In his book, Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood, Jamie Russell tells the story of how the Halo film was tossed into the bin due to Microsoft being “unfamiliar” with how Hollywood works.
According to excerpts pulled from the book on Wired, Microsoft was expecting those involved to “play by its rules,” with the “resulting culture shock” eventually straining the Halo film deal.
Here’s an excerpt:
“To set up that kind of deal, Microsoft needed to be ready. Most importantly it needed to have a screenplay so it paid Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach) $1 million to pen a spec script. The screenplay was supervised by Microsoft, which meant it was — for good or ill — heavily steeped in the games’ mythology. Still, the project now had a blockbuster screenwriter and was based on a high-profile videogame franchise.
“Next, it was a case of setting up the auction. Peter Schlessel, the former president of production at Columbia Pictures, was one of the main negotiators in the Halo movie deal and served as Microsoft’s Hollywood liaison. Together with Microsoft and its lawyers, Schlessel and the CAA team hammered out a term sheet. ‘We were literally setting out to be the richest, most lucrative rights deal in history in Hollywood,’ says [Larry] Shapiro. ‘You have to remember that no property, not even Harry Potter, was getting [what we were asking for].’
“Microsoft, a global software giant used to getting its own way, wasn’t about to kowtow to Hollywood. It knew Halo was the jewel of videogame movies, the one that could be a true blockbuster hit. According to Variety, Microsoft wanted $10 million against 15% of the box office gross, in addition to a $75 million below-the-line budget and fast-tracked production.”
In the end, according to what Russell has derived, the Halo movie was killed by money and according to Shapiro, Microsoft’s “unwillingness to reduce their gross in the deal meant it got too top-heavy. That movie could have been Avatar.”
It’s a very interesting, albeit long read, but you can get the full thing over on Wired.