Microsoft's ''Halo'' comes to the big screen. Universal and Fox meet the software giant's draconian demands for the video game adaptation, which already has a script by ''28 Days Later'''s Alex Garland
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Microsoft invaded Hollywood this week, sending green-helmeted warriors dressed to look like Master Chief from the Xbox game Halo into the offices of each major studio on Monday morning to deliver the software giant’s pitch for a movie adaptation of the $600 million video game franchise. The armored messengers were a warning: Microsoft was playing hardball and was making some draconian demands for the film rights, including a yes-or-no response within hours. So stiff were Microsoft’s terms that every major studio balked except Universal and Twentieth Century Fox. According to the Hollywood Reporter, those two studios have agreed to take on the project, with Universal distributing the movie at home and Fox overseas, though the New York Times reports that whether the studios or Microsoft will retain creative control remains up in the air.

According to the Times, Microsoft’s Master Chiefs delivered to the studios a completed screenplay, for which the company paid Alex Garland (28 Days Later) $1 million, and demanded that the studios not change a word of it. Microsoft also demanded a $10 million upfront fee (which the studios would forfeit if the film ended up not being made), 15 percent of the gross, and all the merchandising rights. In other words, a deal not unlike the ones George Lucas has secured from Fox for the Star Wars films, only Lucas puts up the production money himself, while Microsoft wanted the studios to foot the bill, demanding a production budget of at least $75 million, not counting the director’s and actors’ salaries.

Ultimately, Universal and Fox talked Microsoft down to a $5 million upfront fee and 10 percent of the gross, though the Times reports the deal could still fall through if the studios can’t get Microsoft to concede some creative control. If the deal is signed, watch for a Halo movie in 2007, and watch for other video game characters to march on Hollywood, armed with similar lists of demands.

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