Nearly two months after Albert Hughes walked away from Akira, Warner Bros. has hired Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra to helm stalled live-action adaptation of the pioneering cyberpunk manga.
According to Variety, the studio has also reined in the budget from an estimated $140 million to a more manageable $90 million, a move that could allow producers to again consider younger stars — among them, Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine and Michael Fassbender — rather than marquee names, for the lead roles.
Warner Bros. has had a difficult time with Akira since it acquired the rights to Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga in 2008 in a seven-figure deal with publisher Kodansha. The project has gone through two directors — Ruairi Robinson predated Hughes, who signed on in February 2010 — five screenwriters and one co-financier. It’s also reportedly been rejected by such big names Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, James Franco and Ryan Gosling.
Serialized from 1982 to 1990, the manga is set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo — a near-future metropolis called Neo-Tokyo — gripped by gang violence and anti-government terrorism. When Tetsuo, a young member of a biker gang, manifests telepathic powers, he draws the attention of the government, which fears he poses a threat. Otomo himself adapted Akira in 1988 in what’s widely considered a landmark anime. He’ll executive produce Warner Bros.’ live-action film. Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran will produce with Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar.
Collet-Serra, mentioned just last month as a contender to helm 300: Battle of Artemisia, made his feature debut in 2005 with House of Wax, followed in 2009 by Orphan. He’s also attached to direct the Warner Bros. vampire film Harker, also produced by Appian Way.