Gary Oldman Turns Down Akira, Ken Watanabe Offered Role Instead

We've argued from the beginning that the cast of the upcoming Akira remake should be all Asian, but, sadly, it looks like Warner Bros. doesn't feel the same way. Since the project was reinvigorated with Jaume Collet-Serra replacing Allen And Albert Hughes at the helm, the only names mentioned during casting have been white actors like Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter and Ezra Miller. But will the entire crew become whitewashed? Not if the most recent rumor actually comes to pass.

According to Twitch, Gary Oldman has officially turned down the part of The Colonel in the Akira remake and now his Batman Begins co-star Ken Watanabe has been offered the role. Even before Oldman was rumored, there was talks of Morgan Freeman playing the role, though that was under the old regime. As the site points out, there are only two American projects that Wantanabe has done that haven't been under the Warner Bros. label, making the role an good fit. In the plot, The Colonel is the director of the secret government project that is holding Tetsuo, a powerful and potential dangerous psychic, in captivity. The story will be set in a futuristic New York City instead of Neo Tokyo and it's expected that the character's names will be changed.

Watanabe makes a lot of sense to play the role, but it's terrible that the choice is obviously for the wrong reasons. Thanks to his parts in Inception, Batman Begins and The Last Samurai, the actor is probably the most recognized Japanese thespian in America, and therefore a perfect way for WB to say that the entire movie isn't being whitewashed. Politics aside, what do you think of Ken Watanabe playing The Colonel?

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.