As a pitch, the concept of "Jaws" meets "Jurassic Park" seemed like a no-brainer. But nine years after "Meg," Steve Alten's tale of an 80-foot-long prehistoric shark, hit Hollywood, the project looks less like Jurassic Shark and more like the fish that got away.
While Alten has already published two book sequels, the original film property has languished, first at Disney and more recently at New Line.
Like many would-be tentpoles, the pic fell victim to escalating costs as well as New Line's focus on other pricey pics.
New Line picked up the rights last year and put the pic on the fast track for a 2006 release. At the time, it was hoping to make "Meg" for $75 million, with a significant chunk financed by selling off foreign distribution rights. But when the estimated budget came in much higher -- some put the figure at $150 million, mostly due to costly f/x -- New Line began scaling back.
According to an outsider who's seen the script, the CGI work for "Meg" would itself cost $40 million to $70 million. Aside from aquatic challenges (CGI waves, thousands of species of fish), the giant shark attacks ships and a helicopter.
Now, the pic is looking to shoot this spring for a summer 2008 release, at the earliest.
Helmer Jan De Bont, who was attached to the project when it moved to New Line, notes the studio is in production on a trio of costly films -- "Inkheart," "Rush Hour 3" and "The Golden Compass" -- so it's understandably cautious about greenlighting another tentpole. "But," he says, "I have no doubt Meg will swim."
Alten, too, is playing the waiting game. He says he won't begin "Meg 4: Hell's Aquarium" until the pic is greenlit.
"I need the movie to generate publicity for that book," he says.