Monday, May 4, 2009

Orci, Kurtzman Talk Writing Trek

AICN has an interview with Star Trek writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman as they discuss the daunting project of rebooting Star Trek for a new generation while remaining respectful of the previous 40 years. The result was to take the example of the Mirror Universe and create a parallel universe (2.0) while leaving the "Prime" Universe intact but using one of the characters to help pass the baton. Below are snippets of the interview which can be found here.
Beaks: How long did you have to brainstorm before you seized on the idea that you ended up using?
Orci: Eight months. Maybe. And it was eight months before we ever said we'd do it. We just thought about it, and... [to Kurtzman] you tell the story about Marc Evans. Kurtzman: I'd been having dinner with Marc Evans, who's one of the execs at Paramount. He's a friend of mine.
Orci: And also a STAR TREK fan.
Kurtzman: And he casually mentioned at dinner, "Would you guys ever think about doing STAR TREK?" And I kind of dropped my fork. I knew that it was such a big choice. It's such an enormous responsibility. And Bob had been such a huge, huge fan, that... this was not something to enter into lightly. We thought about it for, honestly, between six months to a year because the fear of messing it up was so frightening that--
Orci: We didn't think we were going to do it.
Kurtzman: And then after a while, we realized the fear was exactly the reason we had to do it, because we felt like we had to protect it. And that if we went to some new TREK movie and felt that whatever choices were made were choices we disagreed with, we'd have nobody to blame but ourselves. So we started talking about the story and what we wanted, and I think immediately we both felt that there was no version of this other than a Kirk-Spock story.
Orci: And yet how do you do that and be respectful. So that's when we hit upon the idea of Leonard Nimoy, and having him be responsible for this new timeline. That's when we knew we could go in and say, "Okay, we've got something."

Beaks: When you brought it to J.J., what did he add?
Orci: I mean, once we had the story, you have to go figure out so many millions of details and scenes. And you can't be in a room with [Abrams] without him coming up with ten million ideas: from how Kirk sneaks onto the Enterprise, to the gun battle that happens on Nero's ship - we originally had that as a fistfight. You just go through every detail. We would give him thirty pages at a time, and he would give us notes.
Kurtzman: The other thing is that J.J. is a self-acknowledged... he had not been a "Trekkie" or a "Trekker" growing up. So his objectivity was actually critical for us. We all knew that what we wanted to get out of this was a movie that hopefully satisfied fans but also brought in a new fanbase to this extremely wonderful franchise that we all love. There have been a lot of reasons we'd heard why people dismiss TREK: it's too cold, it's too sci-fi , women don't like it. We thought J.J. was a perfect barometer for that audience.
Orci: It wasn't going to be good enough for us to say, "Well, that's how it was in STAR TREK." He was going to say, "Well, I don't care! Why is that good here?" It had to stand on its own merits, and we knew that his objectivity would be the filter for everything.

Beaks: You've probably been writing STAR TREK episodes in your head since you were a kid, but when you finally sat down to write an actual STAR TREK script, was it difficult to nail the voices of these iconic characters?Kurtzman: I have to say that it was weirdly like snuggling up to a warm blanket. I think what was weird about it was that it wasn't hard for us to get the voices. What was challenging was making sure that you found those moments that you know you need, like Scotty's famous lines or Bones's famous lines. Any context that you were going to get for those needed to feel extremely organic and extremely real and not like we were cartooning those moments. The minute we cartooned those moments, we knew we'd be dead in the water. That was the challenge: making it all feel very organic.
Orci: Kirk was hard. I thought the other characters were, like Alex said, a warm blanket. Kirk took us a minute.
Kurtzman: I think it's because he was more outwardly a rebel than he'd ever been in any other iteration of Kirk.
Orci: We couldn't hide behind him being Captain already. We had to really find his voice.
Kurtzman: James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is who we really had in mind, though Dean was much more internal in that movie.

How would you write Khan if you were to take that character on?Kurtzman: The whole reason we came to this idea of an alternative timeline was so that everyone could feel that canon was being respected while giving us freedom to have the future be unwritten. I think that leaves you as much or as little room for interpretation as you'd like in terms of some of the key characters.
Orci: I think if this works, it'll be because it sometimes does what would've happened in the other timeline, and it sometimes doesn't. It's sort of a harmony - and finding that right balance will the be key if we do it.

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