A BioShock movie was very close to existing. To many gamers, BioShock is one of the most enjoyable games ever produced. The 2007 hit takes you to 1960 and the underwater city of Rapture, a city in which protagonist Jack finds after his airplane crashes in the ocean. The story is thrilling, the adventure robust, with all of it paving the way for Hollywood to turn the video game into a massive movie. And they were. Then they weren’t.
The BioShock movie was brought to director Gore Verbinski in 2007. Verbinksi was coming off his recent 2007 Disney film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the third time he directed Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Easily showing the producing world that he could navigate big-budget movies, Verbinksi took on BioShock and with it, had big ideas. “It was talked about as one movie. And it was strange, my first meeting at Universal on ‘BioShock’ was sitting in a room and saying, ‘Hey guys, this is a $200 million R rated movie,’” he told Collider and one would think a director with his pedigree would garner some attention, even with the huge price tag he was putting on the movie. He got attention, but not what he was hoping for. And it was silent. I remember my agent going, ‘Why did you say that?’ I’m like, because it is. Why just even trying to kill a movie you haven’t even started? That’s before getting a scripted before anything. I’m just I just want to be clear. And I think everybody at the studio was well, yeah, okay, maybe. Wow, no. It’s big, we know.”
Maybe it wasn’t the price tag on the BioShock movie that was a turn-off for Universal. For Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney gave Verbinski $140 million to play with. For the second movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Disney upped it to $225 million based on the wide success from the first movie. For the third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Disney went all-in with a reported $300 million price tag. Hell, Disney even gave Verbinski a $225-250 million budget for the vastly underrated Lone Ranger movie that had the director reteam with Depp. All paid off in spades for Disney and Verbinski. But there was one thing that these Disney movies had that a potential BioShock movie wouldn’t. A PG-13 rating.
Gore Verbinski explained further to Collider, “You couldn’t bring that thing to a point. There was a lot of diffusion. So, when the movie was shut down, it was literally the conversation that I had. The brutally honest conversation I had saying, don’t buy the rights, I just want you to be clear. This is a 200-million, R-rated [movie]. We were now about to start shooting a $200 million R-rated movie and they chickened out. I think, ‘Watchmen’ had just come out right before that or something. So, there was a little bit of, these movies need to be PG-13. If they cost that much, they need to be PG-13.”
Verbinski felt, as time went on, that it was becoming a waste trying to deal with the suits, especially when it was clear they wanted nothing to do with a $200 million R-rated BioShock movie. “There are those people deal with data. So, it was like new data that said, don’t make the movie. So, fair enough. But it was glorious waste of time because I tried to be super clear, just absolutely honest, it’s R-rated.” Verbinski went on to say how BioShock’s game director, Ken Levine was on board and how the collective group was excited to get rolling on the film. Universal just wouldn’t buy off on it. “We’ve talked to [game director Ken] Levine, we’re ready to go. Do you want to make it? I just said it, there was silence in the room full of 30 executives, marketing departments, everybody. Really tried to do this, so don’t waste everybody’s time if you’re not going to make it.”
It was clear that Verbinski and his crew had put a lot of thought into the potential BioShock movie, from the game/movie’s initial plane crash to figuring out how to incorporate the video games two endings and not having to stick to just one based on decisions the gamers make while playing. “We spent a lot of time adapting the script. Obviously, the big plane crash was a huge set-piece, the entry into that world. There was a lot of story-boarding, a lot of pre-vis. There was playing with how to have both endings. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the game but dissecting that feint to the happy ending. And then, still having the unleashed version of the ending. We were trying to achieve that, which was really exciting. Where if you watch the movie, you could get both.”
Verbinski noted that he and his crew were about eight weeks from starting to roll cameras on the BioShock movie though no actor has ever been mentioned. He also said that Universal came back with an $80 million price tag to do the movie but ultimately it was Levine who killed the project. Levine explained, via Eurogamer, “There was a deal in place, and it was in production at Universal – Gore Verbinski was directing it,” he said. “My theory is that Gore wanted to make a hard R film – which is like a 17/18 plus, where you can have blood and naked girls. Well, I don’t think he wanted naked girls. But he wanted a lot of blood. Then Watchmen came out, and it didn’t do well for whatever reason. The studio then got cold feet about making an R-rated $200 million film, and they said what if it was an $80 million film – and Gore didn’t want to make an $80 million film. They brought another director in, and I didn’t really see the match there – and 2K’s one of these companies that puts a lot of creative trust in people. So they said if you want to kill it, kill it. And I killed it.”
Fans of the video game can only imagine how Verbinski’s vision for the BioShock movie would have translated to the big screen. It’s a shame that they will never find out as Verbinski has apparently moved on. “I think things have changed and maybe there will be another chance, but it’s very difficult when you’re eight weeks away from shooting a movie you really can see in your head and you’ve almost filmed the entire thing,” he said via SYFY Wire. “So emotionally you’re right at that transition from architect to becoming a contractor and that will be a difficult place to get back to.”
With no hope of a BioShock movie in the near future, fans are going to have to be happy with the video games, BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite, all of which can be found on the various gaming platforms.