You probably won’t hear George Takei speak up yet.
Warner Bros. has shut down production on its live-action version of the popular Japanese anime “Akira,” citing budget and casting issues. That’s good news for Takei, the “Star Trek” legend that has vocally opposed the project because of the studio’s decision to cast caucasian actors instead of Asian.
Yet, this isn’t the first time the film has been declared dead.
“Everybody is being sent home,” an insider told The Hollywood Reporter. Everyone, that is, except producers Jennifer Kiloran Davisson and Andrew Lazar as well as director Jaume Collet-Serra. These three are now tasked with trying to bring the project back to life, once again, but with a leaner budget.
It’s not clear if that will even be possible. The script, according to the trades, needs some work. Steve Kloves, the celebrated Harry Potter films writers, has already done one re-write of the script, but cost could keep him away from doing further work.
Warner Bros. is still interested in doing the project, but the budget has to be slashed by a third. Already at a pretty anemic $90 million, THR says the studio could actually be looking at something more in the $60 million range. That means the studio is not confident the film can be anywhere near a blockbuster, and could be trying to cut its losses.
Collet-Serra is the third director on the project. Ruairi Robinson and Albert Hughes were originally attached. In fact, with Hughes, Warner Bros. had planned a $180 million budget.
This looks like the end of the line for this version of “Akira.” But it’s come back from the dead before, and as long as someone is still using an Akira letterhead at Warner Bros., the chance it could happen again will always exist.
The original feature-length animated film — with amazingly cool motorcycles — was released in 1989 in the United States on home video, but made a theatrical debut in 2001. It’s considered by many a landmark anime film, and is among the top anime films on many critics’ list.
A live-action version of the film has been in the works since the 1990s, first with Sony Pictures, and later with Warner Bros.