Lionsgate is still trying to get their live-action Naruto movie off the ground and they have just taken a step to try and steer the adaptation in the right direction. The studio has just ordered a rewrite on the script from the writing duo of Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, who are best known for writing the comic book adaptations Red and Red 2. The duo will be working closely with Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, who is involved with the production.
The news comes courtesy of The Hollywood Report, who also report that Michael Gracey is still attached to direct the Naruto movie. The visual effects artist turned director has been attached to direct the adaptation of the popular manga since 2015 and has been keeping himself busy since. His directorial debut, the P.T. Barnum biopic The Greatest Showman, which stars Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, is set to hit theaters later this year. That means he'll have a little more experience under his belt before tackling the Naruto movie.
As for Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, they have a good amount of experience with action-heavy adaptations. Their work on Red and Red 2, which was also with Lionsgate, netted the studio a nice profit. The movies were both successful at the box office and made a combined $347 million worldwide. They also penned the screenplay for the upcoming adaptation of Meg for Warner Bros., which will see Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. So depending on what the take on Naruto is going to be, it seems like the kind of thing that could be right in their wheelhouse.
The Naruto manga was initially released in 1997 and was written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It was a huge success and spawned a hit anime series of the same name that ran from 2002 to 2007. A version with an English dub ran from 2005 to 2009 on Cartoon Network's Toonami. The story of Naruto follows Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja who constantly searches for recognition and dreams to become the Hokage, the ninja in his village who is acknowledged as the leader and the strongest of all. This all started with a one-shot comic that was published in an issue of Akamaru Jump in 1997 and has gone on to spawn a very successful franchise. Hopefully, if all goes well, that franchise will include a live-action movie in the relatively near future.
Comic book adaptations are big business in Hollywood right now, but for whatever reason, adapting Manga for the big screen hasn't quite caught on in the same way. An attempt was made to bring Ghost in the Shell to the world of live-action this year, but it massively underperformed at the box office. So studios haven't quite cracked the code with Manga adaptations yet. Maybe if Jon and Erich Hoeber can come up with a solid take, Naruto can be the thing that changes that.