One of the most talked about (and controversial) developing projects of 2011 was Warner Bros. remake of the anime cult classic “Akira.” The movie spent much of the year trying to find a cast, with a plethora of names — Kristen Stewart, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Helena Bonham-Carter, Paul Dano, Michael Pitt, Toby Kebbell, Ezra Miller, D.J. Cotrona, Logan Marshall-Green, Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy — being tossed around for various parts, to join the film’s only confirmed actor, Garrett Hedlund. But it seems the inability to find a cast, as well as issues over the budget, may be the nail in the coffin for the film.
According to their sources, THR reports that Warner Bros. has shut down the Vancouver production office for the film. It’s an ominous move for a project that has been troubled since day one. Over the summer, the pic lost its original director Albert Hughes, but found a replacement in the very hot Jaume Collet-Serra, and things seemed to be back on track, albeit with a much smaller $90 million budget (scaled back from over $200 million). But from there, it has been an endless number of casting stories with nothing sticking, and initially eyed to start shooting in February or March, it’s clear that date isn’t happening. And mix that up with the outcry against the production before a even single frame was shot, and the studio’s reluctance is easy to understand. Word is that Stewart, Bonham-Carter and Watanabe were all in negotiations to star, but the studio wanted to the budget scaled back further, as they weren’t convinced the trio had enough star power to justify the cost.
The filmmakers were planning to use Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga as the basis for the adaptation, with a script by Steve Kloves—who has penned almost every “Harry Potter” film as well as the forthcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man”—that relocates the action to Manhattan in a PG-13 film. But considering how many times the project has started and stopped, this seems to be a death knell. Also, this news comes at a time when WB seem to be tightening the purse strings, as they recently told David Dobkin he could take his fantasy pic “Arthur & Lancelot” and shop it elsewhere and put the brakes on Alex Proyas‘ “Paradise Lost.”
Will “Akira” live to see another day? Time will tell, but for right now things don’t look good, and it seems like the project will have to survive another budget cut if it has any hopes of making it to the big screen.