January 05, 2012 11:17am PT by Borys Kit
'Akira' Production Offices Shut Down As Warner Bros. Scrutinizes Budget (Exclusive)
Warner Bros is pushing the pause button on Akira.
The project, which has been through several incarnations, is being shut down in the face of casting, script and budget issues. The production offices in Vancouver are being closed, with below-the-line talent and crew told to stop working. “Everybody is being sent home,” according to an insider.
Producers, who include Appian Way’s Jennifer Kiloran Davisson and Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar, will hunker down with director Jaume Collet-Serra for the next two weeks to iron out the script. It is unclear if Harry Potter scribe Steve Kloves, who did a pricey rewrite on the project a year ago, will be brought in to help out.
If the issues cannot be resolved, the project could end up being shelved entirely, say insiders.
Collet-Serra already had halved the budget from the incarnation that Albert Hughes was going to direct. He now is working on a budget in the $90 million range. But with only Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) signed on to star, and Kristen Stewart, Ken Watanabe and Helena Bonham Carter in various stages of dealmaking, the studio feels that the price tag is still too high for a sci-fi project with that level of star wattage. The goal, says an insider, is to bring the budget down to between $60 million and $70 million. However, another source close to the production says the script, rather than the budget, has skidded the production. The project, this person says, will remain in the $90 million range.
An adaptation of the classic Japanese manga, Akira is an Americanized story set in a postapocalyptic New Manhattan, where a motorcycle gang leader (Hedlund) must stop his brother and fellow gang member from abusing his newly acquired telekinetic powers.
Akira already has “died” three times only to rise phoenix-like from the ashes. Ruairi Robinson and Hughes were previously deep into the project as directors before dropping off. Collet-Serra got the project green-lighted and has come the closest to going before cameras.
This isn't the only Warner Bros. project whose budget is being scrutinized. Arthur and Lancelot, the period fantasy being directed by David Dobkin, also has come under increased budget pressure.
Sources close to the project say Akira isn't dead yet. “It’s a very resilient movie,” says one insider. “Warner Bros. just won’t let it die.”
Warner Bros. declined comment.