Live-Action Sword Art Online Producer: Series Sold to Netflix, Will Have Asian Lead Actors
posted on by Karen Ressler
Skydance Television's Sword Art Online live-action series writer and executive producer Laeta Kalogridis (Altered Carbon) said in an interview with Collider posted on Tuesday that the series has been sold to Netflix, and that "Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors."
Kalogridis made a similar comment to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in January. "I recently sold “SAO” (Sword Art Online) to Netflix," she said, "and part of the agreement was that Kitty Cat Asuna would remain Asian." (Note: Kalogridis most likely said "Kirito and Asuna.")
Kalogridis' full comment to Collider, in response to a question about what she would like to see in a live-action English version of Sword Art Online, is as follows:
Well, let's get the obvious bit out of the way, right away. SAO is an essentially Japanese property, in which Kirito and Asuna, who are the two leads, are Japanese. In the television show, Kirito and Asuna will be played by Asian actors. Whether or not that was the question underneath your question, it's not a conversation about whitewashing. When I sold it to Netflix, we were all on the same page. They are not interested in whitewashing it, and I am not interested in whitewashing it. In terms of the secondary characters, because the game is meant to be global, the way it's presented in the anime and in the light novels, there are secondary characters that clearly are from other parts of the world, like Klein and Agil. To me, it's very obvious when you watch it that you're meant to take that this game spans the globe, but Kirito and Asuna are very clearly located as kids from Japan, and Tokyo, if I'm not mistaken. That is what we will be doing because that is the story. They are, in my mind anyway, much like Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, defined in part by being seminal characters in an Asian piece of art. That's the first and biggest thing.
Kalogridis was signed on to write the script for the live-action Ghost in the Shell film in 2009, but did not write the final version of the script for the film that debuted last year. She also penned a script for the upcoming Alita: Battle Angel film.
Skydance announced the series adaptation of Reki Kawahara's Sword Art Online light novels in August 2016. Skydance Interactive is also planning a Sword Art Online virtual reality experience after the television series. Skydance Media CEO David Ellison said at the time of the announcement that the company is planning "a full-scale and wide-ranging set of live action franchise extensions across our business verticals."
Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Friday Night Lights executive producers, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider writers) are serving as showrunners on the series, and joined Kalogridis in writing the pilot script. Kalogridis, Massett, and Zinman are also executive producing along with Skydance's Marcy Ross, David Ellison, and Dana Goldberg.