New Zealand film director Taika Waititi’s first major Hollywood film, THOR: RAGNAROK, will hammer its way into theaters on November 3rd. However, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker had also been rumored to be in talks to direct a Hollywood live-action adaptation of the anime classic AKIRA.
AKIRA is widely regarded as a classic that helped popularize Japanese animation in the West. Set in 2019, it chronicles the adventures of Shotaro Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang who watches his close friend Tetsuo Shima obtain the powers of a psychic god of mass destruction. The film tackles themes of existentialism and maintaining compassion in the face of an apocalypse. It also has plenty of grit and violence associated with anime films of the 80’s.
In an interview, Waititi openly admitted that he had been a part of negotiations for a Hollywood Akira, and that is a project he would love to helm.
I am – that was more or less a rumor. There was, I mean, I was in talks to do that, for sure, and something that I was very passionate about – am passionate about…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…And, yeah, so anyway there’s been some chats [me directing a live-action Akira].”
While Waititi cannot confirm that he’ll be a part of said project, he did have some reassuring words about how he would cast the project.
Regarding casting, Waititi said: “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.”
This comes in the wake of a whitewashing controversy regarding Asian casting in Hollywood. Live action adaptations of anime GHOST IN THE SHELL and DEATH NOTE were mired in controversy because leading Asian characters were cast with Caucasian actors. In GHOST IN THE SHELL, Scarlett Johansson’s casting was explained away as her being a Japanese woman who was put into a Caucasian-appearing robot body. For DEATH NOTE, the location of the anime was changed to Seattle, with all three protagonists losing their Japanese heritage.
Taking place in a ravaged then rebuilt Neo-Tokyo, AKIRA is very much defined by its Japanese setting and characters. Unlike countless directors and executives before him, Waititi understands that it would be foolish and damaging to the movie to strip that away from the story.
Let’s hope his vision for the project comes to pass.