The Naruto live-action movie has reportedly found its writer. As per Variety, Tasha Huo, best known for Netflix’s The Witcher: Blood Origin and the upcoming Tomb Raider animated show, will serve as the scribe for the Naruto adaptation. Development on the film has been in limbo for years at Lionsgate, and this would mark the first official update since director Michael Gracey (The Greatest Showman) took on the project in 2015. It seems as though the success of Netflix’s One Piece has caused several abandoned anime to live-action adaptation projects to be revived, as a means to cash in on the Japanese medium’s popularity, while introducing those stories to casual audiences.
Huo was noted by Variety as one of the top screenwriters to be on the lookout for in 2023, having written a script for Marvel’s Red Sonja, a sword-bearing barbarian warrior who leads a group of unlikely allies on a quest to free themselves from enslavement by an evil tyrant. “Adapting iconic characters or IP makes the writing of it easier because the passion for writing it is already there,” she said, claiming that it’s a good means to explore human stories. “I’m so inspired by these characters already that it’s exciting to just take a part of their journey and try to tell that fun story in a way that would appeal to me as a fan.” No other details were revealed, but the fact that it’s still in development is a massive update.
Created by acclaimed mangaka Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto is pretty much a household name in Shonen anime, easily on par with epics like Dragon Ball Z and the aforementioned One Piece — both of which have received live-action Hollywood treatment. 2009’s Dragon Ball: Evolution was a dud, alongside Adam Wingard’s Death Note and the Scarlett Johansson-led Ghost in the Shell, which completely diverted from the core themes and plot. Not to mention, the lead roles were largely played by Caucasian actors instead of Japanese. Clearly, Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record with such adaptations, but Netflix’s One Piece, which already has a second season in development, is a glimmer of hope that it is an achievable standard.
Naruto centres around the titular teenage shinobi Naruto Uzumaki, an orphan who is shunned by the village folk after an age-old catastrophe causes the spirit of a demonic fox to be sealed within him. Aspiring to be the Hokage (village leader), he embarks on a coming-of-age journey, making new friends, barely passing ninja exams, and battling a twisted scientist who can shapeshift into a serpent. The anime adaptation partly owes its popularity in the Western realm to Toonami, an anime so sprawling that it had to be split into two halves — Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden, with the latter being set two-and-a-half years after, as our young shinobi returns from training with his lecherous Sannin mentor Jiraiya.
It’s unclear how the live-action adaptation would condense the first part’s arc into a feature-length film unless Lionsgate already has sequels planned. The One Piece series was based merely on the East Blue Saga, but the character development never felt rushed because it was stretched across 10 episodes.
Currently, there is no release window for the Naruto live-action movie.