Warner Bros. Pictures’ Akira live-action movie has found its production designer. Taika Waititi confirmed that he was in talks with WB to direct the project last fall, possibly from the script draft that was written by The Defenders co-creator Marco Ramirez. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker has yet to either formally commit or pass on the project, but has said that he’s more interested in drawing from the Akira comics rather than the animated film adaptation for his live-action interpretation. Waititi has also offered his assurances that if he directs Akira, he won’t whitewash the leads like last year’s Ghost in the Shell live-action movie did.
Despite numerous false starts over the last several years, the live-action Akira movie is a project that simply seems incapable of truly dying (or, if not that, one that WB will not allow to die). It remains to be seen if Waititi is the director that sticks, after such filmmakers as Jordan Peele (Get Out), Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond), Daniel Espinosa (Life), and David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) were either considered or approached to call the shots over the past year. In the meantime, it appears WB has begun hiring other crew members for the adaptation.
Omega Underground is reporting that Martin Whist (Shane Black’s upcoming The Predator) has now joined the Akira creative team as production designer. The site also notes that Martin’s last six films as a production designer have been filmed at one of the big studios in Canada (either based in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal). WB has frequently shot its big-budget tentpoles in the country and will do so again with Sandberg’s DC Comics adaptation Shazam! within the next couple of months, so it stands to reason that the studio intends to film Akira in Canada too.
Whist’s resume as a production designer includes such sci-fi movies as Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, and José Padilha’s RoboCop, as well as John Erick Dowdle’s horror/thriller Devil and Jonathan Levine’s zombie romance film Warm Bodies. It’s difficult to say what this means for Waititi’s involvement since Whist isn’t really known for collaborating with the same director over and over. All the same, Whist has a body of work that makes him a logical fit to bring the cyberpunk setting of Akira to life on the big screen, regardless of who the director is.
Akira is a project that could break the mold for anime/manga adaptations in Hollywood, especially in the post-Ghost in the Shell and Death Note world. After multiple failed attempts to launch an “Americanized” adaptation set in neo-Tokyo (a Blade Runner-esque multicultural futuristc metropolis) with whitewashed leads, the failures of those films could be the push that WB needs to green-light a more culturally and racially sensitive adaptation like Waititi wants. For the time being, though, it’s probably best to wait and see if the current iteration of the project is able to actually make it off the runway into production, what with so many previous versions having broken down during takeoff.
Akira doe not currently have an official release date. Stay tuned to Show Box for further updates.