By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 4, 2011 at 8:57AM
With "Harry Potter" ending this summer, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy coming to a close in 2012, and "Green Lantern" proving a weak start to the DC heroes that the studio hoped would see them through the next few years, Warner Bros. are branching out a bit in their hunt for future franchises. Their hopes for 2013 might include Superman reboot "Man of Steel" and Spartan sequel "300: Battle of Artemesia," but neither are quite home runs, and they're joined by fresh starters like Guillermo Del Toro's giant monster movie "Pacific Rim" and period witch-hunting flick "The Seventh Son," with Sam Claflin and Jeff Bridges.
And while those films get underway, another two potential tentpoles at the studio are casting up: the controversial remake of anime classic "Akira," and a new take on the Knights of the Round Table, "Arthur & Lancelot," and both find themselves chasing some big names. The former, which was confirmed to have "Tron: Legacy" star/mannequin Garret Hedlund in talks to play lead Kaneda yesterday, has been pursuing Gary Oldman to play the villainous Colonel, and Helena Bonham-Carter for Lady Miyako, and according to Heat Vision, they're joined on director Jaume Collet-Serra's shopping list by Keira Knightley.
There's no confirmation of which part it's for, but unless they're trying to really annoy the fanboys by casting her as Tetsuo, it seems likely that the star of "Atonement" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" is being sought for an equivalent part to Kei, the young revolutionary who serves as the love interest for Kaneda. Whether Knightley, or indeed Oldman or Bonham-Carter, will do it is pretty up in the air. However, the trade says that the three haven't yet "engaged" with the studio, and outside of her Disney trilogy, which she signed up for at the age of 17, the young British actress doesn't really have a tradition of taking paycheck gigs, particularly one that's likely as thankless as this. Having said that, she's currently free once she wraps Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," but considering that "Akira" was scaled back to be made under $100 million, we don't imagine the wages are going to be massive, so there may be better offers out there.
While Oldman mulls "Akira," he's got another offer from the same studio. According to Deadline, Warners also wants the actor to play Merlin in "Arthur & Lancelot," the new version of the classic Camelot myth from "Wedding Crashers" director David Dobkin. "The Killing" star Joel Kinnaman bagged the part of Lancelot last week, with "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harrington said to be the frontrunner to play Arthur (although Deadline says that testing's soon to commence for the part) ,so it makes sense to have a safe pair of hands like Oldman to balance out younger talent. After his roles as Sirius Black and Commissioner Gordon, the studio clearly sees Oldman as a good luck charm, considering he's got both offers. And he's a regular fixture on the WB lot who isn't opposed to roles in subpar flicks -- please see "Book Of Eli" and "Red Riding Hood" for further evidence.
However, while the actor does seem to have a good relationship with the studio, his career-best performance in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is tipped by many for an Oscar nomination, and the actor may want, as is common practice, to hold out for nominations in the hope of upping his quote, particularly with both projects seeming, well, kind of unappealing. We suppose we'll see down the road how it works out; we'd be surprised if the actor took both (which may not even be possible, although we're sure the studio would be happy to shuffle schedules to make it work), but taking one isn't implausible. Filming on "Akira" is set for next spring, with a 2013 release likely to follow, while "Arthur & Lancelot" will get before cameras around the same time, and has a March 15, 2013 date earmarked.