Weeks after Gore Verbinski abandoned Pirates to focus on Bioshock, Universal has put the freeze on the project, which was well into the pre-production stage. According to Variety the studio balked at the budget (which was estimated to be $160 million and rising to a cost described as “untenable”), halted production, and fired a few production staffers. Verbinski and Universal are currently debating how to make the film on a slimmer budget. One of their solutions is to move filming from L.A. to London. “We were asked by Universal to move the film outside the U.S. to take advantage of a tax credit,” Verbinski said. “We are evaluating whether this is something we want to do. In the meantime, the film is in a holding pattern.”
Everyone involved is stressing that Bioshock is not being abandoned like Halo was, but just restructured and refinanced in order to come in at a lower budget. The studio also froze Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, allowing it to be rewritten from that Nottingham idea, and come in with a $130 million budget. (We also got State of Play out of the deal which is kind of nice.)
I suppose the big question is whether a tighter budget will make a better Bioshock by forcing the creative team to rely on story and not special effects, or whether it will actually hamper the adaptation by saddling it with cheesy CG.
If there’s any chance that this could be a long enough delay to allow Verbinski to return to Pirates 4, it could be a blessing in disguise… but don’t hold your breath!