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Live-Action Ghost in the Shell Casts Michael Pitt as Laughing Man

posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Boardwalk Empire actor plays "bitter & vengeful man with a body that is part robot"

Entertainment news source The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Thursday that Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) will play the Laughing Man villain in DreamWorks and Paramount's live-action Ghost in the Shell film.

While trade magazine Variety previously reported that Sam Riley had been cast as the villain, The Hollywood Reporter's report makes no mention of Riley's casting. Though Variety's article last November only mentioned Riley as a "villain," The Hollywood Reporter explicitly mentions Michael Pitt as the Laughing Man, a cybercriminal character that featured in the central story of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex anime series. The Hollywood Reporter describes the character as "a bitter and vengeful man with a body that is part robot," with a "unique sense of style . . . a bad guy filtered through the lens of a street artist."

Pitt was previously a candidate to play Tetsuo in Warner Bros.' live-action Akira project, but his option deal for the role ended in 2012.

Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lucy, Lost in Translation) is starring in the live-action Ghost in the Shell film, and Pilou Asbæk (Lucy) will play Batou.

Variety's most recent description of the film's story is:

The story follows the exploits of a member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission that specializes in fighting technology-related crime.

Film news website ComingSoon.net reported last month that Paramount Pictures is the film's new distributor, after DreamWorks ended its distribution deal with Walt Disney Pictures. The film is still slated for release on March 31, 2017.

Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has signed on to direct the film. Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) reworked the earlier drafts of the script written by William Wheeler (Hoax, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Jamie Moss (Street Kings). Deadline reported last year that Johansson was offered US$10 million for the lead role.

DreamWorks and Paramount are co-financing and co-producing the film. Principal photography began in Wellington, New Zealand in January.

The anime studio Production I.G pitched the rights for Masamune Shirow's original cyber-police manga on behalf of the manga's publisher Kodansha in 2007, and DreamWorks acquired the live-action film rights in 2008. Ari Arad, Avi Arad (formerly of Marvel Studios as well as of the Spider-Man and X-Men movie franchises), and Seaside Entertainment's Steven Paul are producing. The executive producers include Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura, and Production I.G founder and head Mitsuhisa Ishikawa.

The American arm of Kodansha began reprinting the manga in 2009, after Dark Horse Comics had the license. Kodansha also launched two new manga series based on director Kenji Kamiyama's Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex television anime series that year. In addition to Mamoru Oshii's two anime films and Kamiyama's two Stand Alone Complex television series and spinoff feature, Shirow's manga also inspired the recent Ghost in the Shell Arise prequel anime with its own tie-in feature film release and television broadcast. (DreamWorks distributed Oshii's second film in North America.)

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