8 Years Later, a Highly Anticipated Action Movie is Finally Moving Forward

A live-action Naruto film was announced in 2015. We just got an update.

Naruto (2002—2007)
Studio Pierrot

If there’s one Hollywood studio with a lock on the page-to-screen pipeline, it might just be Lionsgate. It’s behind some of the biggest adaptations in history, running the gamut from massive triumphs like The Hunger Games to forgotten duds like I, Frankenstein. It even managed to score the rights to one of the most prolific properties in anime history, Naruto, but getting a live-action adaptation off the ground will be easier said than done.

Naruto is one of the biggest manga-turned-anime ever. It’s also one of the longest-running: the 72-volume manga ran from 1997 to 2014 in Weekly Shōnen Jump, which was almost concurrent with its anime adaptation. That gives Lionsgate a whole lot of material to pick through, and some massive shoes to fill, so it should be no surprise to learn that their Naruto adaptation has been in development purgatory since 2015.

It’s been eight years since Lionsgate announced its plans to adapt Naruto into a feature film. The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey was once set to helm the project, while Red screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber were penning the script. That was back in 2016, and there’s been very little word since. Fans took that silence as a funeral toll for the project, and given Hollywood’s dubious record of adapting anime and manga, it didn’t seem like a huge loss. But after eight long years in development, Lionsgate is moving forward with Naruto after all.

Lionsgate’s Naruto adaptation is far from getting the green light, but a new script is in development.

Studio Pierrot

The latest Naruto update comes from Variety’s list of screenwriters to watch in 2023. The trade profiled Tasha Huo, an up-and-coming screenwriter behind the sword and sorcery film Red Sonja, and Netflix’s Tomb Raider anime. Huo’s next project is a new script for Lionsgate’s Naruto. There’s no word yet on whether Gracey is still attached to direct, but the studio seems to be taking its adaptation in a fresh direction, so it could be searching for a new filmmaker.

Naruto follows the eponymous young ninja on a quest to become the leader of his village. Said leaders are often the strongest warriors in their realm, and with endless trials and perpetual rivalries in his path, Naruto has his work cut out for him. Whoever eventually directs for Lionsgate will have an unenviable task ahead of them, too.

Live-action anime adaptations have gained a bit of prestige lately, thanks to authentic casting choices and increasingly cushy budgets. If done right, Naruto could join the ranks of successes like One Piece or Knights of the Zodiac. Huo seems like the right writer, but it all depends on who’s behind the camera, so hopefully Lionsgate chooses wisely... and before 2031.

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