Screenwriter Gary Whitta Discusses Unproduced AKIRA Film
The live action Akira remake that has been in the works for years is an intriguing project. I’m kind of shocked that it hasn’t actually happened yet. If it ever did happen, of course, I’d be curious to see it. If it continues to not happen, I’m not going to complain. I can always watch the anime film whenever I want.
/Film recently did an extensive interview with screenwriter Gary Whitta, who worked on films such as Book of Eli, After Earth, and the standalone Star Wars film being directed by Gareth Edwards. He also worked on writing the Americanized version of Akira, and in the interview he talked about his approach to writing the film, especially entering a territory that leaves him open to being criticized by the fans. Here’s what he said:
“Well I went into it because I was – and remain – such a fan of both the original manga and the anime. I would not have taken the job on if I didn’t think there was a way to handle the original material respectfully and to do it some kind of justice. I personally reject the argument that AKIRA is necessarily a Japanese story and that it’s somehow sacrilegious to set a new adaptation of it anywhere else. I think many of the themes in that story are ones that speak to the human condition and are therefore relevant anywhere in the world – if that weren’t true the original versions would never have been a hit outside of Japan. Having said that, both myself and the director at the time, Ruairi Robinson, approached our version with a lot of appreciation for the story’s cultural origins and we wanted to be respectful of that. The one thing that had been communicated to us from Katsuhiro Otomo (we never spoke with him directly) was basically to not be afraid to change things, that he wanted to see an original and different interpretation, not just a straight-up remake.”
He went on to talk about the idea and setting of his version of the film, saying,
“I think we hit upon an idea that would have allowed the story to play to global audiences while staying faithful to its Japanese roots. The idea was basically that in the future Japan had been forced to deal with an economic and population boom by essentially purchasing an abandoned Manhattan island in a massive land deal from the American government, which itself had been driven close to economic ruin by the destruction of the city of Manhattan in the original Akira incident. So what had once been Manhattan became Japanese sovereign territory as New Tokyo, with ten million Japanese living there; it just happened to be located on the east coast of the United States. I thought it was an interesting way to fuse eastern and western cultures in the movie, and allow a mix of actors from both, rather than just “white-washing” the film, which is what I think a lot of people were anticipating. Having said that the project has gone through several writers and directors since Ruairi and I left and I have no idea what approach they’re taking now, or if it’s even still in active development.”
The last thing we heard about the development of this movie was last year when Edge of Tomorrow screenwriter Dante Harper was hired to write the script. Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra is also still attached to the project, but who knows if it will ever happen. Would you be happy or sad if it did?