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Exclusive: Keanu Reeves passes on Akira, now what?

May. 17, 2011by: Mike Sampson

Earlier this month, Warner Bros., in yet another attempt to get an A-list star with international appeal to anchor the increasingly expensive AKIRA, began informal talks with Keanu Reeves about taking the lead role in the film. The discussions were early but optimistic as Reeves seemed to have interest in the material but we can confirm that Reeves has officially joined Brad Pitt, James Franco and Ryan Gosling as actors who've passed on starring in AKIRA. And that's not the only speed bump Team AKIRA experienced this month on the way towards production.

Early Thursday morning, some time after receiving word from Reeves' reps that he would be passing on the project, Warner Bros. shut down AKIRA's pre-viz department and most of the staff that was working on the film was let go. While it may be easy to draw conclusions when you see both events taking place in the same week, I'm told that one has nothing to do with the other. Warners, who has a close relationship with Reeves after the MATRIX films, was disappointed he passed but are still actively looking for a lead.

When asked to comment on the production shake-up, Warner Bros. released the following statement: "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."

Albert Hughes signed on to direct an adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's six-volume manga series back in February of last year. Warner Bros. has been quietly developing the project since then with producer Leonardo DiCaprio keeping a watchful eye. But as the budget rose to upwards of $140 million, concerns within the studio grew rapidly. Steve Kloves was brought in to rewrite the script and presumably age Kaneda, the film's lead character, in order to attract a star with a higher profile.

At the same time, the studio was courting assistance on the film from an outside studio with the hopes of co-producing the film in exchange for international distribution rights. There was some speculation that WB and Universal would engage in a tit-for-tat over troubled productions with WB helping on Uni's THE DARK TOWER and Uni helping on AKIRA. That, obviously, never materialized and Warners now is taking a longer look at the project and its many complexities.

Hughes is still attached to the project and the studio may work with Hughes and Kloves on rewrites to scale back the budget and bring AKIRA back to the fast track. In fact, a source compared AKIRA to Alfonso Cuaron's GRAVITY, another sci-fi heavy project at Warner Bros. that had difficulty finding a lead. In February of 2010, Angelina Jolie was attached to star and pre-viz was trucking along when some delays forced Jolie to drop out. As Cuaron and WB worked on both the creative and business end of the film, pre-viz ceased, the schedule was again delayed and Robert Downey, Jr. exited the film. The project resolved those issues and now has Sandra Bullock and George Clooney set to star with production scheduled to begin next month.

So while it looks as if AKIRA is struggling now, it may be a temporary setback to a project, by all accounts, Warner Bros. is committed to putting before cameras. Until then, it looks as if AKIRA is the latest ambitious and expensive project having trouble finding a greenlight in Hollywood.

[Correction: A previous version of this article referred to AKIRA's budget as $230 million.]

Source: JoBlo.com

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1:06PM on 05/18/2011
um...how much more white washing are they going to do to asian franchises? isn't akira based in TOKYO, JAPAN????!!
um...how much more white washing are they going to do to asian franchises? isn't akira based in TOKYO, JAPAN????!!
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-6
12:42AM on 05/18/2011

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Joseph Gordon Levitt to play Kaneda, and the rest will fall into place. This movie has the potential to be great, and yes too also fail. However id rather see companies taking risks while being creative, instead of remaking everything they own rights too.
Joseph Gordon Levitt to play Kaneda, and the rest will fall into place. This movie has the potential to be great, and yes too also fail. However id rather see companies taking risks while being creative, instead of remaking everything they own rights too.
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+3
9:36PM on 05/17/2011
this is a project i'd ant no part of either...from production to performing...reeves' smart he passed...i feel a cloud of doom looming over the whole thing.
this is a project i'd ant no part of either...from production to performing...reeves' smart he passed...i feel a cloud of doom looming over the whole thing.
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9:21PM on 05/17/2011

On the fence...

Not too sure how I feel about this project. I mean, the anime was pretty good, but completely butchered the source material. Is this project going to be a similarity, or will it hold more true to Manga.
Not too sure how I feel about this project. I mean, the anime was pretty good, but completely butchered the source material. Is this project going to be a similarity, or will it hold more true to Manga.
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9:11PM on 05/17/2011

i don't know...

Get some asians?
Get some asians?
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7:49PM on 05/17/2011
Screw it, get Leo out of the producer's chair and in front of the camera. I cant recall him striking out anytime recently when it comes to roles
Screw it, get Leo out of the producer's chair and in front of the camera. I cant recall him striking out anytime recently when it comes to roles
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+18
6:40PM on 05/17/2011
I really do hope this project dies. There are a few elements necessary for a live-action remake/re-adaptation of Akira...Neo-Tokyo and a teenage (or close to it) cast are two of them. They can shoot it in English but a Japanese-American cast is a must. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have had a huge impact on Japanese culture and Akira in particular. Many of the core themes (rebirth, for one) make more sense in a Japanese context. I can certainly understand why this would sound like
I really do hope this project dies. There are a few elements necessary for a live-action remake/re-adaptation of Akira...Neo-Tokyo and a teenage (or close to it) cast are two of them. They can shoot it in English but a Japanese-American cast is a must. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have had a huge impact on Japanese culture and Akira in particular. Many of the core themes (rebirth, for one) make more sense in a Japanese context. I can certainly understand why this would sound like crazy talk to a Hollywood producer but unless they're serious, they need to back off. If you can't do it right, don't do it at all.
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6:22PM on 05/17/2011
Do not americanize Akira! Do not! I am sorry for people to lose their jobs in the preproduction, but this movie is just wroooong.
If someone wants more Akira, read the manga! it even has a cooler story than the anime!
Do not americanize Akira! Do not! I am sorry for people to lose their jobs in the preproduction, but this movie is just wroooong.
If someone wants more Akira, read the manga! it even has a cooler story than the anime!
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5:06PM on 05/17/2011
As a big Akira and Dark Tower fan I have to say this is good for a majority of the fans, even some of the casual ones. There's a consonant message here and it's: Not Now. Let this fade away and make it only when the money and most important, the cast is there.
As a big Akira and Dark Tower fan I have to say this is good for a majority of the fans, even some of the casual ones. There's a consonant message here and it's: Not Now. Let this fade away and make it only when the money and most important, the cast is there.
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-15
5:04PM on 05/17/2011

Leave it alone

We don't need another Hollywoodization of an Anime. Remember Dragon Ball Evolution?
We don't need another Hollywoodization of an Anime. Remember Dragon Ball Evolution?
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4:58PM on 05/17/2011
I agree with many here when I say, let this project fade away! The anime was classic, leave it alone! If Warners wants to spend money, let them option "At the Mountains of Madness"!
I agree with many here when I say, let this project fade away! The anime was classic, leave it alone! If Warners wants to spend money, let them option "At the Mountains of Madness"!
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-17
4:51PM on 05/17/2011

who cares anymore?

I was actually expecting this article to be 'whats next for Keanu Reeves' NOT 'whats next for Akira' just let the movie die already!

I'm more interested in seeing what Reeves' next project is than another not-update on a live-action Akira movie.
I was actually expecting this article to be 'whats next for Keanu Reeves' NOT 'whats next for Akira' just let the movie die already!

I'm more interested in seeing what Reeves' next project is than another not-update on a live-action Akira movie.
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+18
4:39PM on 05/17/2011

Joseph Gordon Levitt

They need to cast a younger actor anyway (see above). I don't get all these people who crap on projects like Akira or The Dark Tower, yet these same people complain about all the reboots and remakes. WTH. 10-15 years ago people said you couldn't make a good superhero movie.
They need to cast a younger actor anyway (see above). I don't get all these people who crap on projects like Akira or The Dark Tower, yet these same people complain about all the reboots and remakes. WTH. 10-15 years ago people said you couldn't make a good superhero movie.
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5:14PM on 05/17/2011
Because look at the talent behind these projects. I have slightly more faith in Ron Howard for Dark Tower, but I think most of us agree that they're certainly not who'd we wanna see adapt these for the big screen.
Because look at the talent behind these projects. I have slightly more faith in Ron Howard for Dark Tower, but I think most of us agree that they're certainly not who'd we wanna see adapt these for the big screen.
+15
4:26PM on 05/17/2011
And who says Keanu's not the brightest crayon in the box??
And who says Keanu's not the brightest crayon in the box??
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11:08PM on 05/17/2011
He was smart enough to pass on Speed 2, and we all know how that one turned out
He was smart enough to pass on Speed 2, and we all know how that one turned out
+13
4:02PM on 05/17/2011
As a big Akira fan, reading these constant reports of the remake going in deeper and deeper shit just puts a smile on my face. Let's hope they just cancel the project and leave the incredible film as it is.
As a big Akira fan, reading these constant reports of the remake going in deeper and deeper shit just puts a smile on my face. Let's hope they just cancel the project and leave the incredible film as it is.
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+5
3:55PM on 05/17/2011

Just Give Up Already!

This film would not translate well on screen, and Hollywood would just ruin the ending and change it just like they did to Watchmen. aalso stop hiring old actors for this! if anything JGL I can see in it, but thats it.
This film would not translate well on screen, and Hollywood would just ruin the ending and change it just like they did to Watchmen. aalso stop hiring old actors for this! if anything JGL I can see in it, but thats it.
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