Slashfilm has caught a rumor that erstwhile High School Musical star Zac Efron is “in talks” to play the lead in the live-action Akira film directed by at least one of the Hughes Brothers (Albert) from Warner Bros. Efron would, of course, play some American equivalent of protagonist Kaneda, the leader of The Capsules bike gang who gets to save the world when his best friend Tetsuo displays psychic powers and threatens to destroy all of Neo-Tokyo. Obviously he’s not going to play a character named Kaneda, as that would be racist and the last draft of the screenplay took place in “New Manhattan.”
Personally, I don’t see Zac Efron as the worst casting decision in the world. Sure, he’s a pretty teen idol, but he’s likable enough to have potential as a real actor. He wasn’t the best part of Me & Orson Welles, but how can you be when you’re being overshadowed by Orson Welles (or even a guy doing a really good impression of him)? Plus, it could be worse. Two words: Justin Bieber.
As far as production goes, Slashfilm also goes on to note the previous script by Children of Men/Iron Man screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby is being thrown out in favor of working with Albert Torres, who wrote Henry Poole is Here. More worrying, however is that Warner Bros. wants Akira to be PG-13. Which takes all the fun out of it, especially because the Hughes Brothers are really, really good at depicting excessive violence.
I’m curious how this project will turn out. Akira is one of my favorite comics (the movie ain’t bad, either), and The Hughes Brothers are criminally underrated directors. Menace 2 Society is a surprising debut, but I just caught Dead Presidents the other night and was floored by how epic and sprawling the thing was, especially for something marketed as a heist movie. The Book of Eli, I did not like, but it was effective at depicting post-apocalyptic rubble sci-fi (aided and abetted by design work from comic artist Chris Weston).
Plus, a decent Akira live-action movie will make up for their role in making a safe, generic adaptation of From Hell.