The Akira saga continues

Conflicting reports claim that both Ken Watanabe and Gary Oldman are up for a part in Akira.

The film has been somewhat wishy-washy with its choice of actors from the beginning, with the initial list of potential leading actors ranging from Robert Pattinson to Keanu Reeves, none of whom seemed appropriate for the roles of two teenaged biker gang kids, despite the setting change from Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan. 

Nevertheless, the lead role was recently clinched with the hiring of Garrett Hedlund, who starred in TRON: Legacy as the younger Flynn. Yet, the other roles are still in the air, including the female lead, witth recent rumors pointing to  Kristen Stewart.

One role that seemed cinched was that of the Colonel, but this week there were a number of conflicting rumors.

On Tuesday, Twitch, a film news blog, reported that Oldman had failed to come to an agreement with Warner Bros., and that Ken Watanabe had been offered the part. However, just a few hours prior, MTV posted an interview with Oldman – the filming on The Dark Knight is just wrapping up – in which he says that he still might take the Akira role.

Which one is true? Well, I suppose we’ll find out soon, but as much as I like Oldman, I personally think that Watanabe is better for this role, and not just because he would bring a needed Japanese element to the cast. He also has a certain presence, which I think could pull off the role of the amoral weapons program commander.

Andrew Lazar, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Davisson make up the production team, while Katsuhiro Otomo, the original novel’s author, and the director of the anime adaptation, is on board as the exec producer.

Akira is about a group of youths in a motorcycle gang that opts to rescue one of their friends from a scientific experiment.

Thematically, the movie is about freedom and rebellion with a nice mix-in of teen angst – and the plan was originally to make the story into two films, each covering half of the original six-book manga. 

The IP is likely a big priority for the studio since it paid a lot of money for the rights, but with the budget cut so far back, they are probably only looking for a single film.

Akira will likely kick off production at the beginning of 2012, which could mean a 2014 summer release.