'Akira' Loses Gary Oldman, Offers Role To Ken Watanabe

Ken Watanabe

It seems like Gary Oldman made the right decision when he hemmed and hawed after we asked about his potential role in "Akira," because now a new report states that he has turned down the part.

"The Dark Knight Rises" actor had told MTV that he was "open at the moment" to the part of the Colonel in the upcoming adaptation, but Twitch reports that he has since passed on the opportunity. In his stead, fellow "Batman Begins" actor Ken Watanabe is being approached for the role.

It's an interesting move to approach Watanabe for the role because the rest of the potential cast -- Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham-Carter and a whole slew of actors testing for Tetsuo -- are all of Caucasian origin. The "white-washing" of the "Akira" cast has been a major bone of contention amongst longtime fans of the property.

"Akira" is a 1988 anime created by Katsuhiro Otomo whose dystopian and cyberpunk sci-fi elements reflect the concerns in Japan at the time it was released. Many fans of the original have rebelled against the white-washed casting, and even "Star Trek" star George Takei came out in an interview and compared the decision to M. Night Shyamalan casting all-white actors in his "The Last Airbender" film.

"I’m surprised Warner Bros. is not keeping up with the audience. 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," he told The Advocate. "If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians."

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