Albert Hughes Abandons <i>Akira</i>

Warner Bros.' planned live-action adaptation of Akira can't catch a break. Just last week news broke that Keanu Reeves had passed on a lead role, forcing the studio to continue its search for a marquee name to prop up the $140 million movie. And now Deadline has word that director Albert Hughes is leaving the project.

Hughes, who with brother Allen helmed From Hell and The Book of Eli, was brought on board Akira in February 2010, two years after Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to Katsuhiro Otomo’s celebrated cyberpunk manga, bringing with him Eli screenwriter Gary Whitta. Since then, however, the adaptation has lost its co-financier, passed through five screenwriters and been unable to settle on lead actors.

In March, the studio sent scripts to a who's who of young Hollywood, ranging from Robert Pattinson and Andrew Garfield to Garrett Hedlund and Chris Pine, in hopes of casting Tetsuo and Kaneda, the young gang members at the center of Otomo's post-apocalyptic tale (now set in New Manhattan rather than Neo-Tokyo). But as the budget increased, uneasy executives decided they wanted an established star, and reportedly approached Brad Pitt, James Franco and Ryan Gosling before finally turning to Reeves.

According to Deadline's sources, the parting of Hughes and Warner Bros. is amicable, with executives looking to pair him with another project as soon as possible. The studio, meanwhile, wants to keep Akira on the fast track, and may return to that list of actors.

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