class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-97595″ title=”Akira” src=”×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />Jaume Collet-Serra, director of this year’s well received Unknown, has signed on to direct the long-awaited remake of the 1980s Japanese manga, Akira, Variety report.

Akira, which has already been adapted as an anime back in 1988, is now to be transformed into a live-action film for Warner Bros., a project that’s been in development for almost two decades, and will be released in two parts.

It was announced last year that the remake was to be directed by Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli), but he left the project in May over creative differences, and now Warner Bros. have chosen Collet-Serra to helm the film instead.

Collet-Serra’s track record over the past few years has been successful, making his directorial debut in 2005 with the House of Wax remake, which made $70m. from a $40m. budget. His 2009 horror-thriller, Orphan, took almost $80m. at the box office, and Unknown this year took over $130m. from a $40m. budget. Clearly, he’s proven himself as a director capable of making solid films that give the viewers something they’ll enjoy and the studios a return on their investment.

Taking on a project like Akira, which has a fan-base that really needs considering if the film is to succeed, is quite a tall order; fans of the manga and the anime are no doubt sceptical of a live-action remake, especially one done by Hollywood, so Collet-Serra will have a lot to prove. But his films have done well so far, and with an estimated $90m. budget for Akira, here’s to hoping that he’ll be able to create something incredible.

Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) was the first writer attached to the project. Then Albert Torres and Iron Man’s writing team of Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby handed in drafts for the film. Steve Kloves, who’s written all but one of the Harry Potter films, has most recently added to Torres’ draft, so a lot of script work has been done already for the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran, who produced Collet-Serra’s Orphan, will be producing this remake for Warner Bros., along with Andrew Lazar (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), and Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote the original manga and directed and co-wrote the 1988 adaptation, will executive produce.

A lot of names have been passed around so far about casting for the film. DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were rumoured to be cast, and then Zac Effron and James Franco were. Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, and Robert Pattinson have all been rumoured, along with Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timberlake, and Joaquin Phoenix. Keanu Reeves was thought to have been offered one of the two leads back in May, but he turned it down.

As yet, no cast has been signed. There’s a debate among fans of the franchise about who Warner Bros. should be looking to cast in this remake. All of the names so far have noticeably not been of Asian descent, and George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes), for example, spoke to The Advocate earlier this year about how he hoped Warner Bros. would cast Asian-American actors for the project. As it stands, the script has relocated the original setting of Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan, and judging by the names that have been mentioned so far, there’s probably a good chance that when the roles are cast, they’ll be fairly recognisable faces to try and bring in an audience. Going for Asian-American or Asian actors in the film would likely mean casting unknowns for a lot of the roles, and Warner Bros. will probably feel that that is a risk they aren’t willing to take.

For now, fans can be glad that the project still seems to be moving ahead, and with a new director attached, we can likely expect more casting rumours to begin in the coming weeks and months, which is something to look forward to. If you were casting Akira, who would you pick?