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WB takes franchise turn with ‘Akira’

Studio to adapt graphic novel

Warner Bros. will turn anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s six-volume graphic novel “Akira” into two live-action feature films, the first of which is being fast tracked for release in summer 2009. Legendary will co-finance with WB.

Each feature will be based on three of the books in Otomo’s series. The story takes place in New Manhattan, a metropolis that was rebuilt after being destroyed 31 years earlier. Otomo will exec produce the films.

Graphic novel was first adapted for the bigscreen in 1988 as a popular animated film which Otomo directed.

Studio has closed a seven-figure rights acquisition deal with manga publisher Kodansha and has set Ruairi Robinson to direct a script by Gary Whitta (“Book of Eli”). Andrew Lazar’s Mad Chance will produce with Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson.

WB had the “Akira” rights several years ago only to let them lapse and then recapture them in a spirited bidding battle.

Robinson, an Irish helmer who has been Oscar nominated for his short film and commercials work, is making his feature debut.

The project was brought in by exec veep Greg Silverman, who has supervised “300” and “Batman Begins.”

Lazar is producer on the WB comedy “Get Smart,” and he’s about to start production on the Jim Carrey starrer “I Love You Phillip Morris” for EuropaCorp.

Appian Way is producing the John Cusack starrer “The Factory” for WB and Dark Castle.

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