The Halo movie is currently set for a Summer 2008 worldwide release. Halo will be shot in Wellington, New Zealand, and will make use of all of Jacksonâ€™s state-of-the-art production & post-production facilities there, including Weta, Stone Street Studios, and Park Road Post.
This Aintitcool interview with Peter Jackson sees him talking about the upcoming Halo movie, how Neill Blomkamp became director on it, and the Halo script.
Aintitcool: Of the movies you’re producing that are not your own, you seem to be bringing in first time feature directors. Both with Halo and Dambusters. Is that just coincidence?
Peter Jackson: It’s not deliberate and certainly for Halo it wasn’t deliberate. I don’t think even for a show like Halo, which is a big budget production, I don’t think there’s any problem whatsoever with a so-called first time director directing it. At the end of the day, Neill (Blomkamp) is not a first time director. He’s a first time feature film director, but he understands film and grammar as good as anybody. He’s done some wonderful short films and commercials. His visual eye is fantastic and his storytelling is great. The fact that it’s a feature film just means that he gets to shoot for longer than he did in the short film. There really isn’t anything else that’s different.
We certainly didn’t set out with Halo to find a first time filmmaker to do Halo. We wanted somebody on Halo that would have 3 qualities. One, a very important one, is that they wanted to do it really badly. They had to be absolute Halo fans. That was important because there are a lot of people who would be happy to do Halo for the paycheck, there’s a lot of people who would be happy to do it for the publicity they’re going to get from it and the kick it’ll give to their career and all that and all of that sort of stuff. There’s lots of reasons to do Halo that would be attractive if you’re not a Halo fan, but we didn’t want any of those people, we wanted somebody who was a real Halo fan.
Secondly, and this is sort of just as important, we wanted somebody who was going to bring a unique vision to it. It’s so easy to shut your eyes and imagine a really bad version of Halo. That comes to you in a frightenly simple, quick way. You think, “Oh, my God! This could be so terrible!” I guess it’s because so many other video game movies have been terrible and so much other sci-fi in that type of genre has been terrible.
It’s like Fantasy was before Lord of the Rings. Everybody was saying, “These films aren’t any good.” In a sense, everybody’s saying “You can’t make a good film out of a game.” Well, that’s all crap. Good films just need good characters, good storyline and a great director to bring it to life and make a film that you’ve never seen before. That’s what it needs. It doesn’t matter a damn whether it’s based on a game, a book or a piece of chewing gum, you know? That’s irrelevant. It’s what actually ends up on the screen that’s important.
So, we wanted a director who we would get excited about their version of Halo. We wanted somebody that would make us say, “God, I’d love to see what this person would do with this story, with this material.” We considered a lot of directors. A lot of directors came to us. I mean, believe me… we waited for months and months and months. We eschewed a couple of people which didn’t work out. We’ve had lots and lots of people approaching us, obviously agents and people saying “So and so client would love to do it.”
At all times they were people that we thought, “Well… their version of Halo doesn’t really excite me all that much. I could imagine what it’d be like and it doesn’t really (excite me).” But then when Neill came along and we saw what he’d done and we’d spoken to him… believe me, he’s doing something that is very, very different from what people are imagining, from what people have seen before. Some of the visuals… He’s been working with Weta pretty much full time for, I guess it’d be about 2 months now, turning out lots and lots of art every day. And maquettes, production design, color art has been coming out of there. I’ve got folders and folders of it at home here. It’s fantastic stuff. I mean, I look through it and I get excited about the film.
We’re still developing a script and we’ve still got work to go on the script and that’s underway, but while that’s happening Neill is just producing his vision of this world. It is original and new and has not been seen before on the screen. It’s not Ridley Scott, it’s not James Cameron, it’s not what we’ve seen before, but it’s something new and fresh and it’s cool. That was important to us. Someone who was going to not go the cliched way, but go in the direction that they had an original vision for and Neill has got that in spades. We’re feeling really, really good.
Aintitcool: Let’s talk a little bit about the script for Halo. Alex Garland’s Microsoft draft wasn’t very strong and I know after I read it I was worried, as a fan of Halo.
Peter Jackson: Since Alex’s draft, there have been another two that have been written. Pretty much page one revisions to get to where we are today. It’s getting much better along now and there are certainly a lot of things in it now that are working well. There are things that aren’t working well in it yet, but Fran, Philippa and I are not writing the script, but, in a sense, one of the things we’re contributing with our involvement in the project is being the police, the script cops! So, nothing is going to end up on the screen that doesn’t get our stamp of approval. We’re going to be pretty tough with the script. We’re not going to spare people’s feelings.
We’re not writing it and we’re trying to be as constructive as we can and we’re trying to give criticism and suggest ways in which we think things should be improved. That process is going along okay and we’re getting there. The movie, as far as I’m concerned, as far as my involvement is concerned, is not going to go in front of the cameras until we have a really great script.
In the meantime Neill’s fully occupied designing everything that needs to be designed. The whole world has to be designed and the whole world has to be built. There’s nothing that’s going to be hired out of a prop store, you know? And like Lord of the Rings and Kong, it’s one of those great (positions). We have time to work on the script because all the work that has to happen… we know what’s going to be in the movie. We know that there’s going to be the Covenant, we know that there’s going to be Warthogs and there’s going to be Ghosts and Scorpion Tanks’s and there’s going to be the Pillar of Autumn. We know a huge amount.
We obviously know a lot of the world of Halo that the story’s going to take part in. So, there’s a lot of very productive work that’s underway at the moment while the script takes whatever (amount of time). As far as I’m concerned it should take as long as it needs to take until it’s a good script. We are slowly tugging away at it, getting it there.
Aintitcool: Now, there’s no reason on Earth shouldn’t easily and faithfully be adapted into a PG-13 movie. However, do you anticipate there being a harder cut considering how gruesome the Flood aspect of the story is?
Peter Jackson: That’s interesting… It’s something, I must admit, that’s not a conversation I’ve had with anybody yet. It’s a conversation that I’m sure will happen. Look, the reality of the budget is that I would imagine the studio are going to be pretty insistent on a PG-13, which, as you say, is certainly not an impossible thing pull off. The concept of a hard R rating for DVD is kind of fun because that does ultimately deliver a film that the hardcore fans would enjoy and that’s certainly something we should discuss. But honestly it’s a conversation that hasn’t actually happened yet.
But the designs for The Flood that I’ve been seeing are incredibly hardcore, I have to say. The wonderful thing of using the world of CG now and that real, Lovecraftian kind of twisted… That stuff lends itself to computer generated effects so well, the organic, pulsating, throbbing, oozing kind of effect looks great. I had a bit of fun with that on KONG with those sort of bug things and those insects and wormy things that kill Andy Serkis. I can see that tying all that CG technology to some Lovecraftian horror is going to be awesome.
But yeah. Look, I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s something we should definitely talk about. I mean, those conversations haven’t happened yet since we haven’t really got a script that we think is the script we’re going to make yet, so I guess once we have a script the question of rating will come up. I think as long as the studio gets a PG-13 to release theatrically, I’d imagine they’d actually be supportive and certainly we can talk to them about supporting the idea of (a harder cut for DVD). I think Neill would be into it.