In yet another setback to Warner Bros’ long-gestating adaptation of Akira, Albert Hughes is no longer directing the studio’s potential two-part, live-action take on Katsuhiro Otomo’s six-volume manga (or Japanese graphic novel).
Deadline reports the director, who worked with WB on his previous effort The Book of Eli, left the project “amicably” due to “creative differences” and is taking meetings next week to find the next script to work on with Warner Bros. (Might I suggest Dante Harper’s gritty sci-fi script All You Need is Kill? It’s about a soldier who finds himself caught in a time loop and is also based on Japanese science fiction.)
However, while Hughes’ exit may be good news to those fans who hope to see this Hollywood version die a horrible death, execs are actively hunting for a replacement to helm their ambitious $140+ million project.
46-year-old Keanu Reeves was briefly considered for the lead this month, which was an immediate head scratcher for onlookers considering the main character, Kaneda, is a teenager in the manga. Luckily, Reeves passed on the movie last week amidst a possible production shake-up that included members of the pre-viz department and now, it appears, the director. Warner Bros denied Akira had been halted, since it doesn’t have an official green light, and it’s all part of their “exploratory process.” Reeves joins a growing line-up of A-listers who have passed on the lead, including Brad Pitt, James Franco and Ryan Gosling. Leonardo DiCaprio is producing, but never considered seizing the starring role.
This means back to the drawing board of potential candidates for Kaneda, which included Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Justin Timberlake (The Love Guru) and Joaquin Phoenix (I’m Still Here).
Robert Pattinson (Twilight), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man), and James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) were reportedly handed a script to play Kaneda’s best friend, Tetsuo, which, if early drafts are any indication, may be renamed Travis.
The live-action take is set in the futuristic dystopian metropolis of New Manhattan and centers on a pair of teenage biker gang members torn apart by Tetsuo’s discovery of latent telekinetic powers. Otomo, author of the original manga and writer/director of the 1988 anime film, is producing.
Warner Bros’ Akira has been a revolving door for Hollywood talent since Legendary Pictures acquired the screen rights for seven figures in 2008. Stephen Norrington took a shot at writing/directing the project six years earlier, then Ruirai Robinson was rumored, Gary Whitta wrote a draft, followed by Iron Man screenwriters Hawk Ostby and Mark Fergus. Now Steve Kloves, who contributed to all seven Harry Potter movies at WB, has turned in a “strong rewrite.” The plan is still to shoot the film in late 2011 or early 2012.