The Halo movie was cancelled due to greedy corporate moves and ambition
What a shame.
Earlier today, we posted the entire script for the cancelled Halo movie. It was a film gamers everywhere were dying to see as the world of It was a film gamers everywhere were dying to see as the world of Halo is rich with unique lore and stories. Even outside of the audience of gamers, a movie could have wide enough appeal to be a major film franchise with the likes of a major summer blockbuster. Not only are the stories awesome, but the action is so badass it could serve as an excellent "popcorn movie".
Microsoft saw the potential and quickly jumped at the chance to further expand the Halo universe after the success of Halo 2 on the original Xbox. Sadly, Microsoft failed to understand how Hollywood works as they make games and develop computer software. Their underestimation, greediness, and selfish corporate moves caused the ultimate downfall of the Halo movie.
It's not completely their fault, there were some other factors but it seemed they were one of the biggest causes of the Halo movie's death. After getting Alex Garland to write a script a 128-page script, it was time to start a bidding war.
Microsoft was being very selective of who they even let bid on the film. Only the biggest Hollywood giants were being allowed, some examples are Fox, Universal, and Paramount. Microsoft excluded other studios like Miramax because Microsoft didn't think they'd care and Columbia because Sony owns them and we all know why they wouldn't want Sony to have a Microsoft property.
Microsoft had some very big conditions, though, some conditions that just don't really fly around Hollywood. Before they'd even sign any contracts or agreements with any studio, they had to promise they would be able to deliver on certain things with the production of the film. Presumably specific actors, directors, and what not. Microsoft is so big, they can usually get what they want. In Hollywood, it doesn't always work out that way. Some people are tied up with other projects, don't think the money being offered is enough, or simply aren't interested enough to sign on. They were trying to make the dream version of their movie and it's near impossible to make that happen.
Microsoft also played up the theatrics of the situation by putting a sense of urgency on all the studios who were in the running for the film. They were all given copies of the script and were told they had 24 hours to read the entire thing and make an offer. To further make it more dramatic, Microsoft hired actors to dress up in authentic Master Chief armor and go onto studio lots and meeting rooms to give a sense of... well we really don't know why. Maybe it just looked cool?
"It was one of those gimmicky Hollywood things: hey, force everybody to be in a room, make it feel urgent, have a guy show up in costume and ‘Oh my God! This feels like a big deal’. It probably served Microsoft and CAA well at the time, but ultimately it seemed like a bit of manufactured theatre to me.” said Alex Young from Fox.
The folks at MS also wanted to have royal treatment and make absolute mountains of money out of the deal alone. Before they signed any agreements, they wanted the studios to pay for dozens of first class plane tickets to the premiere of the movie when it came out so Microsoft execs could go see it. Microsoft wasn't willing to fork over any money for the production of the movie either or sell merchandising rights (which is where these studios make tons of money).
We were literally setting out to be the richest, most lucrative rights deal in history in Hollywood,” said Shapiro of the Creative Artists Agency. “You have to remember that no property, not even Harry Potter, was getting [what we were asking for].”
Eventually, Fox and Universal were the only studios who were left in the running. Microsoft figured they could use this to hold some leverage over them, but instead Fox and Universal wanted to partner up and make an offer... something MS didn't anticipate. Universal would take the domestic box office revenue and Fox would take the foreign box office.
Microsoft's push also began getting slightly annoying and aggressive for the Hollywood execs. Shapiro recounted that Peter Schlessel's (who served as somewhat of a middleman between Hollywood and MS) approach was getting frustrating. “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 videogames. In Hollywood you can be getting at each other but then you’re playing golf together the next day.”
Although a deal was eventually made, things weren't really getting better. They got Peter Jackson on as a producer and Neil Blomkamp (Chappie, District 9) was assigned to sit in the director's chair. It should've been smooth sailing from here for the most part as Microsoft was mostly getting what they wanted but Blomkamp wanted to turn the Halo movie into something different: a cyberpunk-type film.
“I told Tom Rothman [co-Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment] that I was genetically created to direct Halo.” said Blomkamp. “Rothman hated me, I think he would have gotten rid of me if he could have,” says the director. “The suits weren’t happy with the direction I was going. Thing was, though, I’d played Halo and I play videogames. I’m that generation more than they are and I know that my version of Halo would have been insanely cool. It was more fresh and potentially could have made more money than just a generic, boring film — something like G.I. Joe or some crap like that, that Hollywood produces.”
Problem is, he wasn't really trying to create Halo from the sounds of it. Not only did Fox probably dislike the idea, they knew Microsoft would probably hate it and maybe even feel insulted.
“The way Fox dealt with me was not cool. Right from the beginning, when Mary [Parent, Universal’s former president of production turned Halo producer] hired me up until the end when it collapsed, they treated me like shit; they were just a crappy studio. I’ll never ever work with Fox ever again because of what happened to Halo – unless they pay me some ungodly amount of money and I have absolute fucking control.” said Blomkamp.
Despite the corporate overlords not liking his ideas, Blomkamp believes Bungie (creators of Halo and Destiny) really dug them.
“If you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t understand the film industry, its sense of assurance comes with glossy names that have done a lot of big projects that have made a lot of money,” says Blomkamp. “I think the guys at Bungie liked what I was doing. I’m fairly confident in saying they liked where I was going. It’s highly possible that that artwork was getting back to Microsoft and Microsoft itself, the corporate entity, was not happy with it because it was too unconventional. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was entirely possible."
Blomkamp believes that Microsoft's greediness is what lead to the death of the Halo film and he's probably somewhat correct.
“One of the complicating factors with Halo was that Microsoft wasn’t the normal party that you’d go off and option the IP from and make your product. Because Microsoft is such an omnipresent, powerful corporation, they weren’t just going to sit back and not take a massive cut of the profits. When you have a corporation that potent and that large taking a percentage of the profits, then you’ve got Peter Jackson taking a percentage of the profits and you start adding all of that stuff up, mixed with the fact that you have two studios sharing the profits, suddenly the return on the investment starts to decline so that it becomes not worth making. Ultimately, that’s essentially what killed the film.
We will probably never see that Halo movie ever release, but video game movies are trying to make a comeback again. Assassin's Creed released in December to less than stellar praise from critics (we thought it was alright, though), the Uncharted movie is set to begin filming in the near future, and the Tomb Raider reboot film is already underway for a 2018 release. Microsoft has also gone back to Universal to greenlight a Gears of War movie, but who knows if that'll ever see the light of day.
There was some test footage for the Halo movie shot (see above) that gives us just a taste of what could've been.
The Halo film wasn't Microsoft's only failed attempt at a live-action Halo property. Steven Spielberg was set to helm a Halo TV show that would air on Showtime. This was announced in 2013, and despite Microsoft saying it's still alive, they have nothing to show for it.
Microsoft has made a couple Halo movies that were released online and they give us a small taste of what could've been. One was released to prepare for the launch of Halo 4 in 2012 and the other to gear up for Halo 5's in 2015.