It had a script. It had the backing of two major film studios. It had the support of Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. Everything seemed like it was clicking into place for the Halo movie before it abruptly collapsed, and you can blame Microsoft for that, according to writer Jamie Russell.
Writing in his new book Generation Xbox: How video games Invaded Hollywood, Russell says the project fell apart because Microsoft was unfamiliar with the glitzy world of moviemaking.
In an excerpt from the book that's up now on Wired, Russell writes that Microsoft "wandered into the deal naïvely expecting everyone to play by its rules and the resulting culture shock put immense strain on the Halo deal." The publisher asked for too much and didn't know how to play ball.
What was apparent during the Halo deal-making was that Microsoft was far from home, perhaps even surrounded in enemy territory. In the middle of the Halo negotiations, as all parties sat around the table, Shapiro recalls the discussion between Microsoft's Hollywood liaison Peter Schlessel and Jimmy Horowitz, Universal's co-president of production, taking an aggressive turn. "Schlessel was getting really tough on some of the terms with Horowitz: ‘Come on, don't be a jerk, blah, blah, blah…'. It was getting really heated. The guy from Microsoft [Steve Schrek] was like, ‘Wow, this is really good.' Then we took a break and Schlessel goes to Horowitz, ‘Are you coming over for Passover?' Because they know each other. You don't have those kinds of relationships in video games. In Hollywood you can be getting at each other but then you're playing golf together the next day."
Microsoft's negotiators got in over their heads, Russell writes.
What ultimately killed the Halo movie was money. "Microsoft's unwillingness to reduce their deal killed the deal," says Shapiro. "Their unwillingness to reduce their gross in the deal meant it got too top-heavy. That movie could have been Avatar."
The whole story is absolutely fascinating. Check it out!