Posted on Friday, July 8th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
The live-action version of Akira is currently without a director and may or may not be dead. (Again.) But it is floundering, at the very least, and when we see discussion of it by people involved in the production, we’re seeing the film referred to in the past tense. Probably a good sign, all things considered, even if I did have a strange interest in seeing how the project worked out.
We may never see a live-action version of the story, but can now get a little bit of an insider’s view from a concept artist that worked on the project, who recently revealed some of the designs he submitted.
CinemaBlend uncovered a post from the artist in which he talks about some of the design work he did on the project. One task: redesign Kaneda’s bike, which has long been one of the more recognizable design elements of the manga and animated version. (To the point where real-world reproductions are perhaps not common, but certainly popular.)
Chris Weston says,
…on my first day on the job I was asked to “redesign the bike”! Yes, that’s right: THE bike. 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. I produced tons of other character designs, storyboards and concept designs for Akira, and hopefully they’ll eventually see the light of day.
All things considered, the bike redesign — something that would be almost a given — doesn’t sound bad at all, especially with the idea of retaining the basic silhouette, but revealing other details when seeing it close. (Then again, it could also end up looking like some of the rickety comic to screen designs from, say, Judge Dredd.)
He also believes that many of the casting rumors that floated around for some time are bunk, and suggested Sam Riley for Tetsuo, who actually would have been a fine choice, assuming WB was hell-bent on casting older non-Asian actors in the key roles. At this point none of that probably matters. Hopefully those scrapped designs really will see the light of day, however.