Pretty much ever since its U.S. release in 1988, someone, somewhere has wanted to do an Americanized remake of "Akira." Sony was close to picking it up in the 1990s, and Warner Bros has had the rights for the best part of a decade now, without any real forward momentum. Until recently, that is: Albert Hughes, one half of the fraternal team behind "Menace II Society" and, more recently, "The Book of Eli," was hired to direct, "Harry Potter" writer Steve Kloves penned a rewrite, and the film went out to search for its lead roles.
And since then, things have not gone well. The project's been linked to a string of actors for its four principle roles, and not a single one has been cast yet: the likes of Brad Pitt, Mila Kunis, Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, Joaquin Phoenix, James McAvoy, Ryan Gosling, James Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Fassbender, Garret Hedlund, Chris Pine and Justin Timberlake have all seemingly turned the film down, and executives must have started to get a little concerned.
The last we heard was that, with the film budgeted at $230 million, an A-lister was required to get the film made, and an offer had gone out to "The Matrix" star Keanu Reeves. But it sounds like it didn't go well: JoBlo reports that Reeves, who's currently shooting samurai actioner "47 Ronin," passed on the film. And it seems like there may not be many options left, as the site also reports that the film's pre-viz department has been shut down, and almost all crew members on the project laid off.
Although JoBlo reports that the budget for the film was closer to $140 million, it's still a hefty sum for Warners to drop on a risky property without a big name, and the fuss in some quarters about the 'whitewashing' of the film probably hasn't helped matters. Twitter rumors about the film shutting down started circulating last week, so we're pretty sure this is legit not to mention that Warners told JoBlo that "Production on "Akira" has not halted or been shut down, as the film has not yet been greenlit and is still very much in the development stage. The exploratory process is crucial to a project of this magnitude, and we will continue to sculpt our approach to making the best possible film" -- not a confirmation, but not exactly a denial either.
Maybe Warners will get lucky and land an A-lister soon, but we reckon that, if the film moves forward any further, it will, like "The Dark Tower," another expensive project rethought by its studio (and one that Warners considered partnering with Universal on, in a tit-for-tat deal on "Akira"), be at a much reduced budget. So it's not necessarily dead: Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" looked on its last legs until it landed A-listers Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and is about to go before cameras, albeit a year after it was originally planned to. But if "Akira" is dead, will anyone mourn its passing? We're not sure they will.