WB Greenlights Live-Action <i>Akira</i>, Eyes Garrett Hedlund for Lead Role

After going through two directors, one co-financier and at least five screenwriters, Warner Bros. has finally greenlit its live-action adaptation of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s pioneering cyberpunk manga and anime.

Variety reports that production could begin as soon as late February or early March, with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra at the helm. The budget, at one point estimated to be is much as $140 million, is presumably now in the $90 million range.

Serialized from 1982 to 1990, Akira is set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo  — it's changed to New Manhattan for the U.S. movie — 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.

With the greenlight in place, the trade paper reports the studio is turning its attention to finding Akira's two leads. TRON: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund, mentioned back in March as a contender for the role of gang leader Kaneda, is believed to be a frontrunner.

Warner Bros. has had a difficult time with Akira since it acquired the rights to the manga in 2008 in a seven-figure deal with publisher Kodansha. The project has passed through two directors -- Ruairi Robinson predated Albert Hughes, who signed on in February 2010 only to walk away a year later -- before settling on Collet-Serra in July.

Appian Way's Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran are producing Akira with Mad Chance's Andrew Lazar.

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