Interest Writer: Live-Action Akira Would Have Been Set on Japanese-Owned Manhattan
posted on 2013-05-29 01:00 EDT by Lynzee Lamb
Gary Whitta, a screenwriter on the shuttered live-action Akira film, spoke in an interview with film website Collider about his perspective on the project. Whitta worked on the film for about six months while director Ruairi Robinson was attached in 2008. Robinson was replaced by Albert Hughes, who in turn was replaced by Jaume Collet-Serra.
Whitta stated the film was shooting for below an R rating — a difficult task due to the subject matter — while trying to balance Western aesthetics with fans' desires.
We always dealt with the problem of, [and] I think what a lot of the fans felt was problematic, was the westernization of it; [it's like] 'they're never going to make the $100 million movie with an all-Japanese cast. You need to westernize it.' And that almost became kind of a joke—like, the idea of Shia LaBeouf as Tetsuo or whatever. People are going to have a hard time with that, and certainly the fans.
Whitta was looking to balance both by having the film take place in "New Tokyo." In this version of the script, America sold the island of Manhattan to Japan which in turn developed New Tokyo on the island.
What we did was, the idea is that there'd been a massive economic crash in the United States and in our desperation, we sold Manhattan Island to the Japanese, who were becoming a very powerful economic force, and they were having an overpopulation problem, because Japan is a series of islands, it can only accommodate so many people. So they just bought Manhattan Island, and it became the fifth island of Japan, and they populated it. It became New Tokyo, and it was just off the coast of the United States. So it was Japanese territory, it wasn't New Tokyo, but there were Americans who kind of lived in little Americanized quarters of it. I felt it was a way to do a kind of cool Western-Eastern fusion of the two ideas; not fully Japanese, not fully westernized. Whether or not you'll ever see that version, I don't know, but I thought that was kind of a cool solution to that problem of westernization of a Japanese concept.
Production on the film shut down after Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) had already been cast as Kaneda. In addition, there were talks to bring on Kristen Stewart, Gary Oldman, and Helena Bonham Carter.
The Hollywood Reporter trade magazine's Heat Vision blog reported in 2012 that production ceased due to "casting and budgetary issues." According to insiders, if the project's issues cannot be resolved, it "could end up being shelved entirely." No new developments in the project have since been announced,, and director Collet-Serra signed on to direct Dark Castle Productions' Non-Stop film, which is slated for release this year.