Whoa! James Franco May Be Cast in Albert Hughes' 'Akira', Too?!
Wait what?! Gossip site JustJared, which does have a good reputation for being on Hollywood's good side, is reporting that James Franco has been cast in the lead role of Kaneda. We know that Albert Hughes, one half of the Hughes Brothers (of Dead Presidents, From Hell, The Book of Eli) is directing the big screen adaptation for Warner Bros of the beloved manga, which already had an amazing anime in 1988. Apparently Franco really is taking just about every single role he's offered, not only hosting the Oscars while also getting nominated, but landing a role in The Night Stalker and also Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful, too.
This new Akira is the Hollywood version, most recently with a script by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (of Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens work) apparently set in "New Manhattan" where the leader (Franco) of a biker gang saves his friend from a medical experiment. The film is being developed by Leonardo DiCaprio's company Appian Way, so many thought Leo was in the running, along with Zac Efron who was rumored but later denied. Franco is already appearing as the lead in Fox's Rise of the Apes this fall and is still running the awards circuit for 127 Hours, too. You can take this as a rumor for now, but it might be legit, as some have mentioned seeing it on other sites besides JustJared (see below). We'll let you know if we hear confirmation.
The original Akira was set in a neon-lit futuristic post-nuclear war "New Tokyo" in 2019 where a teen biker gang member is subject to a government experiment which unleashes his latent psychic powers. The gang's leader must find a way to stop the destruction he is about to cause. Early last summer, Albert Hughes talked about how they were going to have to stay PG-13, but could still deliver a kick ass flick. I, for one, have been excited to see this project come together and honestly, Franco could be awesome in this. I've seen a bit of his work on Apes and he's just a damn good actor all-around. Hopefully we'll get the confirmation soon, as our concern is that it conflicts with Raimi's Oz and he'll have to choose one or the other. Stay tuned for updates!
Spanish site eCartelera seems to have been the first to report on this casting as well, so at least two places reporting the news that he's on-board. We'll wait to hear confirmation from Warner Bros or Franco himself.