February 26, 2014

Jaume Collet-Serra Talks AKIRA Vision And Reaffirms Trilogy

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra's is slowly rising to the level of studio blockbuster. His first batch of films included horror flicks House of Wax and Orphan, the usual type of films a new director get's offered in Hollywood. He's recently found a muse in Liam Neeson directing him in the awfully dull Unknown, this weekend's trapped-on-a-plane thriller Non-Stop and action flick Run All Night.

Non-Stop hits theatres this weekend, and I've actually heard nothing but positive things about it. Bloggers such as Devin (BadassDigest), El Mayimbe (LatinoReview) and Frosty (Collider), have given brief but positive reactions from their recent screenings. Folks like these usually have a good radar for poorly made films, so their keenness for the film is a good sign.

Why it a good sign? Before Non-Stop and Run All Night were put into production, Jaume was attached to direct Warner Bros' live-action Akira adaptation back in 2011. A much beloved manga and anime film, which some consider the best in both mediums. The budget had been reduced a couple of times, but the $90 million was too expensive for the studio. The director would confirm last year that he was still going ahead with directing Akira, after he completed Run All Night. He talked to ComingSoon about his vision for the film, which might win over fans or just anger them (over comments of the "terrible" characters). Jaume also confirms previous talk of Akira being turned into a trilogy.

Collet-Serra: It's great that they're waiting for me. It's different, because you have to be respectful of the source material. Otomo adapted his own work from a manga into an anime and both things are completely different and genius. The only way to do a live version of "Akira" is to take the spirit and adapt it. It will be as different as the anime was from the manga.

CS: What worries myself and a lot of the other fans of the property is you have elements that are commercial and sexy, like the motorbikes or the jaw-dropping futuristic backdrop, but for the most part it's a very cerebral work. How do you maintain the essence of that without diluting it into essentially "Blade Runner: Mark 2"?

 I think you cannot make a movie about "Akira" and hope that everyone understands it. Like everything else, you have to make three or four movies in one where there's the essence somewhere. If you're a fan, you already know what it's about and you'll see it's part of the same world, but trying to oversimplify it would be a mistake. I think if at some point a character tries to explain it to the audience at the end of the second act, that's a problem. It's more like an existential opera. It's something that can only be explained in the manga, and even in the anime it's hard to follow.

CS: And we all have that original anime, it's there, nothing can sully it, so if you were going to do it in live-action one would hope you would bring something new to the table. What is it you are bringing specifically that is going to make it yours?

 I hope that I can bring strong characters. In the original source material, I don't think the main characters are the protagonists. What I'm hoping is to bring characters.

CS: That's true. It's one of those strange stories where you literally never see the main character that is the namesake of the film!

 Nobody's interesting. Tetsuo's interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That's part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They're used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.

CS: They're ciphers.

 Yeah. So hopefully in my version that will be strong, and you'll have a story that happens in that world that will show you a little bit of the mystery. Then, if you're interested, they'll make "Akira 2 & 3" then you can get deeper into it. I love the world, a lot of people love that world, so why wouldn't we indulge in it a little bit and see how it would be if it was real? Like you say I don't have to explain everything, but wouldn't you like to spend two-hours in a world of "Akira" and follow a character and be like, "that's cool"? That's all I want to offer, is two-hours in a world you can actually feel. We're working on it.

I wasn't convinced when Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr And Mrs Smith) was hired to direct Edge of Tomorrow, which is another manga adaptation based on All You Need Is Kill. The recent trailer has sold me on the film. I'll hold off judgements on Jaume making Akira, until we see some footage and images from the project. Because it could be a very similar situation, and he might actually have an unique vision for the film. 

Casting has always been a bit of a hot-topic with Akira, as Warner Bros. was exclusively looking at young white actors. Whitewashing the cast and relocating the Japanese-set (very important to the story) story to Manhattan. At one point Garrett Hedlund (Tron Legacy, On The Road, Mojave, Unbroken, Inside Llewyn Davis) was offered the lead role (via Twitch) with Gary Oldman (Robocop, Dark Knight Trilogy, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, Lawless) and Helena Bonham Carter (King's Speech, Terminator Salvation, Fight Club, Lone Ranger) also in the mix.

Hedlund recently tried to nab the John Connor role in Termination: Genesis, which would include a three-picture deal. He instead signed-on for the part of Hook in WB's Peter Pan origin film Pan from director Joe Wright (Hanna, Atonement), alongside Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard. Some are saying that Garrett might still be attached for Akira, but I'm not entirely convinced.


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