Do event movies need stars these days? It's a question that hangs heavy on the mind of studio executives, and the answer seems to be, well, maybe. Sort of. Sometimes. For original material, like "Inception," producers are still fairly adamant that a project needs an A-lister to get it off the ground, but when a film is based on well-known material -- a comic book, a fairy tale, a board game -- they're happier to let unproven talent do the carrying, more confident that the recognition factor of a "Thor," a 'Snow White' or a "Battleship" will be enough to get people into theaters.
Warner Bros. are in something of a no man's land with their upcoming remake of "Akira." While the source material is a classic manga, and seminal anime movie, well-known to film and comic geeks, it's not necessarily a household name among the general public, and when the film was first gearing up at the start of the year, the studio tried to land a bigger name like Keanu Reeves to take a lead role.
But with a new streamlined $90 million version of the project on the way, under the helm of "Unknown" director Jaume Collet-Serra, the studio seems to be happier to go for less well-known talent for the two leads. It helps, of course, that they're trying to bulk out the supporting cast with familiar faces -- Kristen Stewart, Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham-Carter have all been offered smaller roles. But Garret Hedlund, who's signed on to play lead Kaneda, is only half-proven, after leading the damp squib of "Tron: Legacy," and a new list of contenders has arrived for the film's other male lead, Tetsuo, and it's a mix of indie character actor types and thesps who are barely familiar to ardent film fans, let alone Joe Public.
The Hollywood Reporter brings news that testing for the part of Tetsuo -- Kaneda's best friend in the biker gang, who discovers he has psychic powers, and sets out to release the titular Akira to bring destruction down on the city -- was to be held yesterday and today, with a brace of young talent trying their luck for the part. Joining "Tetro" star Alden Ehrenreich, who was said to be testing a few weeks ago are relatively familiar names like Paul Dano ("There Will Be Blood"), Michael Pitt ("Boardwalk Empire") and Toby Kebbell ("RockNRolla," the upcoming "War Horse"). As for the previously mentioned Ezra Miller, he confirmed last week he has moved on.
But that's not all, as there's also a bunch of relative big-screen newcomers testing out too, although admittedly some who all have a degree of heat behind them. They include D.J. Cotrona, who broke out in cancelled TV series "Detroit 1-8-7" before landing a lead role in next summer's "G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation"; Logan Marshall-Green, who'll play Noomi Rapace's love interest around the same time in Ridley Scott's "Prometheus"; Richard Madden, who plays one of Sean Bean's sons in HBO's smash hit "Game of Thrones" and Rami Malek, who played the pharoah in the "Night at the Museum" films, and will play vampire Benjamin in "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2" a year from now.
It's a pretty diverse selection of names, suggesting, more than anything else at this point, that Warners don't know what they hell they want to do with the part. We imagine the chemistry with Garrett Hedlund will be crucial at this point, which is unfortunate for the actors trying out, because that's like trying to have chemistry with a cinder block. It's expected that an answer will be heard before Thanksgiving, so keep your eyes on which non-Asian twentysomething will manage to land the part.
The testing has at least been a salve for two of the actors on the list -- namely Kebbell and Madden, as both were up for the same studio's "Arthur & Lancelot," a new take on the Knights of the Round Table myth that's going for the same technique of casting unknowns. However, Variety revealed on Friday night that Kit Harington, who plays Madden's half-brother on "Game of Thrones," had finally landed the part of King Arthur in David Dobkin's film, opposite "The Killing" star Joel Kinnaman as Lancelot.
Harrington first came to attention as the original lead of the London stage production of "War Horse," as well as starring in the excellent Royal Court production of "Posh." Aside from "Game of Thrones," he's also got another movie lead coming up, as one of the leads in horror video game adaptation sequel "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D." "Arthur & Lancelot" will hit theaters on March 15, 2013, while "Akira" will follow some time in the same year.