In 2017, director Jordan Peele (Get Out, Nope) commented in an interview on why he turned down an offer to direct Warner Brothers‘ dormant live-action Akira film. At the time, he said, “Akira is one of my favorite movies, and I think obviously the story justifies as big a budget as you can possibly dream of. But the real question for me is: Do I want to do pre-existing material, or do I want to do original content? At the end of the day, I want to do original stuff.”
Fast-forward almost six years later. After recently releasing his newest original film Nope, Peele was asked on the Happy Sad Confused podcast how he thinks things might have gone if he had accepted the Akira offer.
Peele responded: “It’s a project I’m so passionate about. I’m glad I didn’t do it because I feel like staying away from trying to interpret that IP set me on the path to creating something new. But I want to see Neo Tokyo. I want to see an all-Japanese cast, and I want to feel immersed in the world, the way of the films in the manga.”
The story of the live-action Akira that never was spans over a decade. In October 2011, Warner officially green-lit the film for director Jaume Collett-Serra (Unknown, Orphan, House of Wax). However, The Hollywood Reporter then posted that production had shut down in January 2012, before filming would have started. Warner had stalled the project to revise the script so it would be less costly. Collett-Serra said in February 2014 that he was still working on the project, but he then told the Collider website that there was no progress on the project as of March 2015.
Peele was reportedly in talks in March 2017 to direct the film but ultimately did not accept. Mad Max film series director George Miller said in October 2015 that he had turned down an offer to work on the project. Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board website, reported that Warner Brothers had also met with Daniel Espinosa (Life) and David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) as possible directors.
In September 2017, Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) was reportedly in talks to direct the film. Waititi said in an interview in April 2018 that he planned to adapt the original manga as opposed to the anime film adaptation.
Deadline described the project’s story in 2017 as taking place “in the rebuilt New Manhattan where a leader of a biker gang saves his friend from a medical experiment.” Deadline also described the project as spanning two films, with each film tackling three volumes of Katsuhiro Otomo‘s original manga. Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar was set to produce the film alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson’s Appian Way Productions.
Entertainment news website Variety reported in July 2019 that Warner Bros. had indefinitely delayed its live-action Akira film. The film was previously slated to begin production in the fall, and its release was scheduled for May 21, 2021.
Waititi was reportedly choosing the two lead roles from among Japanese actors. The studio initially delayed the project to allow him time for that process. However, the website noted there may be “more creative disagreements over the project.”