Finally, a couple of Hollywood screenwriters that are treated like rock stars or at least gurus of geek chic. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are easily the hottest name-brand writing team in Tinseltown after a year of major hits including Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and their producing efforts “Fringe” and The Proposal.
ComingSoon.net played the third wheel as the duo weighed in on what’s about to come forth from their dual computers.
On building a brand new adventure or borrowing and tweaking more “Star Trek” canon for the highly anticipated “Star Trek” sequel: Alex Kurtzman: Every franchise has a different need. So you have to look at them differently based on whatever kind of a mandate is there. But in the case of “Transformers” it was very important to us to have a sequel idea that stood on it’s own. You need to have been able to not have seen the first movie to appreciate the second one. I think that for us it’s always about going back to the sequels that we loved as kids and asking ourselves why we loved them. “Empire Strikes Back,” “Superman 2,” “Aliens,” “Terminator 2,” “Star Trek 2,” what do all of those movies have in common? Well, they are amazing stories all on their own. You didn’t have to see the first movie. There was some incredibly emotional test of character in all of those movies. Superman has to give up his powers for love. The Spock and Kirk relationship is being tested by Kahn. Ripley finding a daughter, essentially. All of those things are such big ideas in and of themselves. And you really can’t tell those kinds of stories in movie #1, because movie #1 is very much about establishing a world.
On the things on their “Star Trek” wish list that didn’t make it into the first film that might be revisited in the second: Roberto Orci: You know, we had a few characters in early drafts. [Christine] Chapel maybe some of the friends in the Academy. But in terms of big concepts? No, nothing that was like “Oh, not going to be able to fit that in.” Kurtzman: Right. We kind of threw it all in the first one!
On the possibility of introducing concepts from the various “Star Trek” sequel series – like The Borg, for example – into the relaunched franchise: Orci: I think we would think about it, because we do love “The Next Generation.”
Do they have a priority or any particular element of those sequel series that they most would like to put into the movie? Kurtzman: I think our instinct would be to first look at the original series before we would consider that, but all of that would be on the table for us, it is on the table.
On the possibility of doing “Star Trek 2” and “3” back-to-back: Kurtzman: I think we tend to look at this as it’s very, very important to us to make sure that each movie is good. It’s not “Hey, let’s do as many as possible.” But rather “Let’s make sure that they are good.” I think that we feel like we’ve inherited this incredible honor, in this mantle of “Star Trek” and the most important thing is to make sure that we are protecting that first. So, if the studio wants more than one, then great, but our thinking is going to be very much about the story. Orci: The story. Kurtzman: Whether the story prescribes there will be more than one. Part of what is great about ‘”Star Trek”‘ is that it’s a continuing adventure so you naturally think that there will be many, hopefully. But we only focus on what comes next and then build off of that. So, right now we are not thinking specifically about making two and three. It may come up but it’s not where our heads are right now.
On adding an allegorical element to the plot of the second film including an Internet-rumored Guantanamo Bay metaphor: Orci: The Gitmo thing was just a for instance. We’re not doing a story that is going to be about Guantanamo Bay. Now that we’ve established the characters we can have a more philosophical allegory where what is happening in the future represents, like the best versions in the ’60s did it represented women’s rights, racial equality, and progressive issues. We’re still just brainstorming internally and going to get together soon and bust our riffs out, see what happens, and start putting it together.
On whether the success of the first film will influence their storytelling decisions on the sequel: Orci: I think it’s the exact same pressure as the first one. Great, I’m glad we had a nice victory but now we have to do it again. Same amount of trepidation and reverence for “Trek.” Kurtzman: But the excitement of knowing that we have everything in place. Going into the first movie we had no idea of what the actors were even going to look like, so now knowing what the feeling was, and who is playing the parts, will definitely be helpful.
On the potential for adding pre-established “Star Trek” elements, such as Khan Noonian Singh into the sequel storyline: Kurtzman: Where we are starting is “Okay, where are our characters now and what are interesting complications that we can put in their lives? What feels like an organic emotional place for them to get to? How do we want to test them?” Then you look at everything. You look everything and start asking “Who would be the best foe.” Orci: There are mental exercises we play with them in fact ,we even at one point had one conversation I think was all about the first movie. It could have ended on “ and then the Botany Bay floats by.” You can’t be fans of this and not sit around one night and go “What if we ?” So we’ve gone through probably whatever you’ve gone through in your minds. Kurtzman: The short answer is that we haven’t landed on anybody yet.
On collaborating on their next film, “Cowboys & Aliens,” with director Jon Favreau: Kurtzman: It’s the greatest. Orci: We just started and we’re getting along really well. We actually sent ourselves back to school and we’re watching Westerns together, analyzing them, and just kind of getting into it. Kurtzman: Yeah, we had a lot of these Westerns in our heads but Jon is an incredible fountain of Western knowledge. Orci: “Star Trek” was pitched originally as a space Western anyway. So “Star Trek” was a nice lead up to this project. Kurtzman: I think also that Jon comes from a very similar emotional place. Because he’s an actor and he knows what plays and what doesn’t play very quickly. We’re having an unbelievably good time working with him on that.
On the status of “The Defenders,” the gaming-themed movie they’re developing with “Heroes” star Masi Oka: Orci: We’re still working out the story. Kurtzman: We actually can’t say too much about it, but Masi is amazing. He’s wonderful to work with. Orci: Gary Whitta is writing it. Kurtzman: Gary Whitta is writing it and he wrote “Book of Eli” which is coming out this year. Orci: He’s developed a great story and we have to go pitch it to the heads of the studio. We’ll find out what happens.
On their latest toy-themed project, “View-Master,” which they’ll be producing: Kurtzman: Here’s what is really interesting about that, because we’ve read a lot of the response and a lot of the wildly cynical response to it. Here’s what I’ll say. Some toys should be movies and some toys should not be movies. I like to believe that we know the difference between those toys. The movies that work, work when there is a story there that you can take the toy out of, but then when you put the toy in it because an even more amazing experience for whatever reason. Brad Kane, who is a writer for us on “Fringe” came to us with an amazing idea that had absolutely nothing to do with “View-Master,” we loved it, thought it was fantastic, and then along comes… Orci: We said “It’s missing one thing, I don’t’ know what that thing is ” Kurtzman: Then along comes “View-Master,” right? It felt like a perfect marriage of ideas. It’s because we started with a story that felt like it could be told all on it’s own before that came along. So in some ways its like “Bring it on, if you want to be cynical about ‘View Master’ then great.” We’re so confident in where it’s going to end up going that we feel like in some ways there is nowhere to go but up. Brad is finishing a script and then he’s going to start writing. Orci: Actually, Spielberg told us once that his first draft story of “E.T.” didn’t have an alien in it, but it was a family drama about a kid missing his father. So that’s always stuck in our mind as “Wow, you have to be able to take out the thing.” Kurtzman: Take out the giant robots and what’s the story you have left over?
On how they won’t likely be returning to pen a third “Transformers” film: Orci: We’ve been working on “Transformers” longer than I was in college. I think we have our degree in “Transformers” now. Kurtzman: I think it’s just a question for us of, the franchise is so wonderful and it deserves to be fresh all the time. I think we just felt like we had given it a lot and didn’t have an instinct for where to go with it next. We said “You guys should do it right.” Orci: The studio said “Oh yeah, if you guys want to come back, come back.” But we never want to do that unless we have an idea. We always think that the best idea should win. That means opening it up to everybody.