AKIRA Shortlist: Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix

     March 21, 2011

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The live-action remake of Akira is on its way, folks, thanks in large part to the pen of Steve Kloves (the Harry Potter series).  Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are reportedly very pleased with Kloves’ rewrite and eager to get Akira in front of cameras in August.  Recent casting rumors have been all over the place for the teenage main characters Kaneda and Tetsuo: from Zac Efron (23) to James Franco (32) to Brad Pitt (47).  The implication has been that the studio is seeking a “massive star” to anchor the film, which apparently leads to some leeway in the agery.   Deadline lists the actors that have received a script from the studio:

  • For Tetsuo: Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy
  • For Kaneda: Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix

The Hughes brothers (Book of Eli) are on board to direct Akira, which adapts Katsuhiro Otomo’s 6-volume manga.  The plan is to make two films, each of which covers three books in the series, as producer Andrew Lazar told us last summer.  Hit the jump for more information on the project and background on the story.

Here’s the synopsis for Volume 1 of the manga:

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Akira is set in the post-apocalypse Neo-Tokyo of 2019, a vast metropolis built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by an apocalyptic blast of unknown power that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when dormant paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, who becomes a target for a shadowy government operation, a group who will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like that which leveled Tokyo. And at the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear: a fear of someone — or something — of unthinkably monstrous power known only as… Akira. And Akira is about to rise! [Amazon]

See: “teenage friends.”  I didn’t make that up.  This shortlist skews relatively young, but the age still maxes out 36.  Hmm.

And really, take the union of  the various shortlists that pop up every time a studio is casting the lead of a franchiseable property.  It’s depressingly homogeonous.  The property centers on Japanese teenagers, so naturally the studio turned to the same pool of pretty white people ages 22-36.  I like a lot of these guys, and will probably see the Andrew Garfield/Justin Timberlake version of Akira because I appreciate an adaptation that isn’t slave to the source material… but not without a bit of self-loathing.

(To their credit, Deadline put vaguely worded version of their journalistic reputation on the line: “The two leads are expected to come from that group of actors.”)

Warner and Legendary bought the rights to Akira two years ago for a seven-figure sum, and they’ve deliberated long to get it right.  The story is tough, but the property is marketable and the potential reward is (at least) two films’ worth of success.  With the Harry Potter series signing off soon, Warner Bros. is looking for movies that will fill that tentpole void.  The DC Comics superheros will do most of the heavy lifting, but Akira will keep the petty cash flowing.  Hopefully — and all cynicism aside, there is every possibility that this happens — we get a pair of awesome sci-fi films in the process.

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