Neon Genesis Evangelion (Live Action Movie Series)
The Neon Genesis Evangelion Live Action Movie Series is a prospective film project to make a live-action film series adaptation of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime.
ADV Films (Evangelion's North American distributor) first announced that they wanted to develop a live-action Evangelion movie project in May 2003 (ADV holds world-wide rights to Evangelion media outside of Asia and Australia).
As of late 2007, no work on the production has been started, and the project is currently in "development hell". However Weta Workshop, the special effects production company which won multiple Oscars for the making the special effects in the live-action Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, is keenly interested in working on developing a live-action Evangelion movie series. Currently, the first film is tentatively projected to be released any time up to as late as 2015. Gainax is also enthusiastic about producing live-action Evangelion films.
In a article published in December, 2005, Fortune Magazine stated that by that time ADV Films had raised "about half of the $100 million to $120 million" needed to produce the Neon Genesis Evangelion live-action movie, though its not clear if Gainax is helping to raise money for the project as well.
Production or even pre-production has not officially started, and a live-action Eva series as of late 2007 remains a prospective future project.
Richard Taylor, director of Weta Workshop, is a fan of Evangelion and is very interested in Weta's special effects production team working on a live-action Evangelion movie project. Weta Workshop's CGI effects branch, Weta Digital, was formed in 1993 to produce the effects for Peter Jackson's film "Heavenly Creatures", working with just one computer on that film, and it remained a relatively small SFX group. When Peter Jackson began work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, roughly 1997 through 2003, Weta Digital rapidly mushroomed in size, creating a top-level special effects production company capable of creating LOTR. Since November 2003, Weta Digital's supercomputers have been listed on every Top500 list of the fastest computers in the world (Weta sometimes appearing as many as 4 times on a single list). The problem was that Weta Workshop knew that Weta Digital would have to keep working on big-budget special-effects heavy films in order to sustain itself in the years after LOTR ended, and they began to look for a new large-scale theatrical project to produce. Even before the final Lord of the Rings installment was released in December 2003, there was actually serious discussion that the next major film project Weta could develop might be a live-action movie adaptation of Evangelion. However, before work could move forward on the project, the film rights to a remake of "King Kong" were freed up; making a Kong remake had been a pet project of Peter Jackson's for years, thus Weta's focus was shifted to the Kong remake which was released the following year. No sooner had work on Kong ended, then Weta became involved with offers to develop the new live-action film adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia as well as the live-action adaptation of the Halo video game series.
Still, Weta is very interested in making Evangelion as a future project. Weta has gone so far as to produce roughly 30 concept art images for the film in 2003, which invited further speculation.
The Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series actually aired in primetime on public access Australian TV channels (also available in New Zealand) starting in 1998, gaining such high ratings that it was run a second time. As a result, many members of New Zealand-based Weta Workshop production team are already fans of the series.
Tekkoshocon 2006 panel
On April 2006 at Tekkoshocon, ADV Films head Matt Greenfield and Tiffany Grant (English dub voice actor for Asuka) gave a lengthy discussion on the status of the live-action movie project at an Evangelion panel. All kinds of rumors and tidbits had been floating around the internet based on information Greenfield, Grant, etc. dropped at various interviews over the years, but this panel essentially consolidated all previous information and gave a fairly thorough update:
- Matt Greenfield said that Weta approached ADV Films about approaching Gainax to do a live action Eva movie (ADV didn't approach Weta, Weta came to them, ADV then asked Gainax about it and Gainax was enthusiastic).
- Three "A List" directors (unnamed) that are also fans of Evangelion approached ADV about the project, not the other way around.
- Greenfield talked about getting their pitch package together and that "the first thing is Robin Williams talking about Evangelion", who is apparently a big Evangelion fan: the appearance of the Mass Production Eva toy in his film "One Hour Photo" is entirely his doing.
- Celebrities have been inquiring directly to ADV about being involved in Live Action Evangelion.
- The director to be signed will most likely be the first to have room in their schedule.
- Greenfield acknowledged the uncertainty of the final product due to the nature of film making being driven by the director.
- The slug script was written by a well known writer who has written several well known sci-fi movies. The slug script will be re-written to fit the tastes and vision of the director selected.
- Greenfield acknowledged that the children will most likely be age appropriate. The kids will be picked and then the adults will be cast to work well with the children.
- Greenfield asserts that early casting rumors that put Daniel Radcliffe as Shinji and Emma Watson as Asuka were just that: totally unfounded internet rumors. Interestingly, it was revealed that Hideaki Anno felt that Emma Watson would actually have been his first pick to play Asuka, had she been 14 years old when production on the films began. However, by the time real planning had actually begun on the live-action Evangelion movies Watson and Radcliffe were already too old to fit the parts.
- Tiffany Grant asserted that Weta gets 20 times more email about Evangelion than Lord of the Rings.
- Greenfield said a director would most likely be signed by the end of 2006 (this ultimately didn't happen).
- Greenfield says they don't want to make it for profit, but because they want to do it, and they want to do it right, and do it justice in the same way that Lord of the Rings did.
- Greenfield asserted his desire for, and promised effort toward, a trilogy of Evangelion films (as opposed to trying to condense the story into one film and lose vast amounts of material). He compared this to how the Lord of the Rings films could only have fully told their story with a trilogy of films, and trying to make LOTR with only one or two films would have been unfeasible.
- Weta Workshop customer service manager Darren Reddiex stated "Currently this project hasn't been greenlit. We ourselves are very hopeful the project will go ahead as, given the opportunity, we'd love to continue working on it ourselves." when responding to a fan's email.
The storyline for the live-action Eva films is currently unknown, though it is meant to be an adaptation of the entire TV series. A key question is how many films will be made. For example, when the Lord of the Rings films were originally being produced by Miramax, Miramax only wanted to make two films. This resulted in massive cuts and alterations in the script which resulted in widespread fan derision when they leaked onto the internet, and which Peter Jackson actually shared. Miramax eventually lost faith in the LOTR production, and approached Jackson about making LOTR as only one film; at which point Jackson promptly said that that was simply impossible and the production was moved to New Line Cinema, which quickly offered to produce three separate movies (one for each book in the series). The heavily altered Miramax-version of the script was done away with, and a new scripting more in keeping with the source material was produced.
Matt Greenfield of ADV Films insisted that they were pushing for a "trilogy" of Evangelion films: if the first film is successful, sequels would follow the original storyline of the series and take on an orientation more suited to emphasize action and plot.
The Rebuild of Evangelion series of four animated Evangelion films which are a re-imagining of the original TV series might give insight into how the story of Evangelion might be adapted for cinema. Ultimately, they might try to make four live-action films as opposed to trying to force it into the trilogy-format. ADV films themselves have described the series as basically composed of four sections: the Introduction Arc (episodes 1 through 7), the Action Arc (episodes 8 through 13), the Descent Arc (up through the catastrophic fight with the Angel Zeruel in episode 19), and then the End arc. It is possible that the success of the seven-part Harry Potter movie series will convince movie studios to abandon trying to force Evangelion to fit into the trilogy-format. At this point, this all remains speculative.
Early rumors were that the first live-action film would adapt the story of the first six episodes of the series, climaxing with the battle against the Angel Ramiel, as this is a natural stopping point in the narrative and the end of the "Introduction" Arc (right before Asuka arrives). This became referred to as the "A-6 treatment" (A for "alpha" as it is the first movie, "6" for the first six episodes). This was somewhat controversial when it was thought that their might be only one Evangelion film produced, but as ADV insisted that they want to produce an entire trilogy (at least) of Eva films, it became generally accepted that A-6 or something along those lines would logically be covered by the first film. Indeed, the first film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series, "Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone", climaxes with the battle against Ramiel (which occurred in Episode 06 of the original series).
Almost no word has been given on what Angels might appear in the live-action films; if some will be cut out, or if entirely new Angels will be devised. The only clues we have are two concept-art drawings that Weta produced, one of Ramiel and one of Bardiel (which infects and takes over Eva Unit 03). However, these concept art images were produced long before ADV asserted that they wanted to make a full trilogy of movies, and coupled with the fact that they were simply produced many years ago, they are probably no longer a good indicator of what might be in the films.
It is unclear if Asuka would appear in the first live-action movie, if a series of movies are indeed produced. As Tiffany Grant has pointed out on several occasions when this is discussed, the narrative structure of the TV series is somewhat odd in that what is arguably the main female protagonist does not appear until Episode 08, almost a third of the way into the story. This has led to various speculation as to when the first movie might actually end; that Asuka is such an important character that the production team might want to end the first film not with the battle against Ramiel, but with Asuka's introductory battle against Gaghiel in Episode 08. Speculation has ranged from that the first film might end with a full introduction of Asuka in this fashion, or that it might end with Asuka briefly appearing on-screen in the last few minutes as a cliff-hanger leading into the next film, or that she might not appear at all in the first installment, etc. etc. While this has led to a great deal of speculation, we really don't have any answers this early into development. The concept art created by Weta did focus extensively on Asuka and Unit 02, but this may just have been because Asuka is a very popular character in the overall series, and these concept art images were produced years before pre-production was even considered.
Many wild casting rumors circulated over the internet when word came out that production of a live-action Evangelion movie series had been proposed. Wild speculation and "Dream Cast" lists were circulated around messageboards and even some anime news magazines. All of these were proven false. The Tekkoshocon 2006 panel firmly established that no casting will be even considered until a director has been selected.
A major issue which developed was what the ethnicity of the cast would be. In the earliest days after news of a prospective live-action film came out, in several interviews Tiffany Grant said that she thought the original Japanese as well as English dub cast would be given cameos in the films by ADV; this caused some criticism by opponents of ADV and in subsequent interviews Grant has stressed that as a voice actor she has no control in this whatsoever, though she would of course greatly appreciate it if she and other voice cast members were able to make small cameos in the films (i.e. anything from Grant playing Asuka's mother Kyoko to Grant just being a random store clerk that says "What are you, stupid?" to Shinji in response to a question, etc. etc.) However, Grant also mentioned that she thought that the cast would probably be all or mostly European actors. This sparked some online discussion, though it might have been just taken as Grant commenting on Hollywood's past history with casting mostly Caucasian actors in major film projects.
However, what fueled the debate was that not long after this discussion was sparked, Weta Workshop updated its website with concept art photos of several Eva characters, with Westernized slug-names substituted for the original Japanese ones: "Kate Rose" in lieu of "Asuka Langley Soryu", "Ray" for "Rei Ayanami", and "Susan Whitnall" for "Misato Katsuragi". "Slug-names" are basically "working title" names tentatively put in a script and almost certainly these weren't intended to be the final names used, but it was still surprising to many that they didn't simply use the pre-existing Japanese names for iconic characters Asuka and Misato, and taken by some as a sign that mostly Caucasian actors would be cast in the films.
This led to quite a bit of online debate about the racial casting political of Hollywood, however it was mostly eased when Weta updated its website in 2005 so that the Westernized slug-names were removed and the concept art for Asuka, Rei, and Misato now carries their original Japanese names. Concept art for future-city skylines was also clearly given the label "New Tokyo".
Ultimately, the Weta concept art names issue ended fairly amicably, but it did bring up a major question: would a major Hollywood studio support creating a major movie series with an almost entirely Asian cast, or will they try to cast Caucasian actors in the roles? Only Asuka, who is 3/4 German and appears to be Caucasian, would be cast with a Caucasian actress if the films were to be in line with the original series. The main male protagonist in the story, Shinji, is also Asian, and for that matter, if the films are adapted in similar fashion to the Rebuild of Evangelion animated movies, Asuka might not even appear in the first film, leaving the studio with the prospect of a major film in which none of the major characters are Caucasian.
Speculation on this abounds and we really won't know until casting begins. However, Richard Taylor himself, who has been an enthusiastic proponent for using Weta Workshop to produce the films, publicly stated his believe at the 2006 Pop Culture Expo in Brisbane that the film should have a mostly Asian cast, so that it will work effectively in the international market.
The current status of the live-action Evangelion movie series is "development hell", but it does have good prospects. ADV Films and Gainax both want to make the films, and the Oscar-winning special effects company which worked on the Lord of the Rings films is eager to produce the project. At the moment, everything is waiting on a director being announced for the film. Several directors are interested ("Three A-list director" according to ADV in April 2006), but it depends on whose schedule clears up first, as the live-action Eva films will be a major time investment. After the director is announced, pre-production work will begin (sets, concept art, etc. supplied by Weta), and the child-actors will be cast. The child-actors will have to be age-appropriate (14 years old) when filming starts, so they can't pick them until a director has been selected and they know when filming will begin. After the child-actors are cast, adult actors will be cast based on how well they work with the children. Then actual filming will start.
- Weta Workshop's project page for the live-action Eva films - just a gallery of the concept art they produced at this point.