Dead Space Videogame

Video game publisher taking control of film's development

Electronic Arts is breathing new life into plans to adapt its sci-fi horror videogame “Dead Space” into a potential film franchise.

Justin Marks helped develop the story for the film that Neal Moritz will co-produce. The producer had been attached to “Dead Space” for more than three years, from when DJ Caruso was eyeing the project as a directing vehicle.

Europa Report”-scribe Philip Gelatt wrote a version of the script that EA will develop with another screenwriter.

EA and DreamWorks recently wrapped production on “Need for Speed,” a racing actioner, starring Aaron Paul, that’s based on another successful game franchise for the publisher.

After seeing several of its projects languish in development with producers or studios around Hollywood, EA chose to fund development of the “Need for Speed” script, by George and John Gatins and George Nolfi, and shop it to studios itself. DreamWorks jumped at the chance to produce the film that Disney will distribute on March 14. Scott Waugh directed the film.

SEE ALSO: Ford’s Mustang Races to ‘Need for Speed’

The publisher’s Patrick O’Brien, who oversees EA’s film adaptations, said by taking more control over how its films are developed, it can push the projects forward faster toward a greenlight and have more of a say in what the final film will look like creatively.

It’s similar to a move other publishers like Ubisoft are making with their own adaptations. That company has “Assassin’s Creed,” “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon” set up at New Regency and Fox and Warner Bros.

EA and Marks discussed development on “Dead Space” during a panel discussion on videogame adaptations at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday.

“We decided we have to pitch the projects as scripts,” O’Brien said. “EA was batting 0 for 5 before we began funding scripts. We’ve had our knocks in the studio system,” with the executive saying he’s learned from the experience in trying to get “The Sims,” “Spore,” “Mass Effect,” “Army of Two” and “Dante’s Inferno” made into movies.

After DreamWorks picked up “Need for Speed,” it spent another six months developing the script with the company. “They made it a hell of a lot better,” O’Brien said.

But companies like EA have to know what kind of film they want to make when approaching studios. “You don’t want to go in with just an idea and be one of 200 projects. We decided we have to change the model and go in with a script.”

O’Brien realizes EA still won’t be able to control fully how adaptations of its games wind up on screen unless it chooses to replicate Marvel Studios old model and fully finance its films. Instead, it’s opting to partner with filmmakers and studios that have the same vision.

“You can’t control every aspect unless you put up the entire budget,” said O’Brien, who aims to set up “Dead Space” at a studio once the final version of the script is completed.

The first “Dead Space” game was released in 2008, with sequels bowing in 2011 and 2013. Games follow engineer Isaac Clarke who battles reanimated human corpses on board a mining spacecraft. Property has spawned a direct-to-homevideo anime film and novels, as well as consumer products line of merchandise.

During the Comic-Con panel Marks cautioned that the adaptation shouldn’t faithfully replicate the action in the game on the bigscreen.

Marks’ credits include adapting the game “Street Fighter” into “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” and graphic novel “Hack/Slash.” The scribe, repped by CAA, recently landed a live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” at Disney, for whom he also penned a version of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

“You would be making ‘Event Horizon’ or ‘Alien,’” he said. “I’ve already seen that movie.” Instead, the challenge is to tell the main character’s story in a way “that’s new and intriguing.”

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