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Fox, Universal in Talks to Bring 'Halo' to Big Screen

June 10, 2005|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures entered into final negotiations with Microsoft Corp. on Thursday on a seven-figure deal to jointly acquire the film rights to the software giant's blockbuster video game franchise "Halo."

The talks follow a week of unusual marketing. On Monday, Microsoft sent messengers dressed as Master Chief, the protagonist of the Xbox video game, to the two studios and Warner Bros. Pictures with the screenplay and deal memo demanding tight control of the project.

The studios were instructed to read the scripts on the spot -- while Master Chief messengers waited -- with bidding to commence immediately.

Microsoft has much at stake in protecting the "Halo" franchise. When "Halo II" was introduced in November, it racked up $125 million in sales in a single day, the highest one-day revenue for an entertainment-related property. The "Halo" franchise has sold 14 million units to date.

Microsoft is demanding final say over such details as marketing the film and choosing the director and cast. A source close to the talks said the key sticking point remained the amount of creative control the studios would cede to Microsoft.

The software giant hired Alex Garland, the British novelist and screenwriter behind Danny Boyle's zombie thriller, "28 Days Later," to write the script.

Garland, a self-described "big fan" of "Halo," worked with the game's developers for nine months to ensure that the script would stay true to the game.

Although translating video games to film has largely been a losing proposition for studios, there are a number of video game-inspired films in the works. They include director John Woo's adaptation of "Spy Hunter," director Peter Berg's big-screen translation of "Splinter Cell" and a film version of "Doom" starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Universal plans to handle domestic distribution of the film, while News Corp.'s Fox would oversee its international release, sources said. Studio spokesmen declined to comment.

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