It’s been quite a roller coaster for Warner Bros’ ambitious big budget adaptation of iconic Japanese manga “Akira”, and it looks like the journey is not over, as perhaps many fans had hoped. The production began casting a net for young actors as potential leads in March, then the studio apparently got nervous with the lack of star power and offered it to Keanu Reeves… who promptly turned it down. Director Albert Hughes then vacated the chair, and in July “Unknown” helmer Jaume Collet-Serra stepped in, but whether the project would ever get off the ground was still very much in doubt, due in part to its high $100+ million budget. But now it appears the studio is keen to get the project going once and for all, as Variety reports it has been officially greenlit, with a trimmed down $90 million budget and a front-runner for the lead role in rising star Garrett Hedlund.
In Japan, “Akira” was set in a post-apocalypric Neo-Toyko, but this new Americanized adaptation will take place in New-Manhattan, “where a leader of a biker gang saves his friend from a medical experiment.” Hedlund, who was said to be in the running for the role of carefree gang-leader Kanedu back in March, does not have an offer on the table yet, but both studio and director are keen on him and something official should be imminent. There is no word on who might play his best friend Tetsuo. Could it also be someone from the March shortlist, which included Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy? Decisions should start happening soon as the pre-production process has been fast-tracked in preparation for a rapidly approaching March 2012 shoot.
Hedlund is no stranger to long-gestating, controversial films and iconic characters. Not only did he play son of Jeff Bridges’ ultimate nerd icon Kevin Flynn in 2010′s years-in-the-making “Tron: Legacy”, a sequel to the 1982 classic, he also has Walter Salles’ decades-in-the-making adaptation of “On the Road” coming up. That, of course, is based on the Jack Kerouac classic that many people believe simply can’t be adapted for the screen, and he’ll play Dean Moriarity, based on legendary Beat generation icon Neal Cassady. Sounds like “Akira” could be right up Hedlund’s alley.