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Would-be Tetsuo actor Toby Kebbell explains where the live-action “Akira” movie went wrong

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Plans have been put on hold for a live-action film based on “Akira,” the celebrated manga and animated film by Katsuhiro Otomo, but that hasn’t stopped details of the stalled project from finding their way online.

After some early concept art for the film hit the ‘net last week, we now have even more details about the project, thanks to “Wrath of the Titans” actor Toby Kebbell.

Back in November, the British actor was named as one of the leading candidates to play Tetsuo, a teenager who’s abducted by the government after developing powerful psychic abilities. During the press junket for “Wrath of Titans” — in which he plays the demigod Agenor — Kebbell shed a little more light on what the role would’ve entailed, the concerns he had about playing Tetsuo, and where he thinks the project went awry.

“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.”

The studio’s response, according to Kebbell, was not exactly encouraging.

“They were like, ‘Welllll…'” he shrugged. “So I told them, ‘Then this is a remake [of the animated movie], and I don’t want to do a live-action remake of the cartoon, because [the cartoon] is perfect and you’re not going to do it dark enough — so therefore, I don’t want to do it.”

Still, Kebbell said the potential of an “Akira” movie was hard to ignore, and his feelings about the studio’s plans for the film were borne out of his appreciation for the source material. For Kebbell, the relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda, the gang leader who takes Tetsuo under his wing and treats him like a younger brother, is the most important theme of the story and the element that’s most vital to preserve in any adaptation.

“I was desperate to play Tetsuo, but Tetsuo in the comic and annual form,” he explained. “He’s brilliant in the anime, but if you know anything about the comics, they cut so much of the story out. You care about him, because it’s brilliantly done, but you don’t really care about Kaneda, who isn’t.”

“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.”

“Wrath of the Titans” hits theaters March 30, and stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, and Toby Kebbell. Keep an eye on IFC.com for more from the “Wrath of the Titans” press junket.

What’s your take on the live-action “Akira” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

Exclusive: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” director weighs in on alien uproar and Michael Bay’s comments

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Everyone’s favorite heroes in a half-shell have been all over the news lately, thanks to a comment from Michael Bay indicating that the stars of the upcoming, live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie would be aliens instead of reptiles mutated by radioactive ooze.

The online uproar prompted Bay himself to tell TMNT fans to “take a breath and chill” after the online dialogue got hotter than Raphael’s temper in no time at all.

Offering yet another perspective on the controversy is “Wrath of the Titans” director Jonathan Liebesman, who will be the man behind the camera when the rebooted “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” begins filming. During today’s press junket for “Wrath of the Titans,” Liebesman reassured TMNT fans that the film will remain faithful to Leonardo, Donatello, and the rest of the Turtles — due in no small part to the involvement of TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman.

“I thought it was incredible to see how passionate the fans are,” he told IFC of his thoughts on the TMNT madness gripping the Internet. “To me, that is awesome — to be working on something where there’s so much passion. I missed a lot of it, because I’ve been stuck in a room with Kevin Eastman, the guy who drew the very first Turtle.”

“We’re sort of working away at the story and the mythology with the writers, Andre [Nemec] and Josh [Appelbaum], and all I can say is that if you’re a fan of the Turtles, you’re going to love what we’re coming up with,” he said. “A lot of the stuff comes from ideas Kevin has had that he never had a chance to do in the way that we’re going to be able to do things, because Paramount is allowing us a great budget and stuff like that.”

While he couldn’t go into details about what Bay’s comment meant for the Turtles and how their origin story will play into the film, Liebesman reiterated that everything will be tied into the original mythology of the TMNT universe.

“It’s not fair to just take some comments out of context and go crazy, but I totally understand and really appreciate the passion, and I can’t wait for those exact people to see what we’re doing,” he said. “Because the stuff I see that Kevin’s coming up with, the ideas… As someone who grew up with the Turtles and loved them, I think it’s awesome.”

Liebesman also emphasized the part Eastman is playing in the film’s development, and why it’s not just an advisory role for the Turtles’ co-creator.

“What was important to me was to ask, ‘Kevin, when you created these characters and did these things, why did you make these decisions?'” he explained. “So any expansion on that universe comes from that exact same place. I don’t want to put anything in the movie that’s not coming from the exact same sentiment that created the Turtles or created any mythology around them. That is why anything we do is going to tie back into the mythology people love. It’s all coming from that same place.”

So there you have it, TMNT fans, straight from the director of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot himself.

Keep an eye on IFC.com for more from the “Wrath of the Titans” press junket, including a preview of what you can expect to see when Perseus returns to the big screen and takes on the massive Titans and a host of other nasty creatures from Greek mythology.

Do Liebesman’s comments make you feel any different about the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

“Akira” live-action concept art emerges

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Ah, the “Akira” movie that might have been. The project has been put on hold for the time being, which means we probably won’t be hearing about it starting back up again any time soon. Warner Bros deemed the film too costly and had some concerns over the script, which are some pretty big hurdles to conquer overnight.

In the meantime, io9 got their hands on some unused storyboards from the film that show what it could have looked like. These images are actually from director Ruairi Robinson’s attempt to bring “Akira” to the big screen several years ago, and the sketches come from “Gladiator” concept artist Sylvain Despretz.

These images certainly look a bit more American than the “Akira” we know and love. There’s no way of knowing whether the Jaume Collet-Serra version of the film would look anything like this, but hopefully his version of Kaneda won’t be quite as blonde.

Collet-Serra’s take on “Akira” was supposed to star Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Ken Watanabe and Helena Bonham Carter. The script needs to be ironed out and budget reduced to about $60 or 70 million before Warner Bros is willing to restart the project, the studio said.

What do you think of this concept art for “Akira”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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