When we last got any word on the live-action remake of the classic anime ‘Akira’, the budget had been lowered to $90-million, yet another director had walked away from the project, and it had been handed over to Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (‘House of Wax’, ‘Orphan’). As a fan of the original anime, I was kind of hoping that this thing was dead in the water.

Then yesterday, my hopes were shattered as Variety reported that ‘Akira’ was back in motion again. Collet-Serra was still on board to direct and they have nearly narrowed down their casting for the lead role of Kaneda. The frontrunner for the role is Garret Hedlund, who played the lead role of Sam Flynn in ‘Tron Legacy’. The role of Tetsuo has now been short-listed as well and the top contenders seem to be Robert Pattinson (‘Twilight’), Andrew Garfield (‘Amazing Spider-Man’), and James McAvoy (‘X-Men: First Class’). The script for ‘Akira’ is also in. It was penned by Steve Kloves who is best known for his work on the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise. The film is set to begin production in February/March of 2012. No release date has been set.

According to the report issued to variety, here is the synopsis of Klove’s ‘Akira’ script:

“Set in New Manhattan, the cyberpunk sci-fi epic follows the leader of a biker gang who must save his friend, discovered with potentially destructive psychokinetic abilities, from government medical experiments.”

The synopsis sounds about right, but like many fans of the original, I’m still railing against this tooth and nail. Of course, the Variety report also said that Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of the original ‘Akira’ manga and director of the anime, is on board with the remake as executive producer. Also, Garret Hedlund is at least closer to the proper age to play the part of Kaneda than some of the other bigger stars that were being courted for the role (Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves). At least those small favors lend a glimmer of hope that this won’t be the travesty that I expect it to be.

Were you a fan of the original manga or anime? What do you think of the “Americanization” of a Japanese classic? Will it be half as awesome as the original or will Hollywood water it down into a noisy CGI fest like they tend to do with other properties?