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‘Babel’ Oscar-Nominee Rinko Kikuchi Bags Female Lead In Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’

'Babel' Oscar-Nominee Rinko Kikuchi Bags Female Lead In Guillermo Del Toro's 'Pacific Rim'

Comic-Con is nearly upon us: we’re only two weeks away from the descent of the geek world on their San Diegan Mecca, although many have been worried, considering Marvel’s decision to skip Hall H this year, that there wouldn’t be much worth going for. But Legendary Pictures, backers of “The Dark Knight,” “300” and “Clash of the Titans,” have announced that they’re taking four big projects to the Coachella of sci-fi/fantasy, and the press release is unusual for two reasons: firstly (and more on this shortly) not an inch of film will have been shot on any of the four, and secondly, because they’ve left slip a major piece of casting on the most imminent.

The company’s panel, according to Collider, will include Alex Proyas‘ “Paradise Lost,” with Bradley Cooper, “Seventh Son,” with Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes, the adaptation of the video game “Mass Effect,” and Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim,” which starts filming in the late summer. The release announces that Del Toro will be in attendance, along with writer Travis Beacham, previously-announced cast members Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Charlie Day, and, in addition, Rinko Kikuchi, the first time the name of the Japanese actress has been mentioned in connection with the project.

We predicted that Kikuchi would be approached for the role a little while back: the star, who was nominated for an Oscar in her breakthrough role in Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu‘s “Babel,” before going on to Rian Johnson‘s “The Brothers Bloom” and this year’s “Norwegian Wood,” and, having just gained blockbuster experience opposite Keanu Reeves in 2012’s “47 Ronin,” she’s an obvious fit for the female lead: Mako Mori, a young Japanese pilot of Jaegers, the enormous robotic creatures built to battle the strange creatures attacking earth.

Mako, like Raleigh Antrobus (the part Hunnam’s set for), has just lost her co-pilot (Jaegers have to be driven by two people working together), and despite speaking different languages, the two are paired together by their commanding officer, Stacker Pentecost (Elba). Day, meanwhile, will play Newt Gotlieb, a scientist working to find the source of the monsters. Hopefully he’ll be less annoying than he was in “Horrible Bosses.”

All in all, however, Del Toro’s assembled an offbeat, but impressive cast for his megabudget tentpole: it’s clear he’s been given the freedom to go for the right actor, rather than stars, with Elba taking over the role once earmarked for Tom Cruise. Filming will get underway sometime in the fall, with the film set for release on July 12th, 2013.

As for the rest of Legendary’s line-up, it’s odd that they’re bringing films without a hint of footage, but in a year where the big properties are skipping it, we suppose it’s a smart move, and we imagine they’ll have a few morsels in store: perhaps concept art, specially-shot trailers (a la “Tron: Legacy“) or, in the case of “Mass Effect,” perhaps the announcement of a director or cast. The panel will take place on July 22nd, and we’ll be there to report from the floor.

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