Well it’s happening again. The rumor mill has run through another rumor regarding the live-action Akira film and how, supposedly, Zac Efron will play Kaneda. While many may have strong feelings one way or another about Efron personally, let me just say, totally aside from Efron’s own merits or lack thereof, why this amuses me so much.
Essentially it comes down to one thing. Hollywood seems to want to put Zac Efron in every anime live-action ever! Let me give you some history why though, because I think it’s actually easily traced. Essentially back in 2009 stated in an interview while on a tour of Japan that he likes manga. Presumably after spending a lot of time with Efron on set studio execs. and other Hollywood types knew this too because right around that same time legitimate news of Efron potentially being cast as Sousuke Sagara for a live-action Full Metal Panic came to light. Efron himself disavowed the likelihood of the film developing however, although he did say he had a meeting about the idea. Now at this point one might see Efron’s affinity for manga as a coincidental factor in the decision to perhaps have him play Sosuke.
This line of thinking seems much less likely though when you consider that just a few months later in late 2009 Efron in an interview stated he also had gone to meetings for Death Note live-action. Efron has specifically stated before, as he does in this interview, that he loves Death Note. The presumption is that if the film adaptation is made with Efron he would play Light. When this came out my senses were strongly telling me that Hollywood is primarily picking Efron because he likes manga.
The latest rumor, which at this point I believe is still just a rumor, is that Efron would possibly play Kaneda in a live-action adaptation of Akira. Even before any of these movies are made Efron already seems to be tightcasted as the guy who will play all male leads in anime adaptations. Is an interest in manga solely the reason Efron keeps getting the call for these parts? Thinking about it some more, and after much time has past since the original FMP and Death Note stories came out, I’m realizing maybe it’s a little more, if only slightly, complex.
Efron is a young, male actor who is still, I presume, quite popular in some circles. More then that he is approximately the age of many anime male lead characters, and if he’s older than them he can still play off as being youthful looking. Likewise Efron’s interest in manga is a somewhat logical reason for why he is getting at least suggested for so many adaptations. Knowing that an actor appreciates the source material should mean they’ll want to work that much harder to make it right, and I think this is a reasonable assumption. My primary worry, again excluding any merits or criticisms about Efron’s acting, is that Hollywood should be able to deliver these compelling stories to many actors. Unless Efron is being upgraded to producer or script writer I think his role should stay strictly as an actor, and many actors, even though who have never heard of manga, will at least give their all for a role and do great with a great script and strong direction.
So next time Hollywood I see a news article about Zac Efron possibly being a lead role in some manga/anime adaptation I won’t be surprised in the least. Instead I’ll probably just chuckle and imagine the scene where some studio exec says “Doesn’t Efron like manga? Let’s call him up.”