We’ve heard just about every actor under the sun linked with the role of Kaneda in Warner Bros’ live-action adaptation of the much lauded Japanese manga Akira, and two actors have reportedly already turned down the role (Brad Pitt & Ryan Gosling) – but it’s a new name entirely that is emerging as a front-runner this weekend.
Both Vulture and THR reported yesterday that Keanu Reeves (who has some Asian descent somewhere in his DNA, we are told) has entered early talks for the part – WB hoping they can strike gold with the actor over 10 years on from The Matrix mega-success. Akira is budgeted at the risky $230 million mark (i.e. the same cost as Inception) and is based on a non Joe Popcorn source material, so WB have made it known they need a bankable star with global appeal to get the ball rolling on the other parts.
In fact, we reported a couple of months ago that studio president Jeff Robinov was going against his director Albert Hughes’ (co-helmer of Book of Eli & From Hell) wishes to try and court mega star Brad Pitt but the fact the helmer wasn’t 100% keen on him put the actor off the project completely and he passed. Second choice Ryan Gosling (curiously not an actor who is a box office draw or has ever appeared in a tentpole to prove he could be one) also said no… and now WB are turning to an old friend.
For the film adaptation of Akira, the setting has changed from the futuristic Neo-Tokyo to a ‘rebuilt’ New Manhatten with the idea of Hollywoodising and watering down the themes and turning it into a PG-13 rated fare aimed at American audiences (though they have kept the same monikers, weird!). Steve Kloves, writer of the last seven Harry Potter movies, was brought in to re-draft the screenplay in February.
The first film will adapted from the first three in the Manga series with the hope of setting up a two film franchise.
There’s no word yet if the $230 million budget is for the first movie or both of them, though either way WB’s usual tentpole partner and indeed their own financial entity based on the WB lot, Legendary Pictures, have declined to provide any help on Akira deeming the project too risky.
Reeves is currently shooting the Japanese set tale 47 Ronin. I’m well known not to be his biggest fan but hey, he made The Matrix work, so why not…