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Director of Cancelled White-Washed Live Action Akira Still Trying to Make Live Action Akira

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

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  • Thomas Hayes

    I hope they just let this one die. I didn’t really like the anime film adaptation that much, but I’m definitely not optimistic this guy can make anything better out of it when he’s got this little enthusiasm for the project.

  • Teamugs

    The thing is though if I call correctly, he claimed to be adapting the manga and not the anime film. Both Tetsuo and Kaneda are much more fleshed out in the manga and are pretty well realized characters so if he thinks that, then he’s just really fucking missed the point.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    “Akira” outside of Japan is more than a change of scenery and actor’s ethnicities. For starters, “Akira” is a fairly common boy’s name in Japan. To truly transplant the story to an American setting correctly, it would have to be called “Bob” or “Ralph” or something like that.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Hey jackass, how about you NOT whitewash the characters?

    Oi vey, my only hope is that nothing comes of this aside from his dashed dreams.

  • Teamugs

    And also a lot of the film/manga depicts conflict between students protesting, the military, and the bureaucrats in office which is a reflection of the political landscape of Japan in the 1980′s. AKIRA is a really Japanese story and not so easily transplanted.

  • Adam Cross

    “That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. ” … WOW. I’m so glad he’s failing to make it happen, he clearly has no idea what he’s talking about.

  • Anonymous

    As if Ralph is a common American name these days. Anyways, as much as I’m not interested in seeing a live action Akira, completely changing the setting and ethnicities of the characters would make it more interesting to me. The characters don’t need to have the same names.

  • Alexa

    I’m not even a fan of Akira and I want this movie to stay buried, just so it sends a message to this guy and guys like him that its not cool to white wash and say really stupid things like how the Japanese don’t have strong characters. Hey jackass have you ever heard of Tri-Gun, Cowboy Bebop, Tokyo Godfathers, Attack on Titan, Magica Madoka, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kiki’s Delivery Service, any Kurosawa movie, Berserk, ect.

    Not all Japanese films and anime are great but its a bunch of bullshit to say none of them have strong characters.

  • Adrian

    Yeah. Clearly, there’s a fatal flaw in how the movie industry works, if people like this dude keep rising up.

  • AverageDrafter

    I’ve never been a fan of Akira, but Jesus, even I have more respect for it than this asshat.

  • Anonymous

    Wait… the charcters were boring, so they were going to cast Keanu Reeves? I mean, he’s cute, and I liked him in the first matrix movie (and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), but he’s not very compelling.

    And I’d much rather see that movie actually set in Tokyo with, y’know, Japanese characters than the bland-ified NYC and white folks recipe that Hollywood tends to churn out.

  • Anonymous

    Please just…just stop.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    That’s the thing, if you change it enough to make it make sense and be a good movie, it’s not Akira anymore. What’s the point of making a completely separate, stand-alone product and calling it part of a franchise it no longer as anything to do with?

    (“Ralph” was a joke. I actually know more Akiras than Ralphs)

  • Mike Chen

    “That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters.”

    Someone needs to have this guy strapped down and force-fed Miyazaki films Clockwork Orange style. If he says anything bad about Howl’s Moving Castle, never let him go.

  • Anonymous

    Did we learn nothing from that awful Dragon Ball movie?
    The fact that they were gonna somehow try and keep the Japanese names despite casting white actors is also the biggest slap in the face imaginable. That’s basically rubbing salt in the wound for all the Asian actors in Hollywood who already can’t find any work outside “Doctor” and “Nerdy friend”.

  • Mikey Tarango

    soooo chronicle?

  • kinoumenthe

    Not only that, but they’re far from being the only interesting or important characters in the manga.

  • Teamugs

    So true Kei, Auntie Chiyako, Shikishima and others are so much more well rounded. Hell, the AKIRA manga has a lot of great female characters. If you think about it Kei is technically “the chosen one” who has the most ability to affect the outcome in terms of sheer power. Kaneda is really only relevant because he’s Tetsuo’s friend!

  • Anthony John Woo

    To be fair, Howl’s Moving Castle is actually an adaptation of a book written by Diana Wayne Jones, and so isn’t entirely a product of Japanese culture. Better examples from Miyazaki would be Mononoke HIme, Nausicaa of the Vally of the Wind, or Castle in the Sky.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget Last Airbender.

  • Anonymous

    I had Warner Brothers people here in Vancouver in 2012.
    They came, spent 20 million on their Akira then cancelled and left.

  • Anonymous

    “That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters.” Cool, thanks for that generalization and insult about my culture on top of whitewashing and culture-shifting Akira. What an awesome guy.

  • Anonymous

    That’s like saying The Magnificent Seven isn’t Seven Samurai. And that had a much larger change in setting.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    They didn’t call the remake Seven Samurai.