With the box office success of the new Star Trek, X-Men, and Planet of the Apes reboot film series, it seems that more and more movie studios are hopping on the bandwagon, relaunching old film franchises in hopes of finding new audiences. Properties like Terminator and Escape From New York are getting the reboot treatment, and now it seems that the long-in-development live-action Akira movie is getting in on the trend as well.
In an interview with ComingSoon.net, director Jaume Collet-Serra opens up about his vision for the Akira live-action remake. Collet-Serra has had a rough time trying to get an American version of the popular Japanese animated film off the ground. The Spanish director talks about how his version of Akira will be different, while at the same time fitting in with the manga and anime that came before it. Collet-Serra says:
[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.
The director also talks about how he would expand Akira into a film trilogy, or multiple-movie series, to deepen the story and mythology. Collet-Serra says he doesn’t want to make a simple version of the movie, and would want to take his time to tell the story correctly for audiences who aren’t familiar with the original source material. The director continues:
‘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.
Jaume Collet-Serra went on to explain what to expect from a second and third film. He wants to make the source material come alive and make it real for the audience, and the first film would only scratch the surface. He says:
‘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.
The live-action Akira project has seen a lot of highs and lows over the years. Jaume Collet-Serra was attached to the project back in 2012, but dropped out to pursue other films when Akira‘s producers couldn’t come up with a budget to do the live-action film justice. He came back after shooting the action film Non-Stop and is currently waiting to get the green light from Warner Bros. They’ve been trying to make this movie happen since 2002, so we’ll see if it finally happens.
Leonardo DiCaprio is still planning to produce the Akira remake with his producing partners Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Andrew Lazar. The original Akira‘s director, writer, and producer, Katsuhiro Otomo, would serve as the American remake’s executive producer. Allen and Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) were attached to direct the film at one time, but eventually walked away from the project because of creative differences and Warner Bros. brought in Collet-Serra. Screenwriter Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli, After Earth) wrote the remake’s script.
The original Akira was the first Japanese anime to gain mainstream success in the United States. The film is set in the year 2019, after the Third World War, in a post-apocalyptic re-constructed Neo-Tokyo in Japan. The story follows a teenage biker with psychic powers named Tetsuo Shima, and the leader of his gang called Shotaro Kaneda, who tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic named Akira, who threatens to destroy the city. It was adapted from the best-selling Japanese manga series Akira from Katsuhiro Otomo, which ran from 1982 to 1990.
Over the years there’s been a long list of male actors rumored 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 Garrett Hedlund.
I don’t mind an American live-action version of Akira, but call it something else, or cast Japanese-Americans. As you might have noticed, there are no Japanese-American actors on the list above. If white actors play Tetsuo, Kaneda, and Akira, but their character names are still Japanese, that’s a big problem. Just call them Thomas, Karl, and Adam, but please don’t whitewash Akira.