‘Paper Towns” Nat Wolff to Star in Adam Wingard’s ‘Death Note’

Nat Wolff Spider-Man Paper Towns premiere
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

After breakout performances in adaptations of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” Nat Wolff is moving on to darker material.

Wolff is in final negotiations to star in Adam Wingard’s adaptation of “Death Note” for Warner Bros.

Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Jason Hoffs and Masi Oka are producing the project, which was previously adapted as a movie in its home country of Japan, where it spawned a sequel.

Wolff plays a student who discovers a supernatural notebook that allows him to kill anyone simply by writing the victim’s name. A cat-and-mouse game ensues when he’s tracked by a reclusive police officer.

Jeremy Slater (“Fantastic Four”) wrote the more recent draft of the script. Shane Black was previously attached to direct.

Doug Davison and Brian Witten are exec producing. Niija Kuykendall and Nik Mavinkurve are overseeing the film for the studio.

Production is set to begin next spring.

Wolff, who can currently be seen in “The Intern,” was also in the mix for the reboot of “Spider-Man” at Marvel and Sony, but sources reveal that he was considered too old for the role.

He also recently starred opposite Lily Tomlin in Sony Picture Classics’ “Grandma.” He is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.

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  1. Nat says:

    Great… and who’s gonna be Misa Amane? Kirsten Stewart?

    The actors may be any race they want, that’s beyond the point seeing as it is an adaptation but at least try to find actors who can play the characters well and be true to their personalities and their development… When all the audience already knows the story from begining to end and you remake it the only thing you have going for you is the actual performances!!

  2. Disappointed says:

    No. I don’t give two shits about the fact that he’s an American dude trying to play a Japanese character, it is an ‘American’ adaptation after all but the thing I am pissed about is; out of all the wonderful actors you guys have you had to pick the male Kristen Stewart! Light is such a complex character, I really doubt Nat Wolff can pull it off. He looks like a little boy!

  3. Mark says:

    Nate wolf as light yagami would ruin death note. Ashton Kutcher looks much more like light yagami, and would be able to represent the maturity that light brings in the anime

  4. K says:

    I hate American adaptions of Japanese anime, not because America can’t do it, it’s the fans. I love Death Note, but come on the only thing Japanese about Light is his last name and where he lives. I blame that on the fact that the creator were Japanese. I always use Black Butler as an example if there was a Black Butler American adaption would Ciel and Elizabeth be white or Japanese. They’d be white do to the fact the creator detailed the manga/ show so well. Ciel’s an Earl in London England with a British accent and blue eyes. But in this case Light looks white and maybe has Japanese family. White people move to Japan. He could just be biracial. If the creator wanted to draw Japanese looking characters they would, just as Yana drew lou Chinese.

    What I’m worried about is if he can bring Light to life. He went kind of psycho kind of fast, and balanced it well, but can he do that as well. That’s all I have worry about and bot race. I do fill like he’d play this like another John Green book, you know pretentious, even though I enjoy John he has pretentious characters.

    • pcsx says:

      Light does not look white. What Light really looks like is a generic Japanese anime character, many of whom have big eyes and colored hair. When juxtaposed against Western society’s narrow Japanese stereotype, people jump to the conclusion that the majority of anime characters are intended to be Caucasian. Until white people start growing pink/blue/green hair, this argument cannot possibly stand.

      Light’s last name is Yagami, neither of his parents look white, and there is no elaborate adoption story. Ohba/Obata clearly did not intend for him to be white or biracial, and therefore he should not be portrayed as such in any adaptation.

      Ciel’s last name is Phantomhive and his backstory is distinctly British. Yana clearly meant for Ciel (and Elizabeth) to be identified as white, therefore casting white actors in an American adaptation would be a reasonable decision.

      Somehow people seem to forget that manga and anime are art styles, and as such, artistic liberties are taken with the characters’ features. If a character needs to be as overt as Lau for you to be able to figure out his ethnicity, no character can really be interpreted as Japanese except those clothed exclusively in kimono. Conversely, if the Simpsons were adapted into live-action, would you cast anyone but a white woman to play Marge Simpson? And yet, her skin is yellow and she has blue hair.

      I can’t deny that an American budget can do great things for a movie, but I think in this case they should reconsider their casting or just shed the franchise so nobody associates it with the original. It really hurts when they take such celebrated creations from Asian culture and trivialize them, without any intent to do them justice. It hurts that Hollywood can take something I’m so proud of, that I grew up on, and tell me it needs to be changed because my ethnicity isn’t good enough to be visible, even in its own stories.

      • K says:

        I highly doubt if this is made they’d have problem. The only people complaining are American. Death Note is highly appreciated where it’s from. It has a live action show two live action movies and a musical. My thing is I couldn’t careless about race, the acting is more what I’m here for. Cause you can get the right looking people, but still have a terrible franchise.

  5. Tina says:

    Have they even watched death not? Cuz last time i checked the character is not white. Why they getting a white actor to play a Japanese character?

  6. kelly says:

    Is this a joke? What nightmare is this?

  7. Okay… only a white actor could audition to play Spider-Man, but Nat Wolff can audition to play a Japanese character and apparently, if the Asian actors who attempted to also audition for this part are to believed, saying they were turned away, were only white actors allowed to audition for this too.

    You hear a lot about pandering when non-white actors get cast to play traditionally white characters like Michael B Jordan in Fantastic Four, but how is it not pandering to cast white actors in this movie and why aren’t we seeing the backlash if folks were just concerned with fidelity to the source material and not motivated by racism.

    I wonder if discriminatory practices like this are part of why it’s been 50 years since an Asian actor has won and Oscar… and we thought two years was scandal.

    • Anna says:

      It’s because there is already a limited number of roles asian american actors can play in the first place. To have a white guy play Light Yagami just does not fit right. Plus, Natt Wolf does not have the face of Yagami either. I can see L being played by someone who is not Japanese as the writers themselves did claim he was not fully Japanese.
      This American adaptation is going to be a huge slap in the face for the creators of this franchise (Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata) and its an insult to this brilliantly crafted franchise. Besides, it would be quite unfortunate if people only remember death note by the American readaptation and not the manga/jdrama/anime/jmovie.

  8. jackie says:

    japanese or not, nat wolff is not the right person to play light. im upset…

  9. Erick says:

    Wow, I’m surprised that many people are already cynical before actually watching the movie.

    Not all US remake of Japanese manga or anime or novel or whatever it is are terrible.

    Take a look at “Edge of Tomorrow” movie starring Tom Cruise as the main character, which was adapted from Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill”. They changed all the Japanese character and their name from the novel into American in the movie adaptation. Eventually, the movie was success at the box office and get a really positive (90% RT) responses!

  10. It would be really great if they would stop making crappy American versions of movies from Japan that are already good. After seeing this casting for Light, I figure they’ll be giving Ryuk a black robe and a scythe to “Americanize” him. There’s also the issue of Misa…we don’t have idol culture in the US like Japan does. She’s not the best character to begin with, and it seems like the only option for this movie is to make her even worse.

  11. Arianne says:

    Some of these comments are so good to read, I’m just grinning here like the Cheshire cat .
    I would be more concern over how well He can bring Light to life, I want to see if he can make me like the character as well as have fear about him. Light is more than his nationality/race . I want be like holy shit, he’s a psychopath. I want to see who is playing who? next, It’s a adaptation and the story I feel is something that can work. I’m just worried about it because I’ve been burned by Hollywood with the last airbender movie and Dragon Ball Z movie in term of quality and story telling and translating the story to the big screen when it comes to bringing in fans and non fans alike to see this film

  12. Avery R says:

    why are white people being casted for japanese roles

  13. Look, the most essential thing here is to cast an actor that can play and take the complexity of Light’s character. An actor that does not only play one of Light’s sides, but all of them. Most of all, if the scrip can capture the important messages and story-lines of all the different characters, with the US as it’s location, It can turned at least into a decent movie. Truth is that adapting manga or anime to live action films will always be tricky, and most will fail. What can you add to the story, what can you change and finally deliver is never easy

  14. Shehryar Qazi says:

    WE GOT A MATSUDA!!!

  15. dauxzo says:

    For me, its not the “casting white actors” is the issue here. The issue is, for me, is getting the RIGHT actor to take on Light’s role. The way the dark side of Light was performed is more important. But indeed, the japanese culture also plays huge role on the story.

  16. ewwwwwwwwwwwww says:

    First ATLA, and now this? YUCK. Why can’t American directors cast correctly? Why is it so hard to have diversity in a movie? I can already tell the cast will suck and be inaccurate as heck. It is seriously not that hard to pick some Asian American actors and actresses.

  17. So, how’s he going to play a Japanese guy exactly?

  18. Eli says:

    Like a pretty great actress said, you can’t win prizes for roles that aren’t there. Are they seriously going to cast a white person as a Japanese boy with a Japanese name who lives in a Japanese society in Japan? So many Asian Americans in Hollywood already have difficulty landing non-stereotypical roles; why on earth do they have to change his race when there are so many Asian Americans out there who can do a perfectly good job with this character? In fact, only white people were asked to audition for this role; Asians were turned down at the door. I have nothing against this guy, but there is no reason to cast a white person for this role; are they looking for another epic fail that was the DBZ, Last Airbender, etc.. movies?

    • Nope says:

      Why can’t the death note drop in America and be picked up by an American? Death Note is not about the Japanese guys and the culture per se. It’s charm is the intricate mental battle between two geniuses – one believes that his justice is killing criminals as well as people who prevent him from doing such; the other is a young detective who believes that such is not justice but mass murder. It’s not the Asian American that truly smart fans look for in Light, but the ability to portray the genius and attitude. Stop the herd mentality. Shingeki no Kyojin live sucked more than DBZ

      • Nope says:

        No. The school grades thing is not the highlight and not even a prerequisite of a witty detective-culprit battle. Genius isn’t high grades in school – maybe to the manga fans, yes, but on a global scale, nope. In the first place, your culture need not to be Jap or Asian just to have hi value for grades. And I dont expect Light’s family to be typical American. He must be the ‘Outlier’, a reflection of or deviance from the creme-of-the-crop young global intellectual of today. The Japanese culture doesn’t have to play a big role, unless you’re just trying to entertain otakus & weaboos. These kids give much damn on whether the grim reaper who dropped the book is Japanese or not.

      • GCL says:

        Right. Might as well make a movie about the story of a black girl who struggles to succeed in Africa and then cast a white american girl for a movie about this. It’s not about race, C’mon! it’s about the struggle to succeed.

      • la la says:

        japanese culture plays a huge parts in terms of understanding the story and language used. not to mention that it is an adaptation, not an au. what point is there in changing the country and races? its not as is there arent places for white actors in death note. (ray penber, near, mello) but if any actor should be Japanese to it should be light. theres no good reason to change it. it isnt herd mentality. its not exactly a new thing for poc to be erased in media roles that should include them for racist reasons.

      • KEY says:

        Actually, DN is based on Japanese Culture. From the Shinigamis, that are as you know, one of the main components of the series, to the importance of the school grades (afterschool lessons, Light’s mom waiting for her son’s test results etc.). So yeah, Japanese culture and Japanese society plays a HUGE role in it.

  19. kun says:

    police officer excuse you

  20. Black Hart says:

    Expectedly much better than SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN LIVE ACTION. haha

  21. Galdor says:

    Wait wait wait wait, fantastic four script writer? We are massively fucked…

  22. Docthewho says:

    Nat’s a rising star for sure but I can’t see him as Light, he could maybe play the nice side to him but the more evil, sinister Light, not quite. I have Dylan O’Brien in mind. Overall this could be decent though.

  23. Juliette says:

    It would be really cool if actors could respect ethnic identities and decline roles that would take away from those narratives…especially because those stories are so lacking in Hollywood.

    • Black Hart says:

      There’s nothing too ethnically respectable in Death Note than that anime with “asians becoming extinct while white people restricted in walls” suddenly turned all Japanese. :P

    • UkiyaSeed says:

      Death Note is one of those anime titles that can easily translate well in Western media. Want an Asian Death Note adaptation? Watch the Japanese movies and the recent drama adaptation. Seriously, the new drama adaptation is freakin’ awesome and Light’s actor nailed the role from reluctant kid who had a killing notebook to a complete criminal mastermind.

      • Ella says:

        True, but the thing is, why go for a plain-looking white actor? This guy looks like the younger version of Adam Sandler. I would’ve rather seen a person of color play light, to be honest. All these white kids make me yawn. It’s becoming bland.

  24. This would make a better tv show than movie. The situations the characters were in make you think, and that is what was good about the anime/manga.

    There are a ton of animes out there that would make great American tv shows.

  25. Samuraigundam says:

    This guy doesn’t have that menacing, manipulator look essential to the character. They should’ve got someone like Zac Efron. Either way, if WB goes through with their original plan to make this a revenge thriller without Shinigami, then it’s just going to fail as hard as the live action Kite adaptation.

  26. Ayala says:

    I can’t believe how many people are bitching about the casting, it is an american adaptation, the film will not take place in Japan, Light isn’t even drawn very japanese (as every anime character) he’s drawn as an american white guy. Look, Nat Wolff it’s a servicable actor, they got the director from “You’re Next” so I have faith that Warner knows what they are doing

    • Ella says:

      I think the main issue is that he’s yet again WHITE. This would be a great opportunity for a person of color to take the role, and yet again, it goes to this plain, certainly not “one of a kind”-looking actor. It’s just frustrating. And having read the manga and seen the anime…Well, I don’t feel like he has the right looks and aura anyway to serve as a proper Light.

    • MW says:

      This is seriously the most ridiculous comment I’ve read. Like, seriously? Do you have anything back up your silly assertion?

      Light is a Japanese character, he IS drawn as a Japanese character because he was intended to be a Japanese character by both the author and the artist. Just because he doesn’t look like what you think a stereotypical Japanese person should look like, doesn’t mean he’s automatically drawn as an ‘american white guy’ o_O

      • Alex K says:

        Um for your information most Asians from Japan and that part of Asia in general tend to pride themselves in having paler skin because tan skin means you work in the fields as a farmer and are lower class. So it is not surprising that most anime characters are drawn/look “White”

    • Kyle says:

      Such an idiot’ AMERICAN ADAPTION’ oh yes like lets not get an Asian American actor to play an Asian character. LMFAO fcuk outta here….you’re just racist just admit it.

      • Ayala says:

        Seriously, don’t you know america adapts novels, series and books from different countries every time, Infernal Affairs turn into The Departed and I love both films. Swedish film “The girl with the dragon tatoo” was adapted by David Fincher. Just the previous year a japanese book “All you need is Kill” was adapted to Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow and it was awesome, nobody was bitching back then. This is not like Exodus: Gods and Kings case of casting everyone white in an Egypt tale, that is whitewashing. This is an everyday adaptation

  27. grass says:

    To everyone crying about a white person being cast: this is an AMERICAN adaptation. The manga has already been adapted into a Japanese live action film and a Japanese live action TV series, both of which I’m sure you can find on the internet.

    • KEY says:

      Yes, because American means white, huh. Not that there are any other ethnicities in the US.

    • mayu says:

      because it’s oh-so-difficult to find a japanese actor i mean wow they don’t even exist???
      no. this is racism and whitewashing.

      • joe C says:

        You’re a idiot. So how about all the characters in Attack on Titan who were different nationalities but were cast Asian because it was a Japanese film? Shut up with the white washing, they aren’t going to risk millions of dollars just to appeal to a few idiots like you who will still see the film but are shouting pc because you think it will make you sound mature.

  28. EL says:

    The live action tv series that recently finished in Japan was decent. Hopefully it’ll be good like that one.

  29. Linus Vitas says:

    I am pretty sure this movie will be as good as the US version of Dragonball…

  30. Cadeem Lalor says:

    Even if this is an American adaptation, Light can still be Asian-American. Hate how Hollywood still assumes that American= white. Don’t give me the marketability excuse either.

  31. Nicki says:

    I’m not defending this casting choice at all, especially if they want him to play Light, but I just wanted to point out that they don’t say ANYWHERE that he’s playing Light specifically, just “a student who discovers a supernatural notebook,” which is extremely vague. They could be trying to pass him off as Light or this could very well just be a retelling of the story that takes place in America where some random white American kid finds the Death Note. Just saying.

  32. Freddy says:

    Horrible casting choice!! Why the hell are they white washing the movie?

  33. eff that says:

    I can’t believe they’re gonna whitewash death note….

  34. Nope says:

    No no no no nooooo!!
    This does not fit at all, I would not go see this. Nothing personal to Nat or his acting, but this is not a good fit. I do not see him playing Light one bit. Not only is Light Yagami a Japanese character changed to white for some reason, but I do not see Nat playing a villian how Light it portrayed. If this is their choice for Light, I do not want to see L

  35. Lanie says:

    “Reclusive police officer”
    wow. If they can’t even get L’s job description right I highly doubt this will be an adaption worth watching.

  36. Elise says:

    So a white-washed Light was bad enough, but he doesn’t even look vaguely like Light. I’m highly sceptical on how well he will be able to portray all of Light’s personas. There’s a difference between acting a character and really embodying the character, and I fail to see how Nat Wolff will pull off Light Yagami. In fact, this movie will probably be a trainwreck of white-washing and bad writing. There’s not much action in the story, it’s mainly narrated, so the plotline will probably be changed to include several unnecessary car chases and explosions…
    I’m already cringing at the thought of Ryuk’s animation. None of the live adaptions have ever had decent shinigami, and I doubt this will be the first.
    I also have a terrible feeling they’re going to Westernize by dropping the Japanese forms of address. After the westernized travesty that was the Cardcaptor Sakura anime dub, it’s hard to trust American anime adaptions.
    And wow, I sure can’t wait to see how they take Misa, a character already victim to sexist writing, and give her a big dose of Hollywood misogyny. And she’ll be white too, of course.

  37. Marie says:

    Nooooooo!
    In order to be Yagami Light you need to be able to switch from calm, intelligent and charismatic to cynical and menacing.
    This Natt guy has only mastered the boring kid you ignored at school.

  38. Wake up call says:

    1. I don’t mind that Light gets white washed, it’s just going to be confusing how the story takes place in japan and America.. so is he going to go back and forth?
    2. Light is supposed to be smart and handsome and that’s how he can easily fool and manipulate people..They’re going to make him a nerdy underdog.
    3.The writer for this is awful. Death note highly relies on excellent writing because the action is minimal.
    4. This may turn out to be just like m night shyamalan’s avatar… shit. utter shit.
    5. why did they think this was a good idea????????????
    6. When things are excellent manga’s then excellent adaptation shows, DO NOT make an adaptation of an adaptation. or even fuck with something that has been perfect and peaceful for so long. … everyone was pleased it was wonderful.. it had some mystery left and it was successful till this day, but 8 years after the show ends and america is all confident about this? We have seen this time and time again, anime does not make good live action films. no one can properly take it and turn it into something just as wonderful.

    PLEASE STOP AND DO NOT MAKE THIS FILM. DO NOT. IF YOU DO, FIND BETTER WRITERS AND ACTORS. LEAVE IT TO SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING. YOUR CAREER AS A FILMMAKER WILL BE RUINED IF YOU FUCK THIS UP (WHICH YOU WILL BIASED ON YOUR ACTOR OF CHOICE). WE ARE ALL DONE WITH BAD ADAPTATIONS OF GOOD STORIES, FUCKING BE ORIGINAL.

    • Dissapointed says:

      Totally agree, the story is so great that a good writer and director should be able to make it a great film Even As an American adaptation. But that is not usually the case. The actor should be handsome and be able to pull a real dark side. Don’t think this actor is a good fit and that already ruins it.

  39. Braulio Trujillo says:

    What a terrible idea! Look at the anime! He doesn’t look like Light at all.

  40. Chelsea says:

    American movie? White actor playing an ethnically Japanese character? How am I not surprised. What a fuck up.

    • Sam says:

      Japanese films turn white people Japanese. What’s your point?

      • Arbor says:

        AoT=Not a hollywood film where the pick of actors who can speak Japanese well enough is as diverse as US
        Hollywood DN=Pick of actors who can speak fluent English is diverse enough that there can be at least an asian actor playing the main character

      • Marie says:

        I’m tired of hearing that stupid excuse. They are still Japanese.

  41. Courtney says:

    NO! MAKE HIS JAPANESE! Light is Japanese, and that actually holds a small piece in the story, with L and Lights rivalry in the beggining. Do not white wash light!

  42. James says:

    He’s supposed to play Yagami Light? He? Have they even watched Death Note before thinking of this horrific idea? I sure hope not because no. Just no.

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