In October 2005, the game industry was stunned when it was announced that Peter Jackson would executive-produce the film version of Halo. Many assumed that having the imprimatur of the writer-producer-director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy would assure that the Xbox shooter adaptation would buck the trend of game-based films being Uwe Boll-quality.
However, some financial concerns were raised in Hollywood when trade magazines reported that the price of the Halo script was $10 million and its budget would be at least $75 million. Adding to the witch's brew of doubts about the project were the hiring of novice director Neil Blomkamp and reports that Microsoft was demanding a hefty cut of the box-office proceeds. The film's original Alex Garland (28 Days Later)-penned script, which received rapturous buzz, was also reportedly rewritten by inexperienced screenwriter D.B. Weiss.
Despite the issues, the box-office allure of the Halo audience--which bought up nearly 15 million copies of Halo and Halo 2--was too much for Hollywood to resist. In June 2005, 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios announced they would cofinance Halo, which would be filmed in New Zealand. Effects would be provided by Jackson's Weta Workshop and Weta Digital effects houses, which provided the award-winning visuals for Rings and Universal's own King Kong.
Now, over a year later, it appears that Hollywood is having second thoughts about Halo. An assortment of news outlets, including Variety, report today that both Fox and Universal have decided to back out of the film, which was supposed to hit theaters next summer.
"While rumors had the studios concerned over a budget that was rising above the original projected $135 million price tag, the filmmakers said the double defection came after U[niversal] and Fox played hardball and unsuccessfully tried to get the filmmakers and Microsoft to reduce their profit participation," reported Variety. According to the trade, Halo's proposed budget had exceeded $200 million.
When contacted by GameSpot, a Microsoft rep confirmed that Universal had left the Halo project following a disagreement over financing and that the software giant was "disappointed." However, he could not confirm that Fox had dropped out, insisted the project would continue despite the setback, and underlined the fact that Jackson is still on board.
"The Halo franchise is hugely popular, and our goal remains the same--to find a partner that shares our passion and will creatively collaborate with us to best represent the story and spirit of the Halo franchise," the rep said. "Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and the rest of the creative team are dedicated to ensuring the Halo movie becomes a reality. We are already in discussions with potential partners who recognize the value of the Halo brand and its appeal to consumers worldwide."