Much like an anime villain, Warner Bros.’ planned adaptation of the manga classic Akira just refuses to die. Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1980s comic-book series—about Neo-Tokyo’s motorcycle gangs, telekinetics, and the government officials who want to stop them—has tantalized Hollywood for years, but despite some major players attached, a studio version has never got past the planning stages.
In 2012, the project came the closest it’s ever been to actually shooting—with Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night) at the helm and Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart in negotiations to star—before Warner Bros. pulled the plug over budgetary concerns.
The fact that money would be an issue should come as no surprise to those familiar with the story, which takes place after the destruction of Tokyo by a psychic named Akira. The majority of the action takes place in the new city that is built from the remain, where Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang, must stop his friend and Akira’s brother, Tetsuo, from continuing the family tradition of metropolitan destruction. None of this sounds cheap.
But now the movie’s heart monitor is showing signs of life again. Sources have confirmed a story in The Hollywood Reporter that Daredevil co-showrunner Marco J. Ramirez has been hired to write an adaptation. The news could be the first part of a new chapter for the star-crossed adaptation, so let’s look back at the stops and false starts that led us here.
2008 — Warner Bros. acquires the rights to Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga series. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way is set to produce what would possibly be a two-part feature adaptation, directed by Ruairi Robinson, written by Gary Whitta (Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One), and set in Neo-Manhattan.
2009 — Robinson is reportedly out as writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men) join. WGA strike is blamed for the death of the first iteration.
2010 — Albert and Allen Hughes sign on to direct the two-film adaptation. It’s later clarified that only Albert would direct. New writer Albert Torres is brought on.
2011 — Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves joins project to polish Torres’ script. Concerns about white-washing and faithfulness to the source material begin to appear online as a myriad of Caucasian actors are reportedly offered lead roles. In May, Hughes leaves the project. In July, Collet-Serra signs on to direct with a much lower budget from WB. By October, Hedlund emerges as a frontrunner for the role of Kaneda, and a month later, it’s confirmed that Stewart is in talks to play Kei.
2012 — In January, WB halts production, looking to lower the budget even further.
2013 — Akira shows signs of life as Variety reports that WB is on-board for Collet-Serra’s pared-down version, but there’s no news about the cast.
And here we are. There’s no word on whether the new script from Ramirez will be for Collet-Serra, but for those at home keeping track of how many writers have taken a crack at Akira, we hand it over to our good friend Vegeta.