It’s been more than a year since the announcement that anime director Makoto Shinkai’s "your name." is being remade as a Hollywood live-action movie, with JJ Abrams serving as producer and Eric Heisserer as screenwriter. Since then, however, there’s been no concrete news on the project’s status, which might have left some people wondering if it had died on the vine like so many would-be Western adaptations of anime that have come before.
But in a recent interview with website /Film’s Fred Topet, Heisserer reaffirmed that the Hollywood "your name." is still very much on, and even boldly asserted that Americanization of the story is something that’s going to happen in the transition.
While the bulk of the interview is devoted to the recently released Netflix thriller "Bird Box" (which Heisserer wrote), when he’s asked what else he’s working on, Heisserer says “I’m still working on the 'your name.' adaptation, the anime adaptation for [JJ Abram’s] 'Bad Robot' and Paramount.”
When asked if adapting the biggest Japanese animated hit in decades to American live-action is a challenge, Heisserer says that it is, but that it’s an “interesting” one, before going on to say: “You have to find the best iteration of that story based on the fact that the 'your name.' Japanese rights holders want an American live-action version of the film. They stated if they wanted a Japanese live-action version, they would just do it themselves. But they want to see it through the lens of a Western viewpoint.”
While there are always changes to be made when adapting a work of fiction from one format or primary target market to another, the anime-to-Western-live-action route has historically proven to be an extremely difficult one. Topet acknowledges this by questioning Heisserer whether or not the "your name." Japanese rights holders are feeling any unease radiating from the poor reception the live-action Hollywood version of "Ghost in the Shell" got from critics and audiences.
But Heisserer waves off the concern, saying: “Well, I think I was one of 20 or 30 people that pitched them a version of the adaptation. So they had a lot of choices. I can say that mine was not a 'Ghost in the Shell'-like version.”
Heisserer doesn’t go into any specifics about what distinguishes his planned adaptation for "your name." from the course taken by the live-action "Ghost in the Shell," but his claim that his vision was selected over dozens of alternatives is heartening, as is his straightforward declaration elsewhere in the interview of “I love that movie” in referring to the "your name." anime, since hiring a screenwriter without any affection for the source material is a surefire way for an adaptation to completely miss what made the original resonate with audiences.
The accepting attitude from the Japanese side towards Americanizing the story also meshes with Shinkai’s own stance, as he himself has said he’s “not really that interested” in the Hollywood "your name." and has already moved on to his next theatrical anime project, "Tenki no Ko" (Weathering with You). And considering how steeped in Shinkai’s personal style and emotional cues the "your name." anime is, without his involvement the live-action version desperately needs to find a voice and tone. That’s something that most likely necessitates changes to the original, and if the live-action "your name." has an American screenwriter, a decision to make it feel more American isn’t surprising.
That said, the original anime’s creators/producers giving their blessing for a live-action adaptation to do its own thing doesn’t guarantee that the results will be received well, as both of the live-action "Attack on Titan" movies were critical and box office failures despite getting the nod of approval from the franchise’s creator. In any case, though, it looks like it’s going to be a bit of a wait until audiences can pass judgement on whether the Hollywood "your name." Western viewpoint and style works for them or not, since Heisserer says in the interview that his next immediate project is "Bloodshot," which is projected to hit theaters in February of 2020, and that “I don’t know if anything’s going to sneak in before then.”
Sources: /Film via Anime News Network/Karen Ressler
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