Last November, Toby Kebbell (“War Horse”) was among one of several actors named who would possibly be taking on the role of Tetsuo opposite Garrett Hedlund (“Tron: Legacy”) and Kristen Stewart.
But early this year, Warner Bros. seemed to have shut down any sort of production on the film, which was supposed to begin filming in March. While budget issues were reported as the problem, the real issue was that the studio suddenly wanted changes made to the script, the most recent draft of which came from David James Kelly. They then quickly wanted to set a high-end writer to do a polish and then Warner Bros would have to a final decision to make. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s version already came down from $150 million that Hughes planned to spent to about $90 million, so it was more creative differences then budget. Another reason was that the studio was getting cold feet about making a pricey movie with a young cast and not huge stars.
Speaking with IFC during a press junket for “Wrath of the Titans”, Kebbell explains what went wrong with the film and his hesitation with playing Tetsuo. On initial reports that he was linked to Tetsuo:
“Yes, that was genuine,” said Kebbell of the initial reports linking him to the role of Tetsuo. “I also got sent an email from a brother of mine that had all of these people’s faces, and I was like, ‘Shit! All of those people are going for it as well? Bastards!’”
“I’m probably never going to get an opportunity again to do [‘Akira’],” he said, adding that his initial take on the script left him feeling a bit, well… concerned.
“They were like, ‘This is going to be a big franchise!’” he explained. “So I said, ‘Then in that case, understand that I’ve read the comics, and I’ve read the comics that got turned into the annuals, and then the annuals that got turned into the one-off anime. So if you really want to do it, then why don’t you look at the six comics and just put two into each film?’”
“That way my character, Tetsuo, is not the lead,” he continued. “He’s not the second lead, and he’s not the third or the fourth lead, because there are eight major characters there. You’ve got great young actors, and you could get them in there. That’s the way to do it if you want to do sequels.”
Kebbell also said that he had much appreciation for the source material, saying that the relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda is the most important element of the story, but that the studio wanted to change that:
“The other thing they wanted to do was make [Tetsuo and Kaneda] brothers,” he continued. “I was like, ‘The point is that Tetsuo can’t comprehend how someone who isn’t his brother could love him so much — and that’s where his wrath and his rage come from. Do you not see that? Why have you made them brothers? What the fuck are you doing?’”
Now that the project’s been shelved, Kebbell says he doesn’t hold out much hope that he’ll be able to bring his vision for Tetsuo to the big screen — but if “Akira” does indeed get made, he hopes to see it done the right way.
“I was desperate to do it, but I just hoped they were going to take the six annuals and adapt them,” he reiterated. “Having said that, they’ll probably read this and go, ‘We’re never working with him again.’ But I wish they would. Sometimes it’s a shame that money rules, because there are great stories to be told out there.”
Bless this man for speakin’ the truth!