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UPDATE: DiCaprio to Topline ‘Akira’, Director Confirmed!

UPDATE: AICN adds that Joseph Gordon Levitt (Brick) will play Tetsuo! It was confirmed this afternoon our breaking news from last October (!) that Ruairi Robinson will direct the live-action adaptation of Akira for Warner Bros. Pictures. THR added a little something extra… Leonardo DiCaprio has been tapped to star in what will be a two-part epic! Read on for the entire story.
The anime classic “Akira” is getting the live-action big screen treatment courtesy of Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Bros.

Ruairi Robinson has been hired to direct what would ideally be a two-part epic. Gary Whitta is writing the adaptation, which DiCaprio will produce via his Appian Way shingle. Andrew Lazar is also producing via his Mad Chance shingle. Jennifer Davisson, who heads up Appian, will also be involved in some producorial capacity.

“Akira” originated in 1988 as a manga and then as an animated film co-written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story was set in a neon-lit futuristic post-nuclear war “New Tokyo” in 2019 where a teen biker gang member is subjected to a government experiment which unleashes his latent powers. The gang’s leader must find a way to stop the ensuing swathe of destruction.

With its mature themes and cutting-edge animation, “Akira” was a milestone movie in anime and even animation circles, and led the way for anime making inroads into Western pop culture in the 1990s.

“Akira” has long been in development at the company, with producers Jon Peters and Basil Iwanyk involved at various times, as well as directors Stephen Norrington and Pitof. The rights lapsed but Warner managed to re-scoop them again for Robinson, who came to the studio with a vision of a two-part adaptation.

The new story moves the action to “New Manhattan,” a city rebuilt by Japanese money.

The studio is eyeing a summer 2009 release for the first movie.

Greg Silverman is overseeing for Warners.

Whitta, repped by UTA and Circle of Confusion, wrote “The Book of Eli,” which the Hughes Brothers are directing for Warners and Silver Pictures.

“Akira” would mark the feature directorial debut for Robinson who was nominated for a best animated short Oscar in 2001 for a sci-fi comedy called “Fifty Percent Grey.” He also wrote and directed a sci-fi short titled “The Silent City” (watch it at BDTV), Robinson is repped by CAA and 3 Arts Entertainment.