WB has met the anime

Studio plans two 'Akira' features

The anime classic "Akira" is getting the live-action big-screen treatment courtesy of Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Bros.

Ruairi Robinson has been hired to direct what ideally would be a two-part epic. Gary Whitta is writing the adaptation, which DiCaprio will produce via his Appian Way shingle. Andrew Lazar also is producing via his Mad Chance shingle. Jennifer Davisson, who heads Appian, also will be involved in some producing capacity.

"Akira" originated in 1988 as a manga and then as an animated film co-written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story was set in a neon-lit postapocalyptic "New Tokyo" in 2019 where a teen biker gang member is subjected to a government experiment that unleashes his latent powers. The gang's leader must find a way to stop the ensuing swathe of destruction.

With its mature themes and cutting-edge animation, "Akira" was a milestone movie in anime and mainstream animation circles, leading the way for anime to make inroads into Western pop culture in the 1990s.

"Akira" has long been in development at the company, with producers Jon Peters and Basil Iwanyk involved at various times as well as directors Stephen Norrington and Pitof. The rights lapsed, but Warners managed to scoop them up again for Robinson, who came to the studio with a vision of a two-part adaptation.

The new story moves to the action to "New Manhattan," a city rebuilt by Japanese money.

The studio is eyeing a summer 2009 release for the first movie.

Greg Silverman is overseeing for Warners. Otomo is executive producing. Legendary Pictures is co-financing.

Whitta, repped by UTA and Circle of Confusion, wrote "The Book of Eli," which the Hughes brothers are directing for Warners and Silver Pictures.

"Akira" would mark the feature directorial debut for Robinson, who was nominated for a best animated short Oscar in 2001 for the sci-fi comedy "Fifty Percent Grey." He also wrote and directed a sci-fi short titled "The Silent City." Robinson is repped by CAA and 3 Arts Entertainment.