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What a strange day for Warner Bros. First, rumors explode today that they’re giving the heave-ho to Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, and now word arrives that they’ve greenlit two ambitious live-action films based on the landmark Japanese manga and anime Akira, with Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way producing. Mere rumor is he may star as the lead character, Kaneda, in the franchise, which will be set in New Manhattan, “a new metropolis rebuilt after being destroyed 31 years earlier.” The first film is being fast tracked for summer 2009.

After months of speculation, young Irish director Ruairi Robinson (pronounced Raw-Ree) will direct. We’ve included two of his rather violent, trippy, head-shot lovin’ short films, Fifty Percent Grey and The Silent City, below, so as for you to get acquainted. Variety reports that the filmmakers pitched the flicks as “Blade Runner meets City of God,” which is a modestly fitting description for the 1988 film, a kinetic, dystopian vision where young motorcycle gangs roam Neo-Tokyo (rather than New Manhattan) post-nuclear war and all hell breaks loose when one is exposed to a government experiment, thus gaining menacing powers.

Update: AICN reports that Joseph Gordon Levitt has been cast in the role Tetsuo, the motorcycle gang member who develops aforementioned menacing psychokinetic powers. They also report as if Leonardo DiCaprio is definitely a lock for the lead character of Kaneda.

The films will be adapted from creator Katsuhiro Otomo‘s six volume manga, which provides far more storyline, characters and franchise potential than the classic anime adaptation alone. This news has been a long time coming, so it’s cool to see how inspired and charged-up it is, especially with Robinson’s involvement. I’m not too big on remaking old visions of the world’s future, but it’s Akira, so hey, it’s an exception. View his short films after the jump.

The Silent City

Fifty Percent Grey

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