Microsoft, film studios tap Jackson for 'Halo'

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Oscar-winning creative team behind the "The Lord of the Rings" films, including director Peter Jackson, has been named to run the production of the upcoming film based on Microsoft's blockbuster "Halo" video game, the company said on Tuesday.

Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, will serve as the executive producers for "Halo," which is targeted for worldwide release in mid-2007 by Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox film studios.

Universal will oversee the film's production and domestic distribution. Fox will handle international distribution.

Donna Langley, Universal's production president, told Reuters it is impossible at this early stage to give specific details about the film.

"The game is a good template," hinted Langley, who added that "Halo" will have a bigger budget than "Doom", the video game-inspired Universal film due in theatres later this month.

Langley described "Doom" as a monster chase movie that moves from Point A to Point B. The "Halo" games have a more complex mythology, characters, environments and worlds, Langley said.

"Halo," the best-selling franchise for Microsoft's Xbox game console, follows the adventures of the futuristic super-soldier "Master Chief" as he battles an alien onslaught.


Eradicating cynicism

The "Halo" movie will be shot in Wellington, New Zealand, and will use Jackson's production and post-production facilities there.

"He eradicates any cynicism that might exist with core fans (of the game). At the same time, he makes a movie like this appealing to a mainstream audience," Langley said of the director, who is an avid video game player and fan of "Halo".

The executive producers will collaborate with Universal, Fox and Microsoft's Bungie Studios, which created the game.

Screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland wrote the original feature film adaptation of Halo. A director will be named in coming weeks, and the cast has yet to be announced.

Jackson and Walsh are currently in post-production on Universal's "King Kong", slated for release in December. "Halo" marks the first time that the duo are acting as executive producers on a major film that Jackson is not directing.

The video game industry -- whose sales rival those of US box offices -- is gaining status, taming its maverick image and moving closer to Hollywood. By the time of its release, "Halo" will join such other video game-inspired films as "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider", "Resident Evil", and "Doom". But the industry's Hollywood inroads have not been without bumps.

Hollywood's major film studios gave Microsoft a cool reception last spring when the company came to them with an initially high asking price for "Halo". The script was delivered by costumed, laser gun-toting messengers.

As part of their deal with the global software giant and number two video game console maker, Universal and Fox will pay Microsoft US$5 million plus a percentage of movie ticket sales. The price is capped at 10 percent of domestic box office receipts.

Universal Pictures is operated by the NBC Universal media division of General Electric, and is co-owned by Vivendi Universal. Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
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