Remember the live-action Akira adaptation that was going to be set in New York City and star white actors? Remember when it was shelved after Keanu Reeves turned it down? Remember when it started to ramp back up with Garrett Hedlund in talks to play Tetsuo or Kaneda, and Gary Oldman was asked to play Colonel Shikishima? Remember when it, again, disappeared off the face of the earth?
Well, director Jaume Collett-Serra, who has been attached to the project for close on three years now, is still working on it, despite how boring he thinks Tetsuo and Kaneda are.
Collett-Serra answered a bunch of questions about Akira during a press event for Non-Stop, where he said that one of the things lengthening the delay is that an adaptation requires that you be faithful to the source material. But when asked what he hopes to bring to the story, when the manga is still as beloved as it was thirty years ago and the animated movie is considered a watershed moment in animation history. His answer?
I hope that I can bring strong characters. In the original source material, I don’t think the main characters are the protagonists. What I’m hoping is to bring characters… Nobody’s interesting. Tetsuo’s interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.
I could go on a bit of a tear about how if I’m going to accept that you have an understanding of Japanese culture and its relationship with the hero character, you should be able to understand how the story of Akira loses much of its thematic punch if you remove everything from it that would remind the audience that it reflects and was created by the only human society to have survived nuclear warfare. But I’d rather talk about the idea that Tetsuo and Kaneda are boring. To be fair, I have yet to read the final volume of Akira (curse you, library unavailability), so at this point I’m willing to give you Kaneda as the Raleigh Beckett of Akira, the guy with very few moving parts. But while Tetsuo is certainly a simple character, if you are bored by the idea of a street kid who society has abandoned suddenly forced into a psychic awakening by an uncaring and short sighted government project, by the idea of a character who you pity as much as despise as the god-like powers he didn’t ask for, doesn’t understand, and can’t handle slowly kill him and warp his mind… Certainly there are characters who are easier to identify or idolize in Akira, but if you don’t find Tetsuo compelling I’d really like to hear what it is about Akira that you are so fascinated by that you’ve spent nearly three years trying to get a studio to fund a big budget action film based on it.
I’m going to wrap this up before I simply pick apart Collett-Serra’s answers, because they are low-hanging fruit (“I love the world, a lot of people love that world, so why wouldn’t we indulge in it a little bit and see how it would be if it was real?” he says. It would be a lot whiter and American, judging by previous efforts). Here’s hoping that this project remains in pre-development stasis as long as Akira himself.
(via Coming Soon.net.)