At last, Gears fans – a movie may be coming.

Epic Games’ “Gears of War” franchise has produced more than $1 billion in sales and sold some 19 million copies over four versions of the game, but despite its popularity the Gears’ team of heroes has not transitioned to Hollywood’s big screen. 

However, Hollywood’s Variety is reporting in an exclusive today that Cary-based Epic is near a deal with red-hot producer Scott Stuber to put together a script and find a studio.

Gears fans have heard similar stories in the past, the most promising of all being a 2007 agreement with Peter Jackson, the award-winning director for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and New Line Cinema. But the deal fell apart, reportedly due to a squabble over control of the story.

Stuber is best known for his role in “Safe House,” “Ted” and “Identity Thief.” He’s also working on “47 Ronin,” Variety notes.

But nothing is certain yet about getting Gears onto the screen, Variety’s Justin Kroll notes. 

“The project has yet to attach talent, writer or distributor, although Stuber does have a first look deal with Universal,” he says. “Both parties will begin taking it out to studios.”

Kroll reports that negotiations about the Gears project began “six months ago.”

The talks thus began as Epic was going through a change in leadership following the acquisition of a 40 percent stake in the company by China-based Internet giant Tencent for some $300 million. Epic President Mike Capps stepped down in December. Creative lead Cliff Bleszinski, a major force behind Gears’ development, had left earlier.

But co-founder Tim Sweeney remains chief executive officer, and he brought in Paul Meegan, formerly president of LucasArts, just before Capps left. 

Even if a deal is struck, few videogame franchises translate well onto movie screens. 

“In many cases, the videogame companies are adamant about having control over the project when rights are sold, and insiders say the reason for meetings taking such a long time may have to do with working out how much control would be allowed on the projects,” Variety notes. 

For Gears fans, hopefully this Hollywood contract saga will have a happier ending. 

[EPIC GAMES ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of Epic stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]