I think the first I ever heard of a live-action Akira film was on The Tonight Show, over fifteen years ago, with Jean-Claude Van Damme as the guest. Van Damme said it was one of his next projects, and it sounded wrong, so wrong. I have to assume JCVD was looking at the part of Colonel Shikishima and not one of the leads, but it also sounded like the mere fact that Van Damme was playing the Colonel insured the Colonel was going to be changed into a lead.
This is not a knock on JCVD, but thank heavens the project never happened -- the early 90's would not have produced the Akira film fans wanted. Akira is Katsuhiro Otomo's acclaimed comic series, set in a futuristic Tokyo, about a juvenile delinquent who is kidnapped by the government and forced into an experiment designed to kickstart the next level of human evolution. The 1988 animated adaptation is not a perfect version of the comic, but it's a deserved classic in its own right. Modern audiences would be better attuned to a live-action Akira now than they would've been in the early 90's, after the anime explosion from ten years ago and the influence of films like The Matrix Trilogy and comic book entertainment for adults like The Dark Knight.
It's been such a long road for the live-action Akira that even the announcement of the Hughes Brothers coming aboard to tackle the project as a two-parter hasn't stirred much interest. I think we've been hearing about a live-action Akira for so long, without it happening, that it just sounds like cloud talk from the producers.
Will it ever happen? And they can transplant the story from Japan to, say, Los Angeles and still make it work? Or will it end up looking like this video (probably not)?