With his highly-anticipated Thor: Ragnarok hitting theaters in November, director Taika Waititi has just landed his next high-profile project, Warner Bros.’ Akira. The director has entered negotiations to take the helm of this manga adaptation, which has languished in development hell for several years, and has never been able to get off the ground yet. This long-gestating Akira movie last made headlines back in May, when Jordan Peele turned down the project, following the success of his hit movie Get Out.
Deadline broke the news today, also revealing that the studio has always planned to make two Akira movies, each of which would cover three books apiece in the 6-volume Akira graphic novel by Katsuhiro Otomo. The last we heard about this project was that Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo has final approval over every aspect of the Akira movie, which may explain why it’s taken so long to come to fruition. Warner Bros. purchased the rights from original publisher Kodansha in a seven-figure deal back in 2002, and while ther have been times when an Akira movie almost happened, it eventually faded away.
We reported in 2008 that Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way production company were boarding the Akira Franchise, and nearly 10 years later, he’s still attached as a producer, alongside his Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran. While those producers have remained on board this whole time, the project has been a revolving door for many other actors, writers and directors since then. Ruairi Robinson was once attached to direct from a script by Gary Whitta, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, before The Hughes Brothers were attached for quite some time, when actors such as Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson, James Franco, Andrew Garfield and Morgan Freeman were considered for roles, but it was director Jaume Collet-Serra who came the closest to getting the film made.
Warner Bros. greenlit Akira back in October 2011, with Garret Hedlund attached to play Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang in the futuristic New Manhattan, who tries to rescue his best friend Tetsuo from a government experiment. Kristen Stewart was wanted for the Kei role, while the studio was testing Paul Dano and Michael Pitt for the Tetsuo role. It was all for naught, though since Warner Bros. shut down Akira production offices in Vancouver, in hopes of reworking the script to trim the $90 million budget. In more recent years, Dante Harper came aboard to rewrite the script in 2014, with Daredevil showrunner Marco Ramirez coming aboard to work on the script in the summer of 2015.
There was even a rumor in the fall of 2015 that Akira could be Christopher Nolan’s next movie, but that never came to pass, and the movie continued to languish in development until earlier this year, when Jordan Peele was offered the movie and he ultimately turned it down. Still, even if Taika Waititi does finalize his deal, it still won’t be his next movie. The filmmaker is slated to direct Jojo Rabbit, a WWII dramatic comedy for Fox Searchlight, which is set to start production this coming spring. This new report doesn’t reveal if another new writer is being brought aboard, or if Taika Waititi will take a crack at the script himself.