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Jaume Collet-Serra has been on a long, strange ride when it comes to adapting Akira. The director was attached to make the film in 2011, but dropped out after Warner Bros. sought to slash the budget. Now he’s back on track with a more focused take.
“It’s different, because you have to be respectful of the source material,” Collet-Serra told ComingSoon during a press junket for Non-Stop. “[Katsuhiro] Otomo adapted his own work from a manga into an anime and both things are completely different and genius. The only way to do a live version of Akira is to take the spirit and adapt it. It will be as different as the anime was from the manga.”
He also addressed concerns that the work will turn our more flashy than cerebral. “I think you cannot make a movie about Akira and hope that everyone understands it,” he said. “Like everything else, you have to make three or four movies in one where there’s the essence somewhere. If you’re a fan, you already know what it’s about and you’ll see it’s part of the same world, but trying to oversimplify it would be a mistake. I think if at some point a character tries to explain it to the audience at the end of the second act, that’s a problem. It’s more like an existential opera. It’s something that can only be explained in the manga, and even in the anime it’s hard to follow.”
The director also talked about his desire to flesh out the characters. “In the original source material, I don’t think the main characters are the protagonists. What I’m hoping is to bring characters,” he said, adding that Tetsuo is interesting because strange things happen to him.
“So hopefully in my version that will be strong, and you’ll have a story that happens in that world that will show you a little bit of the mystery,” Collet-Serra continued. “Then, if you’re interested, they’ll make Akira 2 and 3 then you can get deeper into it. I love the world, a lot of people love that world, so why wouldn’t we indulge in it a little bit and see how it would be if it was real? Like you say I don’t have to explain everything, but wouldn’t you like to spend two-hours in a world of Akira and follow a character and be like, “that’s cool”? That’s all I want to offer, is two-hours in a world you can actually feel. We’re working on it.”
Non-Stop opens on Feb. 28.