It’s been a long and troublesome road for Akira fans who have been impatiently awaiting the long-gestating live-action movie adaptation, which has been in the works for nearly a decade. A few months ago, a report surfaced that Jordan Peele, fresh off the success of his hit thriller Get Out, was being eyed to direct, with Warner Bros. said to be “aggressively courting” the filmmaker for this project. We haven’t heard any updates since that late-March report, but while promoting the home video release of Get Out, Jordan Peele revealed that he did in fact turn the Akira remake down, for one very good reason.
While Get Out marked Jordan Peele’s feature directorial debut, working from his own script, he had certainly established himself as a strong comedic writer and performer. He served as a writer and performer on MADTV alongside Keegan Michael Key, who he would go on to create Key & Peele with, which ran for five hit seasons on Comedy Central. The duo both wrote and starred in last year’s action comedy Keanu as well, but Get Out showcased a blend of genre thrills with political and racial tension that audiences flocked to, making Jordan Peele the first ever African-American filmmaker to earn more than $100 million domestic with his directorial debut. Get Out would go on to earn a whopping $174.5 million domestic and $214.1 million worldwide, from just a $4.5 million budget, which opened a lot of doors for the filmmaker, including Akira. During an event to promote the Get Out home video release, Jordan Peele was asked by Blumhouse about this Akira movie, which the filmmaker revealed he turned down because he wants to explore more original material.
“I think [I could do it] if the story justifies it. Akira is one of my favorite movies, and I think obviously the story justifies as big a budget as you can possibly dream of. But the real question for me is: Do I want to do pre-existing material, or do I want to do original content? At the end of the day, I want to do original stuff.”
Before the report about Jordan Peele tackling Akira, the last we had heard about the project was in September 2015, when it was rumored that Christopher Nolan may be tackling the project, but that turned out not to be the case, since he took on the ambitious WWII thriller Dunkirk. A few months earlier in June 2015, we reported that Daredevil showrunner Marco Ramirez was coming aboard to write the script. Before he came aboard, Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night) was attached to direct, from a script by Dante Harper (Venom), but that version of this adaptation never came to fruition either.
Fans were closest to getting an Akira movie back in 2012, with Gareth Hedlund reportedly set to play Kaneda, with actors such as Alden Ehrenreich, Ezra Miller, Michael Pitt and Paul Dano for Tetsuo. Kristen Stewart was also being eyed for the Kei role, with Gary Oldman also up for a role. However, in January 2012, Warner Bros. shut down production in order to rework the script to get the $90 million budget down further. The story is based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s legendary manga, which follows Kaneda, the leader of a motorcycle gang in the futuristic city of New Manhattan, who tries to rescue his best friend, Tetsuo, from a government experiment. Toby Kebbell, who was also in the hunt to play Tetsuo before production shut down, revealed in an interview that the script had turned Tetsuo and Kaneda into brothers, instead of just close friends.
As for Jordan Peele, he recently signed an exclusive first-look deal with Universal Pictures for the next two years, with the filmmaker already working on a new thriller under this deal, which will reportedly have a budget five times bigger than the $4.5 million he had to work with on Get Out. While he won’t be working on Akira, it seems fans will get to see another thriller from this talented filmmaker sooner rather than later.