It’s looking more and more dire for the creatively bankrupt producers behind Warner Bros.’ big-budget American version of “Akira.” Yesterday brought word that the studio was shutting down production offices, and now Deadline reports that this orphans two actors who were competing to play the important role of Tetsuo.
As part of the fallout from shuttering the production, there were options on Dane DeHaan and Michael Pitt after they auditioned for the co-starring role in the film (this basically means they signed a contract agreeing to stay available to the studio for a certain window of time as the filmmakers made their choice). Both options lapsed without renewal, likely meaning neither actor will land the part (at least for now), and putting that March start date firmly out of hand (though WB insists the project isn't dead — yet). What’s especially intriguing is that both actors are most likely the eighth or ninth choice for the role, as the troubled production has failed to court a number of higher profile names (which in early stages included Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix). DeHaan is a rising actor about to break out in 2012 with "The Wettest County," "The Place Behind The Pines" and "Chronicle," the last film finding him playing a superpowered kid not unlike Tetsuo himself. Meanwhile Pitt ("Boardwalk Empire") feels like a choice that would have been fresh five years ago.
However, word on the film that the budget is an insurmountable problem may be unreliable. Deadline reports that the studio is eying a "high end" re-write of the most recent draft with David James Kelly, himself re-writing the work of Steve Kloves. The budget is still reportedly in the neighborhood of $90 million, but it's easy to see why WB was getting nervous about flipping a switch on such an expensive venture that would have starred Garret Hedlund, DeHaan or Pitt with Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter and Ken Watanabe negotiating for supporting roles. Not exactly the starriest cast (and sorry KStew fans, she's still a wild card outside of "Twilight"). That they are eager to scale back the budget is no surprise.
With the end of the "Harry Potter" films and Christopher Nolan's Batman series coming to an close this year, WB has a big void to fill, and they want to make sure they do it right both financially and creatively. Despite earlier reports, "Arthur And Lancelot" remains a priority at the WB, and they will move ahead with director David Dobkin's project if they can kick the budget down from $130 million to $110 million (which is still higher than the $90 million it was first projected at). Still a dicey proposition considering the film stars unknowns (at least to mainstream audiences) in Kit Harington (who?) and Joel Kinnaman (wut?). But it's all about cost, which is also the case for "Paradise Lost," originally slated to be shooting now but put on hold until the summer as the production is re-tinkered with to get the budget into place. In fact, it seems the accountants at WB are all over everything, as Deadline hints cryptically at "turbulence" in regards to "300: Battle Of Artemisia" the big-budget followup that currently only has Eva Green as a confirmed cast member, with commercials director Noam Murro making his big-league debut.
That WB are reassessing their expenditures in a marketplace that is proving both more rewarding and more unforgiving is no suprise. Both Universal and Disney have done the same, with as much publicity, in the past year on various projects. The suggestion is that most of these projects will come back to life, but not without some retooling. To be honest, it is kind of heartening to see a major studio not just throwing money at a movie and hoping for the best — we just wish we were more excited about what they have on deck.