'Cursed' Adaptation Of Iconic Cyberpunk Anime Once Led To Conflict With BMW

'Cursed' Adaptation Of Iconic Cyberpunk Anime Once Led To Conflict With BMW
Image credit: Toho/Streamline Pictures

Albert Hughes, who was once behind the live-action adaptation of Akira, revealed how the motorcycle design led to a heated argument with a BMW representative.


  • 1988's Akira was an event of unprecedented proportions, sparking interest in anime in the West
  • The live-action adaptation of the classic has been stuck in development hell for decades
  • Albert Hughes, one of the directors attached to the project at various points, recounted how he got into a conflict with BMW over concept art for the movie

The 1988 full-length anime Akira, based on the manga of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo (who also directed the anime adaptation), was undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in the Japanese branch of the cyberpunk genre and a landmark anime title in general.

Although Akira was only moderately successful in Japan, it completely blew Westerners away, sparking interest in anime abroad and making it popular all over the world.

Set in a dystopian neo-Tokyo of the alternate 2019, it followed two young members of a biker gang, Shōtarō Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima, as they stumble upon a top-secret government project that not only changes their lives, but also affects the entire city.

With an unprecedented level of production quality, along with a deep and mature story with philosophical undertones, Akira instantly captured the hearts of millions of fans, to the point that many references to it can be found in other works more than three decades after its release.

Bumpy Road of Akira Live-Action

As with many other iconic anime titles, the idea of making a live-action adaptation of Akira has been in the air almost since the release of the original, with Sony Pictures purchasing the rights to the manga in the 1990s.

As you can imagine, since no live-action Akira movie has been released since then, the project got stuck in development hell, undergoing several major changes, including multiple shifts in directors, and running into one problem after another.

'Cursed' Adaptation Of Iconic Cyberpunk Anime Once Led To Conflict With BMW - image 1

At one point, Albert Hughes, best known for 2010's post-apocalyptic neo-western The Book of Eli, was attached to direct the project, and during his recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, the filmmaker recalled one particular incident that happened while he was in charge of the film.

Given that motorcycles were a crucial part of the original, especially Kaneda's iconic red futuristic bike, designing them for a live-action version was a tough challenge, and the creators sought help from BMW.

The deal backfired spectacularly, however, according to Hughes, his conversation with BMW's chief concept designer in Munich ended in disaster.

Akira vs. BMW

'Cursed' Adaptation Of Iconic Cyberpunk Anime Once Led To Conflict With BMW - image 2

The unnamed designer stubbornly tried to "sell some other motorcycles that [had] nothing to do with the movie," despite the filmmaker's clear suggestion to create a design similar to the original, only with the BMW emblem on it.

As the debate became increasingly heated, the designer began to insult the concept art, which was the last straw for Hughes, who walked out and refused to continue negotiations.

Unfortunately, despite having a pretty clear vision for the film (and even wanting to include Gary Oldman in the cast), Hughes eventually left the project and now Taika Waititi is at the helm of the film.

Although Waititi is a quite talented filmmaker, it is hard to say whether he will succeed in adapting such a monumental creation, at least for now.

No release date has been announced for the live-action Akira, as work on it will only begin after the filmmaker is done with an untitled Star Wars movie, which also has no release date.

Source: Happy Sad Confused