Hollywood hasn't had much luck turning the "Halo" video game series into a big-screen blockbuster franchise -- attempts at making the film in 2005 and 2006 resulted in nada. But thanks to the phenomenal success of the latest installment of the game, "Halo: Reach" -- it made $200 million in its first day of sales alone, which is more than many blockbuster movies make in their entire run -- a big-screen adaptation is once again picking up steam. New York Magazine's Vulture blog is reporting that DreamWorks is desperately seeking to obtain rights to the franchise with an eye to final give it is big-screen due.
It's something that both Fox and Universal, in a team effort, tried and failed to do in the past. The movie was supposed to be made with Peter Jackson as producer and Neil Blomkamp as director. But when studio brass balked at the idea of an untested director handling such an important big-budget property, Jackson and Blomkamp took their remaining financing and conceptual art and focused on making Blomkamp's dream project "District 9" instead (yes, that's why the prawns look so similar to some of "Halo"'s aliens). It's conceivable that the fact that "District 9" was made on such a small budget and yet was such a successful sci-fi film has contributed to DreamWorks' revived interest in "Halo."
With Jackson all but locked to direct both of "The Hobbit" films, he is likely a non-factor in the equation. Though Blomkamp is busy with other films, it would be nice to see him return to the project now that he's proven himself capable with "District 9." It's much more likely, though, that DreamWorks will start the project from scratch. They also are planning on apparently basing the film on the novelizations of the story (think all those "Star Wars" books out there) instead of on the games in order to dodge any potential legal complications from Microsoft and the other previous film studios that had their hand in previous iterations.
"Halo"'s long, meandering odyssey to the big screen (which it still hasn't completed, mind you) began five years ago when then-Columbia Pictures president Peter Schlessel convinced Microsoft to pay "28 Days Later" screenwriter Alex Garland to write a script before showing it to any studios. They did so and started shopping it around Hollywood, but their large asking price ($10 million against 15 percent of the grosses) caused most of the studios to pass. Fox and Universal didn't, and agreed to team up to try to make the film together and split the costs. This partnership barely lasted a year.
In the late summer of 2005, Peter Jackson was hired on as producer, and was asked to mentor their choice of director, a little-known South Africa director named Neil Blomkamp. He agreed, and production started in October.
But nearly a year passed and production costs spiraled out of control, all the while with no script locked on the project. Tensions between Universal and Fox finally came to a head, and by October 2006 Fox said that things needed to be remedied or they would leave the project. Universal issued an ultimatum to Blomkamp and Jackson, asking them to revise their deals -- which were costing the studios millions -- or else they'd scrap the film. Both filmmakers declined, and Fox refused to pay for any of the $12 million Universal had forked out for the script costs and production fees. Universal and Fox allegedly were able to settle their differences out of court, but the film was dead.
So why is DreamWorks so set on having their film based on the books instead of the games? Because that way they can avoid having Universal saddle them with that $12 million debt for continuing production on the "same" film. But an insider close to Vulture argues that, if DreamWorks does manage to get a script ready and starts the film, they still have another hurdle to face: Microsoft.
"It's a gigantic waste of time, because [Microsoft] doesn't want anything to happen in any other media that could screw up a multi-billion dollar franchise," their source said. "Somebody has to be in control of a movie; it's a director's medium. But they're completely averse to that. Because if Steven Spielberg [at DreamWorks] fucks it up, what's your recourse? So the rule is: 'First, do no harm.' "
Considering there's still no script written, we're still a long way off from the film hitting theaters, but it doesn't make any sense for DreamWorks not to pursue the project. The interest for the film is there, so as long as DreamWorks can conquer the hurdles set before them and avoid any more complications, they could have the next big blockbuster on their hands.
Would you line up to see a "Halo" movie?