It looks like Akira is back in development. In early 2012, director Jaume Collet-Serra walked away from the American remake of the 1988 Japanese Anime Akira when production stalled. The film’s producers were scrabbling to put together a budget, and Collet-Serra decided to pursue other projects. He just finished working on the film Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson, so now it seems as if Collet-Serra is back in the director’s chair for the long-awaited Akira remake.
According to Variety, Warner Bros. was trying to get the Akira budget down from $90 million to something more manageable when Jaume Collet-Serra left the project in early 2012. The studio looked for a new director, even turning to Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. In spite of moving on, Warner Bros. was apparently very happy with Collet-Serra’s vision for an American remake set in New Manhattan, rather than Neo Tokyo like in the original film.
At the moment, Collet-Serra is in pre-production on the film Run All Night, again starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, and Ed Harris, so the earliest he would start working on Akira would be spring 2014, after a new budget is decided upon.
Jaume Collet-Serra is a Spanish director who is best known for the 2005 House of Wax horror remake. He gained mainstream appeal with the horror film Orphan in 2009. As of late, Collet-Serra has been working with Liam Neeson on a trio of films: Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night.
Leonardo DiCaprio is producing the Akira remake with producers Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Andrew Lazar. The original Akira‘s director, writer, and producer, Katsuhiro Otomo, will serve as the American remake’s executive producer. While Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) was set to star in the new Akira remake in early 2012, it’s unclear if he’s still attached to the film.
The original Akira was the first Japanese anime to gain mainstream success in the United States. It’s set in the year 2019, after the Third World War, in a post-apocalyptic reconstructed Neo-Tokyo. The film centers on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima, and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Kaneda tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira who threatens to destroy the city. It was adapted from the best-selling Japanese manga series Akira from Katsuhiro Otomo that ran from 1982 to 1990.
Warner Bros. has been trying to bring the Akira story to the big screen for American audiences since the studio acquired the film rights in 2002. Originally, Allen and Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) were attached to direct the film. The Hughes Brothers eventually walked away from the project because of creative differences, and Warner Bros. brought in Jaume Collet-Serra. Screenwriter Gary Whitta (also Book of Eli) wrote the remake’s script. A long list of male actors have been attached to play Tetsuo and Kaneda, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Zac Efron, James Franco, Chris Pine, Keanu Reeves, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Andrew Garfield, Robert Pattinson, Michael Pitt, Paul Dano, and now Garrett Hedlund. As you might have noticed, there are no Japanese-American actors on that list.