EXCLUSIVE: The twists and turns on the Warner Bros adaptation of anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel Akira continue. Director Albert Hughes is exiting the movie, I’m told. Insiders say that it is an amicable creative differences parting of the ways. Warner Bros will try to put him on another movie right away (Hughes and his brother Allen directed the hit The Book of Eli, and WB topper Jeff Robinov is their former agent and is very close with them). Hughes is coming to Hollywood next week to take meetings with his WME reps and look at scripts, hoping to find his next movie at Warner Bros.
As for Akira, the intention of the studio is to keep the picture on a fast track, which means they will find a director quickly. The studio has been wrestling with the approach on the film for the past year. Last March, Warner Bros put together a short list of up-and-coming actors after getting a strong rewrite by Steve Kloves that set the film in a rebuilt New Manhattan, where a leader of a biker gang saves his friend from a medical experiment. At the time, Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy were given the script for the role of Tetsuo, and Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix were courted for Kaneda. The two leads were expected to come from that group of actors. Then, the studio had a change of heart and, given the budget, wanted to have an established box office star in the movie. That led to a flirtation with Keanu Reeves that ended recently.
Warner Bros is back to the other plan, and will likely go back to that list of actors in hopes of making the picture later this year or early next.
Andrew Lazar is producing with Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran. Akira has been one of Warner Bros’ high-priority projects since the studio with Legendary Pictures acquired it for a seven-figure sum two years ago from manga publisher Kodansha. The intention has been to make two films, each covering three books in the series. Akira was first adapted for the screen in 1988.