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Go, Speed Racer, go!
A live-action scripted TV series based on the beloved manga and animated show is in the works at Apple, with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot set to exec produce the project.
Sources say Hiram Martinez (Snowpiercer, Get Shorty) is set to co-write the project and serve as showrunner as his “exciting take” on the source material is said to have impressed Apple, Bad Robot and Warners. Ron Fitzgerald (who works with Abrams on HBO’s Westworld), is the other co-writer and showrunner. Abrams and his Bad Robot banner are set to exec produce.
Sources say the live-action TV series has been in the works for years and stems from Abrams and Bad Robot’s overall deal with Warner Bros. TV. The show landed at Apple some time ago and has been in the process of meeting and hiring its co-writers in recent months as sources note the development process has been excruciatingly slow.
Speed Racer, created by Tatsuo Yoshida, was adapted in the 1960s as a beloved anime series that ran for more than 50 episodes. An English remake, Speed Racer X, was produced for Nickelodeon in 2002 but a licensing debate stunted its run. The Wachowskis adapted the title as a live-action feature film in 2008. That movie, starring Emile Hirsch, stalled at the box office and wound up losing money for producers Warner Bros. Pictures.
As of December 2013 the worldwide rights to the beloved title about a professional racer revered back to Tatsunoko Production following a string of lawsuits. Tatsunoko is believed to have blessed Apple’s Speed Racer take. (Apple, Warners and Bad Robot declined comment.)
Speed Racer is among the scores of projects that Abrams has in the works as part of his $250 million overall deal with Warners. He’s also readying Presumed Innocent for Apple, which was the home of Lisey’s Story and Little Voice, both of which also hailed from the studio he has called home for the past 15 years.
Bad Robot’s content pipeline is currently under scrutiny by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav as the newly merged company reviews budgets and the lack of output on Abrams’ slate. As part of the process, HBO’s Demimonde is in jeopardy of being canceled before cameras begin rolling. Sources indicate Abrams has sought a budget north of $200 million for Demimonde, the first show he has created since Fringe in 2008. Apple is also teaming with Bad Robot on the Jennifer Garner vehicle My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, which reunites Abrams with his Alias star.
Bad Robot, which resigned with Warners in 2019 after being wooed by the likes of Apple and other studios/streamers, also has Duster, Fledgeling, Subject to Change, the animated Batman: Caped Crusader, DC’s Constantine and Madame X all set up at HBO/HBO Max. Other scripted fare in the works include a U2 series for Netflix and Overlook, the prequel of The Shining that was dropped by HBO Max. Numerous other films and TV projects as well as games and podcasts are in the works as Bad Robot continues to expand its footprint.
Abrams is currently prepping another Star Trek movie for Paramount as his deal with Warners allows him to work on features for other studios.
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