On last week’s Meet the Movie Press, I passed along a rumor that Daniel Espinosa and David F. Sandberg were in the running to direct the live-action AKIRA movie for Warner Bros. but here on the ground at CinemaCon that discussion has shifted, with insiders saying the studio is moving aggressively to lock in Jordan Peele to direct coming off the mega-success of Get Out.
Warner Bros. has been enamored with Peele ever since Get Out opened to big business and sparked a cultural conversation. At one point, I thought the studio was going to ask him to direct THE FLASH. Who knows? They still could! But I’m told Akira is the WB project they’re currently discussing with Peele, and the talks have apparently been encouraging.
Representatives for Warner Bros. and Peele did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way is producing Akira with Andrew Lazar (American Sniper). Marco Ramirez (Netflix’s Daredevil) wrote the most recent draft of the script, though it’s expected that Peele would do his own pass should he close a deal.
Warner Bros. has struggled for years to gets its live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic manga off the ground, and the property has languished in development to fans’ dismay. The film nearly went into production several years ago with Jaume Collet-Serra directing Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, but the plug was pulled at the last minute.
Now I know what you’re thinking. I’ve cried wolf before about Akira. In addition to Espinosa (whose Life just underperformed) and Sandberg (who ended up getting the bigger Shazam gig), I’ve said that Justin Lin was being sought to direct at one point. But all of those names were floated on the podcast, never published. Our sourcing is solid on this one, but of course, I’m not at the negotiating table, and The Flash remains a tantalizing, not to mention even higher-profile possibility.
So, what would a deal with Peele mean for Akira? Well for starters, he would be an exciting coup for a project that has unfortunately developed a reputation as being “troubled.” At the time, many blogs were upset about casting Hedlund and Stewart as traditionally Asian leads — the same issues that have plagued Paramount’s upcoming Ghost in the Shell. But Peele deftly navigated racial themes in Get Out, and it’s that very sensitivity that could make him the perfect director for the job.
Peele’s directorial debut Get Out has grossed more than $150 million on a reported budget of less than $5 million. Insiders say he’s refreshingly unpredictable and could always decide to stick with making socially-conscious genre films that give him more creative freedom for the time being, but the feeling within the industry is he’s ready to make the big-budget leap now.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief