Warner still wants to make a live-action Akira film, despite cycling through several directors and scripts over the years. Recently, another swath of directors reportedly passed on it (Justin Lin, Daniel Espinosa, David F. Sandberg, Hiro Murai, and Jordan Peele) while one of the directors rumored to be in talks with Warner — Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi — has confirmed “I was in talks to do that, for sure, and something that I was very passionate about — am passionate about.”
In an interview with IGN, Waititi confirmed the negotiations along with his love for the books, although he spoke of the project in both past tense and present tense, not revealing whether he’s been signed to direct. One thing he did reveal, however, was how he’d like to cast the film and his approach to adapting the source material.
“I actually love the books. Love the movie, but I would not do a remake of the movie. I would do an adaptation of the books,” Waititi explained. When asked about who he would cast as the lead actors, he took an anti-whitewashing stance. “Asian teenagers would be the way to do it for me and probably no, not, like no name, I mean sort of unfound, untapped talent. Yeah, I’d probably want to take it a bit back more towards the books.”
That would be a big shift from previous casting attempts for Akira, which at one point had Garrett Hedlund cast as Kaneda, Kristen Stewart wanted for the role of Kei, and the role of Tetsuo reportedly coming down to Dane DeHaan or Michael Pitt. Fun fact: none of those people are Asian teenagers.
All of those casting rumors circulated before the big pushback against projects like Ghost In The Shell and Doctor Strange casting white actors as previously Asian characters. Hollywood seems to be moving away from erasing Asian characters; Ed Skrein recently dropped out of Hellboy after finding out his character was part Asian. He was replaced by Daniel Dae Kim. Perhaps Akira will take a page out of that playbook and adapt the beloved story as it is? Who knows, it could work.