Keanu Reeves has passed on Akira, relieving many fans of the celebrated cyberpunk manga and anime but leaving Warner Bros. still without a marquee name for its live-action adaptation.
The Matrix star was only the latest in a long line of actors -- ranging from Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling to Robert Pattinson and Chris Pine -- either approached or considered for the Hughes Brothers project (Pitt, Gosling and James Franco reportedly passed before the studio moved on to Reeves).
JoBlo reports that Reeves' withdrawal from negotiations comes as Warner Bros. shuts down Akira's pre-visualization department. However, a studio representative contends the adaptation remains in development, telling the website, "Production on Akira has not halted or been shut down, as the film has not yet been greenlit and is still very much in the development stage. The exploratory process is crucial to a project of this magnitude, and we will continue to sculpt our approach to making the best possible film."
This is only the latest stumbling block for the planned adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s post-apocalyptic manga, which was set up in 2008 by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures as a two-movie project with Leonardo DiCaprio's Apprian Way. Akira is now on its fifth screenwriter, Harry Potter's Steve Kloves, and has lost Legendary as a co-financier even as its budget grows (an earlier report pegged it at $230 million, but the current scuttlebutt places it significantly lower, around $140 million).
Serialized from 1982 to 1990, Katsuhiro Otomo’s groundbreaking 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.