If Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Last Airbender have taught us anything, it's that movie-goers value diversity in casting more than ever. People want movies that accurately represent different and diverse cultures, not just big-name actors. Creating a believable world is paramount in films, and viewers want the casting to reflect that, plain and simple.
The Akira adaptation has been a source of similar frustrations for a long time. The original manga and its anime adaptation were stories that are inherently based on Japanese culture - however, when rumors began to surface that Hollywood studios would likely be 'Americanizing' the script, fans were obviously upset.
Now, with Exodus: Gods and Kings receiving flak from every direction due to its casting choices, legendary actor and social media mogul George Takei reached out via Advocate to dissuade white-washing the Akira cast:
"The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country...It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it's the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they're going to do that, why don't they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans."
The quote is in response to the latest casting rumors surrounding the film, which names actors such as Andrew Garfield, Robert Pattinson and Justin Timberlake as contenders for the main roles. Obviously, it's not the most ethnically diverse group.
"The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan...He cast [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it's an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it."
Takei's got a point: while there were plenty of other problems with The Last Airbender, its casting was one of the biggest issues fans had with the film. Like Akira, The Last Airbender is a story that's inherently diverse; trying to cast all-white big-name actors wasn't doing the world or lore the justice it deserved.
Despite sitting in development hell for several years, it seems that Akira isn't dead quite yet. Fans can still hope for a miracle, though: with any and all of Exodus' momentum effectively halted by an outcry for diversity in film, maybe Warner Bros. will listen to the fans and finally give movie-goers an appropriately diverse cast.