After Legendary Pictures departed as a co-financier on the project, Warner Bros attempted to hook a recognizable leading man in order to lure in a new financial partner. Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and James Franco have all reportedly passed on Akira, which is being directed by Albert Hughes. Steve Kloves, the writer responsible for adapting all but one of the films in the Harry Potter franchise, was brought aboard to polish the screenplay back in February. Previous drafts were handled by Hank Ostby and Mark Fergus, as well as Gary Whitta.
Joblo broke the story on Reeves' moving along. They also report that, unable to find a new co-financier or profitable leading man, the studio is taking another look at the science fiction adaptation with a budget pegged at somewhere in the range of $200 million. In the same article, Joblo drops the news that last week, the Akira pre-visualization department was shut down and most of the pre-production staff was let go. Still, that doesn't mean that this move is a direct result of Reeves' passing, or that it means Akira is dead.
Of this apparently ominous sign, Warner Bros officially says,
"Production on ‘Akira’ has not halted or been shut down, as the film has not yet been greenlit and is still very much in the development stage. The exploratory process is crucial to a project of this magnitude, and we will continue to sculpt our approach to making the best possible film."
It seems likely that the studio still considers the project a priority, but they're looking to stop spending money on development for the time being, while they try to sort out essential ingredients.
The live-action Akira would move the action from Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan, and age up the two leading characters, Kaneda and Tetsuo, who were teenagers in Otomo's original. This, in addition to the attempted casting of white actors, has upset a lot of fans, who are no doubt pleased with the public stumbles on Akira, and hoping that the film never materializes.