With Ghost in the Shell preparing to start shooting in New Zealand next year, now is a good time for anime live action adaptations. There are several adaptation scripts that have been bouncing around Hollywood for years: Akira is one that's often talked about, as well as the immensely popular Cowboy Bebop. If Ghost In The Shell is successful, we might actually see these films get made, but how close are they to production right now?
First, Some Backstory
Fusing scifi with samurai and Western influences, Cowboy Bebop is an iconic anime with an amazing jazz soundtrack. It's probably the coolest thing you'll ever watch.
With its fusion of genres, epic fight scenes, and stunning animation, Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime shows to be shown on American television and around the world. It's another anime that works well as an introduction to the medium. The plot follows ex-hitman Spike Spiegel as he and his ex-cop partner Jet Black try and make a living in a tough solar system. Along the way they pick up amnesiac conwoman Faye Valentine and the excitable hacker prodigy Radical Ed... oh, and a genetically engineered corgi.
Bebop really broke new ground, blending existentialism and poignant plots with exciting action sequences. And I really can't rave about the soundtrack enough - check out the opening number!
With the show's popularity, it's no surprise that there have been rumblings of a live action adaptation for years now. So how close to production is it?
The Road So Far
Way back in 2008, it was reported that 20th Century Fox had a script and were planning to develop Cowboy Bebop into a live action movie. Anime creator Shinichiro Watanabe was on board with the adaptation, and was named as executive producer along with some other writers from the original show. The script for the movie was being penned by Peter Craig, a relatively unknown writer who also wrote Top Gun 2. There was no director attached to the project, but the studio was apparently enthusiastic to pursue this. They were planning to release the film in 2011. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Fox did, however, manage to sign Keanu Reeves to star as the protagonist, Spike. Reeves revealed some details about the project to MTV, and it seems that they'd planned to deviate somewhat from the show's storyline...
"We’re taking the Red Eye story, the beginning part of the series, and then we’ll deal with the end of the series. We’re trying to figure out the time frame. We’re looking at the story right now."
Considering much of Cowboy Bebop's plot focused on Spike's life after his assassin backstory, this movie could be considered a prequel. But Reeves did suggest that they'd be incorporating the rest of the plot too.
"We’re trying to figure out what pieces to put together to tell one story. Because [the show is] such a short form, to make a 2 hour version will be tough. And it’s got so much of an origin-story obligation; you’ve got to get people up to speed, but you don’t want to do much of that. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, but we think we can do something good."
But that was then and this is now, and the project still hasn't got off the ground...
Stuck In Production Hell
So that was the last we heard of the Cowboy Bebop film for a few years. They missed their 2011 release date aim, and in 2013 Keanu Reeves commented on the project during a Reddit AMA.
"Cowboy Bebop does not look like it is going to happen with me in it. The script that was written was great and amazing, but it would cost like half a billion dollars to make it, and while I wished and hoped I would have done that project, we are working on trying to get Bill & Ted 3. There's a script and we are trying to put it together."
(Let me just recover from the idea of a Bill & Ted 3. Ok. I'm good.)
A year later, anime creator Watanabe was asked about the project during London's MCM Convention.
"I'm afraid I don't know what they're thinking in Hollywood. Apparently the project hasn't come to a stop but I don't know how it's going to progress from here on. I hear that there are a lot of 'Hollywood' problems."
And that's about all we know. It's possible that if Ghost In The Shell does well, this will open the floodgates for all the anime live action adaptations that have been stuck in a similar situation to actually get made. For the time being however, it looks like the Cowboy Bebop movie isn't going to get made any time soon.