Live-action tentpole gets the go-ahead

Warner Bros. has greenlit its live-action remake of the anime cult hit “Akira” for a late February/early March start, sources tell Variety.

In July, Warners tapped Spanish helmer Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown” ) to direct at a budget of $90 million, which was brought down from an initial figure of well over $100 million. Where the budget stands now isn’t clear, and Warner Bros. had no comment on the project.

With a greenlight in place, studio can begin shopping for the two male leads; sources tell Variety that “Tron: Legacy” star Garrett Hedlund is considered a front-runner. Both Warners and Collett-Sera have been keen on the thesp, but had to wait for a greenlight to make their move.

Though no offer’s been made, insiders say an offer could come soon.

“Akira,” long in development at the studio, has hit several speedbumps over the last several months, including Albert Hughes falling out as director. Collet-Serra was brought on quickly, but working out the budget took about two months, with studio and creative execs meeting last week before the decision was sealed over the weekend.

Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran are producing with Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar. It’s another big win for Appian Way, which just secrured “Cloverfield” director Matt Reeves to helm its “Twilight Zone” pic at Warners.

WB acquired the potential tentpole project for a seven-figure sum from Japanese manga publisher Kodansha in 2008. Set in New Manhattan, the cyberpunk sci-fi epic follows the leader of a biker gang who must save his friend, discovered with potentially destructive psychokinetic abilities, from government medical experiments.

Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote and directed the 1988 Japanese anime pic of the same name, will exec produce “Akira.”

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