the government, which fears he poses a threat. Otomo himself adapted Akira in 1988 in what’s widely considered a landmark anime.

With the greenlight in place, the trade paper reports the studio is turning its attention to finding Akira‘s two leads. TRON: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund, mentioned back in March as a contender for the role of gang leader Kaneda, is believed to be a frontrunner.

Warner Bros. has had a difficult time with Akira since it acquired the rights to the manga in 2008 in a seven-figure deal with publisher Kodansha. The project has passed through two directors — Ruairi Robinson predated Albert Hughes, who signed on in February 2010 only to walk away a year later — before settling on Collet-Serra in July.

Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran are producing Akira with Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar.


  • Scud

    I was really hoping this would stay in development hell forever, or at least until I was dead.

  • Bob

    You’d think the studio would take the hint by now, but noooooooooooooooooo…

    How much money has already been sunk into this fiasco?  Is that why it won’t die, the vague hope that there’ll be a return on the investment? 

  • kalorama

    What “hint” should they be taking, exactly? The “hint” that it’s taken several years to get the production up and running? Well, that’s pretty much SOP procedure in Hollywood. If they abandoned every project that didn’t flow smoothly and seamlessly from idea to screen, there’d be about 5 movies released worldwide every year. Perhaps you meant the “hint” from all the Internet fanboy pissing and moaning? Well, we all know that (A) that’s constant and ever present and (B) absolutely meaningless.

    Now, is there a chance it’ll turn out to be a massive load of crap? Sure. But those chances are no more or less than they are with any big budget action movie. As near as I can tell there has been nothing whatsoever that “hinted” that this movie flat out shouldn’t be made.

  • Bob

    I was referring to the hint that it’s already been through two directors, a budget cut, the shutting down the pre-visualization department, and the dumping the pre-production staff.  But hey, what do I know.

  • Mak

    Let’s not forget “one co-financier and at least five screenwriters”.

  • Peruna

    All of my NOes. All of them.

  • kalorama

    Multiple screenwriters, multiple rewrites, and multiple director changes are pretty much par for the course during the development process of a big budget studio action franchise. How long was a new Batman franchise in development before Nolan took over? How many different concepts were explored? How many different treatments/scripts were written? How many different directors were attached?

    There is a grand total of nothing about the situation with Akira that is either unique or alarming.

  • Alex

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • sandwich eater

    Can an adaptation succeed if the fans of the property are against it?

  • Kyle Valenzuela

    I lot of money will probably be put into it, the writing will be mediocre, but I will probably love every minute of it

  • Another Ian

    Are they at least changing the character’s names if they are Americanizing the rest of it? 

    Akira was very obviously made using a Tokyo native’s belief of where Tokyo will be in “the near future”…it will be kind of interesting to see what they come up with for the Manhattan version, because there are a lot of things that need to change esthetically.