Deadline claims that the Hollywood adaptation of the celebrated 1988 anime movie has been shelved by Warner Bros because of issues with casting.
“The project had been on the rocks for weeks, with word in town that it is a difficult film to cast ethnically at its high budget, in this moment of political correctness,” Deadline reporter Mike Fleming Jr claims.
Yahoo Movies UK has contacted Warner Bros for comment.
Akira is one of the most celebrated Japanese movies of all time and according to Variety, Waititi was already meeting with Japanese actors to potentially play the two lead roles of Shōtarō Kaneda and his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima.
Read more: What did Akira get right about 2019?
The film is set in a dystopian version of 2019, in the cyber-punk city of Neo-Tokyo, where a biker gang member is turned into a psychic psychopath by a secret military project that is endangering the world.
Only his friend and a group of psychics can stop him from decimating the city and everyone in it.
Many fans of the manga and anime in the West have criticised the idea of the film being white-washed and have urged for the film to cast people of Japanese or Asian descent to play the leads.
Past Hollywood adaptations have suffered because of a backlash to casting; Ghost in the Shell secured a disappointing box office return with Scarlett Johansson playing the Major while Netflix’s Death Note, which saw Nat Wolff playing Light, was critically-panned too.
Read more: Akira producer to make animated TV series
“While the studio originally delayed production to give him time to find the right talent,” writes Justin Kroll for Variety, “it now seems there may have been more creative disagreements over the project.”
It was claimed the film was meant to start production in July ready for a May 21, 2021, theatrical release, but now that the director has been confirmed his return to the MCU, Warner Bros has reportedly put it indefinitely on hold until he has finished Thor 4.
A live-action Akira has been in development since 2008 when the studio acquired the rights to the film in a seven-figure deal with publishers Kodansha.
Directors connected with the project have included Stephen Norrington, Ruairi Robinson, Allen and Albert Hughes, Jaume Collet-Serra, Justin Lin, George Miller and Jordan Peele though the latter two declined the offer to direct.
Over the years, James Robinson, Gary Whitta, Steve Kloves, Albert Torres, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby have all tried their hand at adapting Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel but Michael Golamco was chosen to co-write the latest draft with Waititi.
The live-action Akira waiting game continues.