‘AKIRA’ Live-Action Film Dead, Chris Weston’s Bike Redesign Lost to the Ages
In what is possibly the best comics-to-film news we'll report this year, the live-action American adaptation of AKIRA that pretty much everyone agreed was a terrible idea has apparently been shelved. Director Albert Hughes walked away from the project in May, shortly after George Takei popularized bitter fan sentiment about controversial casting rumors, and now concept designer and comic book artist Chris Weston has revealed that he redesigned Kaneda's iconic motorcycle before the project "floundered."Writing on his blog, Chris Weston revealed that he'd been working on production art for Albert Hughes' AKIRA adaptation for approximately one year, including what he admitted was a heretical redesign of the iconic red motorcycle used by Kaneda.
I was as horrified as you are; probably more, 'cos I was the one the fanboys were going to come for when they inevitably declared it a travesty.
In my defence, I would say at least I brought a love of Katsuhoro Otomo's art and an admiration of his design aesthetic to the table. I didn't want to stray too far away from the classic design. However, one has to admit that faithful real-life reproductions of Kaneda's bike do look a little bit "kitsch" ...
So the version I created was a bit meatier and nastier: the tyres were bigger, the engine was bigger, some of the casing was stripped off to expose the workings beneath. Kaneda was in a motorcycle gang that used these vehicles as weapons, so we gave it a more beaten-up look, dirtier, a few dents and scratches here and there.
In silhouette you'd have no problem recognising it as the Akira Bike, but the lighting would reveal a whole new level of texture and detail.
There was a short discussion about making it black, but I did my bit to keep it red, albeit a darker, bergundy hue. I believe BMW in Munich had begun production of a working model, but I can't vouch for that.
The idea of Warner Bros. and producer Leonardo DiCaprio making a American live-action version of AKIRA has never sat well with fans of the original works by Otomo, but disdain for the project went viral after a report from Deadline suggested the movie stars in consideration for the lead roles -- among them, Justin Timberlake and Robert Pattinson -- were all Caucasian. Asian-American icon George Takei spoke out against the notion of casting AKIRA with non-Asians by endorsing a Facebook petition and arguing that Otomo's indelibly Japanese story and the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood necessitated more accurate casting. With respect to the casting rumors, Weston wrote on his blog that he believed "most of it was bollocks."
Subsequent to the casting controversy, Keanu Reeves turned down an offer to star in AKIRA, the pre-visualization department was shut down, and, according to CinemaBlend, most of the film's remaining workers were dismissed. Hughes departed soon after, although reports indicate that move was amicable.
It's very arguably for the best that this AKIRA film is not being made, although we'd certainly love to see Weston's designs for the film, shocking as they may be. A frequent presence in CA's Best Art Ever (This Week) series, Weston is a superlative talent whose work you can see in IDW's The Rocketeer Adventures #2, on sale now at Things From Another World.