Gary Oldman Won't Be The Colonel In 'Akira,' Ken Watanabe Next On List

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by Oliver Lyttelton
November 23, 2011 8:56 AM
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Gary Oldman's at something of a crossroads in his career. The two mega-franchises that have been paying the bills for the last few years, 'Harry Potter' and Christopher Nolan's Batman are both coming to a close, with 'Deathly Hallows Pt. 2' wrapping up the former earlier in the year, and "The Dark Knight Rises" ending the trilogy in 2012. But at the same time, he's gaining more attention than ever before thanks to a career-best, Oscar-touted performance in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," and the offers have been coming in thick and fast.

A potential 'Tinker Tailor' sequel, "Smiley's People" is already in the works, but Warners, who backed both Potter and Batman, are keen to keep Oldman in the fold, and have offered the actor key parts in two of their big hopes for 2013 in recent weeks: Merlin in "Arthur & Lancelot" and The Colonel in anime remake "Akira." When we spoke to Oldman over the weekend (more from that interview closer to release), he dismissed reports of both, and now Twitch, who broke the original offer story, bring news that the actor has officially turned the part in "Akira" down.

It's a smart move on Oldman's part. It's likely the kind of role he could have done with his eyes closed, and we're sure if an Oscar nomination does arrive in the near future, more promising parts will arrive (whether "Arthur & Lancelot" is something he ends up doing remains to be seen, but we're guessing not). With Oldman out of the running, Warners have now gone to another in-house favorite, Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, who's appeared in "The Last Samurai," "Batman Begins," "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Inception" for the company.

In many ways, it feels like the choice that the company should have made to begin with. He's a good fit for the role, and may go someway towards dampening the objections of those who feel that the project represents a white-washing of a Japanese classic. Furthermore, his schedule seems to be relatively clear, so we can't see any reason why he'd turn it down. Should he sign on to Jaume Collet-Serra's film, Watanabe would join Garret Hedlund, who's playing hero Kaneda, while Helena Bonham-Carter and Kristen Stewart are both considering offers, and a host of young talent are currently testing to play antagonist Tetsuo. The film should hit theaters in 2013.

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More: Ken Watanabe, Akira (Remake), Gary Oldman

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5 Comments

  • Cinephile | November 23, 2011 1:16 PMReply

    Oh, Lordy. As much as I love Ken (and I do think he's completely awesome)... if he does sign on, there's the "ready excuse" when faced with whitewashing criticism. "But we're not whitewashing at all! We hired ONE big-name Japanese actor for a relatively big role! Not everyone is lily white! ... PROGRESS."

  • padre | November 23, 2011 11:39 AMReply

    Because having the Japanese actor play the villains or supporting roles to the pasty white heroes with Japanese names isn't whitewashing at all. Oh. In fact it's a bigger slap in the face. Why don't we have Japanese actors being the heroes with Japanese names and white actors as the villain and supporting players? That way Hollywood still gets to whitewash the movie and everyone else doesn't have to feel like a racist while watching it. Win-win for racists and non-racists alike! And if Leo is so damn determined to have this clusterfuck made, why doesn't he have the guts to star in it himself?

  • KT | November 23, 2011 10:31 AMReply

    If they come through with a Japanese Tetsuo I might give this a shot.

  • travis bickle | November 23, 2011 11:20 AM

    HAHA, so true. Hopefully he starts a trend.

  • Travis Bickle | November 23, 2011 10:22 AMReply

    Finally a Japanese actor comes into the circle.

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