DreamWorks' long-awaited live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is finally moving forward, after spending years in development, with Scarlett Johansson coming aboard back in January to star. Deadline reports that Maleficent and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies star Sam Riley is in early talks to play the primary villain, known as The Laughing Man. If his deal is finalized, he will join a cast that also includes Pilou Asbæk.

Ghost in the Shell is based on the beloved Japanese anime created by Masamune Shirow, centering on a covert ops unit for Hanka Robotics entitled Section 9. The unit specializes in stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, led by The Laughing Man (Sam Riley), whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka's advancements in cyber technology. The original series spawned a number of anime movies such as Ghost In The Shell (1996), Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004), Ghost in the Shell: Individual Eleven (2005), Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (2006) and Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (2008).

Rupert Sanders, who made his directorial debut in 2012 with Snow White and the Huntsman, is directing from a script most recently written by Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton). Other writers such as Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and William Wheeler (The Tourist) have also worked on the script. Paramount Pictures is co-financing Ghost in the Shell with DreamWorks, with production slated to begin in early 2016.

Related: Ghost in the Shell Review: Visually Astonishing, But Not Much Else

Avi Arad and Steven Paul are producing, with Mark Sourian, Michael Costigan, Jeffrey Silver, Tetsu Fujimura and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa serving as executive producers. This adaptation has long been a passion project for DreamWorks' Steven Spielberg, but it isn't known if he will be involved as a producer or executive producer quite yet. DreamWorks has already set a March 31, 2017 release date, which puts this adaptation up against Sony's Get Smurfy.

Sam Riley's breakthrough performance came in the 2007 drama, where he played Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. He also portrayed Jack Kerouac in 2013's On the Road and Diaval, the faithful servant of Angelina Jolie's title character in Maleficent. He will next be seen in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Free Fire, both set for release next year. What do you think about Sam Riley joining Ghost in the Shell?

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