Warner Bros. Halts Production on AKIRA; Execs Want More Script Development

     January 5, 2012


Studios have been trying to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to their blockbusters.  The Lone Ranger had to wrangle for a lower budget, and Paradise Lost, and The Dark Tower have been put into limbo as studios try to figure out how to bring down costs.  THR reports that Warner Bros. has put their adaptation of the manga/anime Akira on hold as they try to figure out how to re-work the script to lower the budget.  Producers Jennifer Kiloran Davisson and Andrew Lazar, and director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) are trying to make the necessary changes, and Steve Kloves (Harry Potter) may be brought back to do another re-write after already having done one a year ago.

Hit the jump for more including a few updates.

akira-imageFor those unfamiliar with the source material, Akira takes place in the future and centers on a biker named Kaneda who must save Neo-Tokyo from his best friend Tetuso who has been turned into a destructive force after being the subject of experiments by the military.  The adaptation would change the setting to Neo-Manhattan.

Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) had envisioned Akira as a $180 million feature, but he left the project and Collet-Serra re-imagined it down to $90 million.  The feature then hired forgettable actor Garrett Hedlund to play Kaneda (who may now be a bar owner instead of a biker), and Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ken Watanabe were in various stages of negotiations.  However, the production offices in Vancouver are now being closed and below-the-line talent and crew are being sent home for the time being.  Presumably, the negotiations with the actors have also been put on hold.

Warner Bros. reportedly feels the budget is still too high and wants to bring it down to $60 million to $70 million.  It’s a production that the studio keeps trying to make having hired short film director Rauiri Robinson before they moved on to Hughes.  However, insiders say the project could end up being put back on the shelf if Warner Bros. can’t reach its desired budget.

We recently reported that Warners was also willing to nix David Dobkin‘s Arthur and Lancelot, a reimagining of the Arthurian legend, if that production couldn’t come to a lower budget.  This willingness to kill projects based on their budgets comes from the still shitty economy, rising ticket prices, more options for home entertainment, the steep decline in DVD revenue, the awful theater-going experience, and the fading fad of 3D.  Total box office revenue fell in 2011 and unless there’s a sea change, it will fall again in 2012.

But a lower budget doesn’t mean a movie will be worse.  Restrictions can spur creativity.  I would rather see a couple of really well-done set pieces rather than a non-stop barrage.  The problem comes when there’s not enough imagination from the filmmakers and the action feels stale as a result.  If Akira can finally make it to theaters this time, it will be interesting to see if the lower budget paid off.

akira_movie_image[Update: Variety’s Josh Dickey tweeted the following:

Good source tells @krolljvar that AKIRA issue isn’t budgetary at all — it’s that WB execs want more script development.

Keep in mind that this report doesn’t negate THR’s.  Variety doesn’t have more or less creditability than The Hollywood Reporter. Different sources are playing different angles, and we don’t know for certain where the truth lies between these reports.]

[Update #2: Deadline has corroborated Variety’s assertion that the production halt is due to script concerns rather than budgetary issues. They say the studio will now set a high end writer to do a polish, after which Warner Bros. will make their decision on whether or not to move forward. Variety reports that the studio is looking at several writers for the gig, including Jonah Nolan (The Dark Knight) and Michael Green (Green Lantern). Furthermore, the report reveals that the lead role of Tetsuo had been whittled down to Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire). However, the studio’s test option deals with the two actors have lapsed with this halt in pre-production. This means that DeHaan and Pitt aren’t required to hold open the production spot for Akira on their schedules, so if/when production moves forward again there’s no guarantee both actors will still be available. The studio had yet to make a decision between DeHaan and Pitt for the Tetsuo role.]

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