Mark Fergus And Hawk Ostby are the men behind the first draft of the Akira screenplay and they’re in the news a bit now because of their work on this summers release of Cowboys & Aliens. The folks at Ain’t It Cool News have a lengthy, lengthy interview with the two men about what they’re working on and the various movies, but there’s also a good chunk devoted to the Akira script as well.
Nordling: Right. Now you two have other projects coming in the works and I don’t want to get too into detail about it, because you will want to keep it close to the vest, but when you are working with established properties like COWBOYS AND ALIENS or IRON MAN… I believe you were on AKIRA the past year, is that right?
Nordling: Now I know AKIRA has got a really fierce fan base. How much…
MF: (Laughs) Oh yeah…
Nordling: I remember when I first saw the original film and I was just blown away by it. There is obviously things that you want to keep and then there are things that you want to make your own, how much… and again I don’t want you to go too much into, because I know you really can’t, but how much of AKIRA do you feel like, “Well I think we actually gave this something new that hasn’t been done before, or something new to think about when you are watching this?”
MF: I honestly think that…
HO: Absolutely, that original is astounding. So many movies and stories have borrowed from that that a lot of it, you just really couldn’t fit in in and the sensibilities were so different to try and make it into a sort of western movie with broad appeal etc… You know, especially on that one, the fans too are so passionate, and you don’t often read about people who really want to see that movie or certainly we didn’t in our remake of that movie, so it was very daunting, but I think we would almost say that it was a closer re-imagination when we were on that. Wouldn’t you say that Mark?
MF: I think AKIRA, the thing we said when we were given the project from the creator who wrote the books, who directed the film, Otomo, had basically given his blessing to – “The original… don’t treat it like a holy text, treat it like a spring board for re-imagination of AKIRA.” And we approached it the same way we do with all existing material, whether or not they are iconic like that or not, which is the same of CHILDREN OF MEN, which was kind of an obscure book that had very little sort of cinematic potential. We said “Okay, we can’t tell the book as it is” and we would look at BLADE RUNNER, which was one of our favorites from the book to the film, and the challenge is, I think the soul of BLADE RUNNER the film, and the source book are exactly the same, and I think Phillip K. Dick even said that himself when he was still alive he had seen some of the film and that’s the goal. The heart and soul of it should feel exactly the same, the execution though… “Why remake AKIRA? It’s already like an animated masterpiece, why remake that film?” What you do is you take the spirit of it and you take it somewhere new so that you kind of re-imagine and re-celebrate the greatness of it through a new sort of lens, and that was always the idea was to not try to just make a live-action version of the anime, because…
[The phone cut out.]
MF: But were we on AKIRA? Is that where we left?
Nordling: Yeah, so I was saying it’s a very strong fan base and how you were trying to make it your own… If you have already said it, I will go back and hear it.
MF: Just to recap for you, but we see the passion of the fan base, but the author of the books and the director of the film, really the creative genius behind it really passed us when we started it of using it as a springboard to a new vision of AKIRA, with the same heart, the same soul, the same intention, but you can tell that story in many ways. And we always look at BLADE RUNNER and any of these re-imaginations of great material as an inspiration to how to honor the fiber of the original material, but you don’t have to execute it the same way. You don’t have to stick exactly to it like it’s a holy text. So that’s how we approached AKIRA. We loved working on it. We loved doing it and that is just a mountain to climb still. That movie still has its challenges in getting made.
Nordling: It’s just so huge in scale. In a way it’s almost like animation was perfect for it, because you can practically do whatever you want, but when you are going to ground it in reality, it’s going to be hard.
MF: Yeah, you know what I think? I think with all of the elements, I think the director has moved on as well, but when that thing comes together in the right alchemy and the right elements or whatever, I’m telling you people will doubt it, they will sneer at it maybe, but when the right director, and the right elements come together and that thing happens one of these days and we can talk about it then, people are going to be blown away.
Nordling: I think it’s too big not to happen you know?
MF: I think people are going to be so blown away, and they will see it as another chapter of AKIRA, not trying to replace the original, or compare itself to the original, but it will become another chapter in the story of that great material. It will become another sort of manifestation of it, and it will be unbelievably cool, and people I think will look back and say “Okay, we hated you for making it,” but they will be pretty damn psyched that it got made I believe at the end of the day. So you can throw that quote back in my face dow the road if I’m wrong.
Nordling: I think that along with every product of something like that is going to have people saying what they are going to say about it and you know it’s up to the people who make it, like, “Well I’m going to prove something to you,” which makes it like a challenge you know?
MF: Exactly and this one will not disappoint, because the material is just so awesome and the ways of bringing it to life might seem a little radical at first, when you feel the same emotions of the original AKIRA you are going to… you are just on a different ride, but it’s the same heart and soul, and I think it’s really going to be an awesome experience one of these days when that thing coalesces, because it’s such a huge project to pull off, so it’s no mystery why it’s taking so long, it’s just that it’s a tough one to put all of the pieces together.
Nordling: Yeah, like I said, it’s too big not to happen.
MF: I hope so, but we know that Steve Kloves had done a re-write on our draft, which we haven’t seen, but I mean what an awesome writer to have come in and kind of take it to the next level, and so we are dying to see it now too, because it’s evolved from our involvement it’s evolved on from there, so we are actually kind of excited to see where he took it. Anyhow we are big fans, and we hope it all comes into being one of these days, because I think it’s going to be something to behold.