Split was amicable, due to creative differences

A pair of tentpole-sized studio projects have lost their helmers, as David O. Russell exited “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune” over creative differences with Sony while Albert Hughes ankled Warner Bros.’ live-action remake of the Japanese manga epic “Akira.”

Though Russell was set to both write and direct “Uncharted,” Thursday’s departures would seem to be more of a blow to “Akira,” the bigscreen take on the 1988 animated cult classic considered extremely difficult to adapt.

Hughes had been attached for more than a year to “Akira,” which has been struggling to get an A-list male lead like Keanu Reeves, who was recently offered the role but passed. “Uncharted,” meanwhile, is based on the juggernaut PlayStation 3 videogame franchise that Sony is still eager to develop for the bigscreen.

Russell had seemed excited about the Columbia Pictures project, speaking frequently and enthusiastically about it as he made the rounds to promote “The Fighter” during awards season. But creative differences between him and Sony developed and the sides parted amicably, insiders say.

Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer penned the first draft of “Uncharted,” which Sony is still very high on, though the studio has already begun a search for another scribe. While there has never been talent formally attached to “Uncharted,” Russell had been looking to reteam with “The Fighter” star Mark Wahlberg; project was also rumored to co-star Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. But with a new writer and director coming aboard, producers Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Charles Roven and Alex Gartner will likely start from scratch.

As for “Akira,” Hughes and his brother, Allen, were set to produce, and there’s no indication that will change. Studio had recruited Steve Kloves, best known for adapting seven of the eight “Harry Potter” films for Warners, to polish the script in February, after WB acquired the rights three years ago from publisher Kodansha and set it up with Andrew Lazar’s Mad Chance with Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran.

“Akira” is set in a metropolis that was rebuilt after being destroyed decades earlier by a child with immense psychic powers. Otomo, who wrote and directed the popular 1988 Japanese anime adaptation, will exec produce WB’s “Akira.”

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