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Microsoft wants AU$13 million for Halo script

Variety reports Microsoft wants a movie version of Halo fast-tracked, but its steep demands are causing studios to pass.

Variety reports Microsoft wants a movie version of Halo fast-tracked, but its steep demands are causing studios to pass.

Receptionists at most major Hollywood movie studios reportedly got a shock this week. According to entertainment publication Variety, all the major movie studios' Hollywood offices were visited on Monday by messengers dressed as the Master Chief, the armoured hero of the Halo games. According to the film-industry trade, the costumed couriers presented each studio with a script for a movie adaptation of Halo. The script was penned by screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach), who was reportedly paid US$1 million for his services.

Citing "numerous studio people", Variety reported that Microsoft wanted a minimum US$10 million (AU$12.9 million) advance against 15 per cent of the film's gross (meaning the company would keep whatever amount was higher). Unconfirmed rumours also said Microsoft was demanding a US$75 million (AU$97.5 million) "below the line" budget, meaning the studio would have to invest that much money before hiring any actors or a director, typically some of the biggest production costs.

Whatever studio picks up the project would also have to relinquish "strict control of development" to Halo developer Bungie Studios, which has written a "bible" that any director and producer would have to follow. Variety's sources say the purpose of the "bible" is "to make sure any changes to the script don't alter the universe established in the first two Halo games that will continue in future sequels", apparently further confirming that Halo 3 is in the works.

Microsoft also apparently wanted studios to bid for the Halo movie rights "as soon as late Monday", according to Variety. The brief window of opportunity is apparently a reflection of Microsoft's desire to get the Halo movie project rolling as quickly as possible; Variety said Microsoft has "a goal of starting [production] by January", while game-rumour site Kotaku heard it was demanding that "the movie be in production by September". The latter schedule could mean the Halo film could be in theaters as early as summer 2006, shortly after the PlayStation 3 launch -- which is supposed to coincide with the release of Halo 3.

One would think studios would fight tooth and nail for the film rights to the Halo series, which has sold more than 13 million units -- including nearly seven million of Halo 2 alone. However, Microsoft's demands have apparently led many to pass on the project. Variety said that New Line and DreamWorks declined to pick up the script, which was reportedly not offered to Columbia Pictures, which is owned by Microsoft's main game-industry rival, Sony. As for the remaining studios, which include Fox, Warner Bros, and Paramount, the trade said that "several others are at least potentially interested". Microsoft's Halo movie effort is being handled by Hollywood superagency CAA and (ironically) former Columbia Pictures president Peter Schlessel, who will also "serve as a producer in some capacity".

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