MS' Halo film demands

Wants big commitment.

Plans for a high-budget Halo movie are being pushed ahead by Microsoft, which delivered copies of the Alex Garland-penned script to Hollywood studios earlier this week - with a high price tag and tough conditions attached.

Messengers dressed as the Xbox series' iconic hero, the Master Chief, arrived at the offices of many major studios on Monday to hand in copies of the script, for which Garland - the British author of The Beach and 28 Days Later - was paid $1 million.

Microsoft is keen to get work started on the film as soon as possible, according to a report in Hollywood publication Variety, which claims that the software giant wanted responses from studios as soon as late on Monday, with a view to starting production by January.

That indicates that the company could be planning a 2006 launch for the movie - the same timeframe as Halo 3 on the Xbox 360, which will arrive at around the same time as the launch of the PlayStation 3 according to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

However, a number of major studios have reportedly already bowed out of the running for the movie despite the incredible buzz surrounding the franchise, with Microsoft's terms and conditions being seen as incredibly tough to meet.

According to Variety, Microsoft's demands include $10 million advance against 15 per cent of the movie's gross takings, while other reports suggest that the company is also insisting on a $75 million below the line budget commitment - a sum which doesn't include major expenses such as the amount that would be paid to the actors and director hired for the project.

Microsoft - or, more specifically, subsidiary Bungie Studios - would also retain a massive degree of creative control over the project, with the winning studio forced to work to a strict "bible" to ensure that the movie doesn't conflict with anything in the complex universe set up by the previous Halo games and books, or anything planned for future games.

These conditions have already led to New Line and DreamWorks passing on the project, according to Variety's sources, while the Sony Pictures group (including labels such as Columbia and MGM) has been excluded for the bidding due to the rivalry between Microsoft and Sony in the videogames space.

However, a number of other studios remain in the running - with Variety reporting that several companies are "potentially interested" in bidding for Halo. The fact that the game series has sold around 13 million units worldwide since its debut four years ago is almost certainly an attractive carrot, after all.

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