Microsoft's harsh contract terms killed Halo movie

Ever wonder what happened to that Halo movie we used to hear about? Apparently Microsoft asked a little (read: way) too much from the studios, and it might have been a good thing that they did, according to an excerpt from Jamie Russell's Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood over at Wired.

After sifting through the long article so that you don't have to test your attention span, we learned some pretty interesting stuff. For instance, the script for the movie was apparently delivered to several studios by actors wearing full Spartan armor. With that script was a terms sheet, which would cause a lot of grief.

Basically, the excerpt says that Microsoft wanted full control over how the movie was going to be made and they wanted it to be made to some very specific terms. Considering how important the Halo property is to them, that's not really all that surprising. The problem, according to the excerpt, was that Microsoft's terms approached film making the same way they would approach a software product: in absolutes.

What sort of demands did they have? Well, for starters, they wanted $10 million against 15% of the film's gross, fast production, creative approval over the director, regular flights from Microsoft HQ to LA to check up on production, and lots and lots of tickets to the premiere. Oh, and 60 first class plane tickets to get to the premiere. As Larry Shapiro of the talent agency CAA put it, “not even Harry Potter, was getting [what we were asking for].” They also wanted to keep all the merchandising rights.

Long story short, Fox and Universal ended up teaming up on the project, and brought in Peter Jackson (Microsoft's first choice for director) as producer, and tapped Neill Blomkamp to direct. Unfortunately, Blomkamp wanted to make a movie that was not “just a generic, boring film – something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.” It turned out that that was exactly the kind of movie that the folks at Fox wanted to make. Then the whole thing fell apart because of Microsoft's refusal to budge on money issues.

Still, Blomkamp did manage to get a little bit of work done, and some of the early footage got recycled into a live action promo for Halo 3, which you can check out below. Hopefully a fully finished movie would've looked a whole lot better, but we think it's better to have no movie than to have a “some crap like... Hollywood produces.” On the other hand, Shapiro says that it "could've been Avatar."

The excerpt has a lot of other interesting tidbits in it, too, like the fact that Microsoft didn't approach Columbia, since it's owned by rival Sony. If you've got the time, it's probably worth the read.

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