The long on-again, off-again life action Akira movie is decidedly on again at Warners, with Jaume Collet-Serra to direct the Steve Kloves script. Given that AKIRA is a worldwide classic of anime and Japanese film in general that hugely influenced both animation and the cyberpunk movement, it seems ripe for reinvention in that Hollywood way.
And of course, also in that Hollywood way, despite the story being set in and infused with Japanese culture, because American moviegoers are all white and cannot be persuaded to pay money to watch Asian people on the screen, the film is being moved from New Tokyo to “New Manhattan ” (essentially New New York) and replacing all the Asian characters with white people if casting rumors are true.
Helena Bonham Carter
Now, we loves us some Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter as much as any other member of the Brit Acting Mafia…and Kristen Stewart is a very talented and engaging young actress. Dano is faboo. Hedlund…eh. Bleh. Whatevs. But the consistent whitewashing of the film is alarming or disgusting depending on your point of view. It’s not just that the movie has to have white stars; it’s that EVERYONE has to be white.
Now, however it seems that Gary Oldman has turned down the part, and in desperation the producers have offered the role to an actual man of Japanese descent, Ken Watanabe.
Watanabe is of course a handsome, brooding movie star, as WELL as a proven favorite in the Christopher Nolan-verse with prominent roles in BATMAN BEGINS and INCEPTION. So maybe having a real Japanese person in the movie won’t destroy it? Except that the role was also offered to Morgan Freeman, so it’s clearly the “Non white person role.” Every movie has to have one. Because this is the land of the free and the home of the brave.
PS: Here’s a great quote by sensei George Takei on the whitewashing of AKIRA;
“I’m surprised Warner Bros. is not keeping up with the audience. The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of ‘Akira’ and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless,” he told The Advocate. “If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians.”
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.