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Interview: Jason Hoffs

Talking Bleach and Manga Movies With VIZ Productions' Hollywood Honcho

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Jason Hoffs, Head of Production at VIZ Productions

Jason Hoffs, Head of Production at VIZ Productions

Courtesy of VIZ Media

Since its debut in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 2001, Bleach by Tite Kubo has been one of the most popular series in the Shonen Jump manga pantheon.

In addition to being a bestselling series in Japan and North America (over 75 million copies of the now 53-volume series are in print in Japan, and over 2.1 million copies have sold in North America) and many other countries throughout Europe and Asia too, Bleach has spawned a long-running TV anime series, numerous video games, four feature-length animated films, and even a full-blown musical stage production. But for the first time ever, it looks like a live action feature film version of Bleach is on the fast-track to becoming a reality.

As reported in entertainment industry trade magazine Variety, and confirmed by VIZ Media, Warner Brothers has acquired the live-action feature film rights to Bleach. Warner Brothers and VIZ Media have announced a roster of experienced Hollywood pros on board with this project, including Peter Segal (Get Smart, The Longest Yard) as producer, and possibly as director for this action-adventure flick.

The creative team for the Bleach movie also includes screenwriter Dan Mazeau (a screen scribe with credits including Wrath of the Titans, the upcoming sequel to Clash of the Titans). Mazeau will begin work on the film's screenplay in 2012. Actor Masi Oka ("Hiro" on Heroes and "Dr. Max Bergman" in Hawaii 5-0), along with Michael Ewing from Callhan Filmworks are on board as producers, along with Branon Coluccio and Jason Hoffs from VIZ Productions in the executive producer and producer chairs respectively as well.

MANGA MOVIES TRY TO OVERCOME SKEPTICISM FROM MOVIE AND MANGA FANS

When fans first got wind of this project back in March 2010, the reaction was, at best, skeptical. Added to the mediocre box office returns from Hollywood's recent feature film adaptations of beloved Japanese manga like Dragon Ball, Astro Boy and the controversial and seemingly ill-fated live-action adaptation of Akira (which is currently on hold), VIZ Media's announcement that the live-action version of Bleach was getting closer to reality was met with some excitement and more than a little skepticism and dread.

So with all of this going for (and going against) this film even before a single frame is shot, I decided to check in with a key member of the Bleach film's creative team: Jason Hoffs, Head of Production for VIZ Productions.

Hoffs joined VIZ Productions at its inception in mid-2008. He came to the job with over 15 years experience working on Hollywood film projects large and small. His past credits include production and executive positions at Scott Rudin Productions (Addams Family, Sister Act and The Firm), Dreamworks (Mask of Zorro, The Peacemaker, Meet the Parents), Amblin Entertainment, and Sony Pictures.

VIZ Productions is owned by VIZ Media LLC. It is a Hollywood-based company that is charged with producing and licensing live-action theatrical film and TV projects based on manga and prose novel properties from Japan. In addition to stories based on manga originally published by VIZ Media parent companies Shueisha and Shogakukan, VIZ Productions also has access to manga properties from Hakusensha and novels licensed by VIZ Media's Haikasoru science-fiction/fantasy prose imprint. (It's worth noting that VIZ Productions is not connected with New People Entertainment, which is a separate company based in San Francisco that focuses on licensing and distributing Japanese films in North America.)

In the three years since VIZ Productions first set out its shingle in Hollywood, Hoffs has been a pretty busy guy. The Bleach feature film is just one of many that VIZ Productions is overseeing and trying to bring to fruition. Now that Bleach is on the fast track, it seemed like a good time to check in with Hoffs and see what's cooking at VIZ Productions, and to address the concerns that many fans have when their favorite manga gets a Hollywood movie makeover.

VIZ PRODUCTIONS BRINGS TOGETHER TOKYO AND HOLLYWOOD

Q: What exactly is VIZ Productions? That is, what are VIZ Productions' goals and purpose that makes what you do related, but distinct from VIZ Media's publishing and licensing divisions?

Jason Hoffs: VIZ Productions was formed to produce live-action theatrical film and television projects based on cutting edge Japanese intellectual property. We work very closely with manga and anime as source material but are also working from novels and live-action films as well.

There are so many works that have originated in Japan that are unpublished or are almost unknown in the States. We love working with hit properties like Bleach, but we are always also digging for hidden gems that (we hope!) can make great films.

Q: Is VIZ Productions currently working on other film projects besides Bleach?

Jason Hoffs: We have several projects at various stages of development at the studios. All You Need is Kill, an adaptation based on the science fiction novella by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is on the fast track at Warner Brothers.

The screenwriter Robert Ben Garant (Night at the Museum) is adapting the manga Tuxedo Gin for Walt Disney Pictures.

We are also working on many other film projects in various stages of creative development. Once we begin working with a property, our first step is usually to identify a screenwriter or director (or both) who is a fan of the property, and shares a vision with the creator and with our team for how to approach the film version.

(NOTE: All You Need is Kill is published by VIZ Media's Haikasoru imprint, which focuses on English editions of science fiction and fantasy prose novels from Japan. The Haikasoru blog recently made a few fantasy casting wishes for the upcoming adaptation of this sci-fi action-adventure tale.)

(NOTE: Tuxedo Gin is a romantic comedy series created by Tokihiko Matsuura. The story mainly revolves around Ginji Kusanagi, a boxer who dies in a motorcycle accident while en route to a date with his crush, Minako. Unhappy with his fate, Ginji makes a deal with an angel. Ginji is reincarnated as a very cute penguin that is eventually adopted by Minako. Tuxedo Gin was originally featured in Shonen Sunday magazine from 1997 - 2000. VIZ Media published the entire 15-volume Tuxedo Gin manga series between 2003 - 2005.)

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