Our last news item on the Halo movie, from October of 2010, had — despite countless prior behind-the-scenes troubles — a real air of optimism to it. DreamWorks was stepping in! Stuart Beattie had sort of written a screenplay! Microsoft thought they found the right people! This is the last franchise that needs any kind of jumpstart, but it was, nevertheless, good news for anyone who wanted to see Master Chief triumph over the Covenant on their ocal movie theater screen.
And that didn’t go anywhere. While it’s likely that someone, somewhere in Hollywood is still trying to get Halo into motion, this is a project that, for all intents and purposes, is dead. I always knew budget was a problem — anyone could tell you that — but to simply leave the property lying there? It’s kind of baffling.
A new article in WIRED has filled in the blanks — and, boy, was this project miscalculated from the get-go. Whether it was high demands or too little creative control on anyone else’s part, this was a textbook example of someone screwing the proverbial Hollywood pooch.
Microsoft wanted to make the Halo movie since around 2004, and they were staking out the land. Larry Shapiro of CAA, representing the group, said, “We were literally setting out to be the richest, most lucrative rights deal in history in Hollywood.” Along with 15% of whatever Halo would eventually make at the box office, the company was demanding — I can only imagine this is one of many, to be honest — “creative approval over director and cast, plus 60 first-class plane tickets for Microsoft personnel and their guests to attend the premiere.”
That latter item probably could’ve been covered, all things considered, but the financial side of things only got worse. Microsoft’s money would amount to the $1 million for Alex Garland to do the screenplay — the high budget required to make the movie would be in a studio’s hands — and, when it comes to merchandising rights? Yeah, those weren’t going anywhere.
Naive and greedy, sure, but not necessarily stupid. Stupid, then, was their decision to impose upon studios a time limit when it came to actually making a deal. After some razzle-dazzle that had actors in Master Chief suits delivering the screenplays directly to studios — and after almost everyone passed — Fox and Universal were the two parties in contention. They decided to partner up on the film; although this derived Microsoft of the power they planned to abuse, negotiations went into place.
Neill Blomkamp came into the picture when Peter Jackson, only producing, hand-picked the South African youngster — and, despite talent exhibited in his short, Alive in Joburg, neither Microsoft nor Fox were thrilled about the choice of helmer. According to the director himself, a “gritty, post-cyberpunk aesthetic” wasn’t what Fox’s Tom Rothman wanted; he came to hate Blomkamp, and the studios “treated [him] like shit.” A massive problem, it seems, was his desire not to make “just a generic, boring film — something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.”
But it was moving. WETA were working on the weapons and vehicles made famous by the game, Scott Frank was working on a rewrite, things were basically “happening.” When said things didn’t happen quickly enough, the two studios and Microsoft wanted to cut the producers’ fee — which the producers refused. This was everyone’s breaking point, and it just kind of fizzled out, thanks in no small part to what Shapiro felt was Microsoft’s “unwillingness to reduce their deal.” If you ask Blomkamp, the thing just cost too damn much.
From it all we got this Blomkamp-directed short, for example, but it ultimately only makes me wish something more could have emerged. I’d recommend reading the entire WIRED article for some further context on the dealmaking (stuff I’ve never quite wrapped my head around, to be honest); I simply sigh to think of what could’ve been.
What do you make of the rocky development on Halo? Do you think the movie will ever happen?
Latest posts from The Film Stage