Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman have got to be two of the most popular writers in Hollywood right now. Like, love or hate their work, as script writers they have turned into a very hot commodity and are quickly becoming the “go-to” guys for sci-fi scripts. With projects like Star Trek 2, Cowboys & Aliens, View-Master and multiple Fringe episodes on their plate, they have no shortage of work (which in this economy is a good thing).
Recently the great guys and gals at Collider were able to talk to Orci and Kurtzman and they managed wrangle some really good information from them in what turned out to be a lengthy interview. We’ve already discussed the parts about Star Trek 2 and their decision NOT to be involved with Transformers 3, which they confirmed during this same interview. You check out the entire interview here, but I’ll go through some of the highlights as they talk about Cowboys & Aliens, and a once popular toy, View-Master.
For those that may not know, Cowboys & Aliens first started as a graphic novel (does anyone call them comic books anymore?) by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg that was published by Platinum Studios and Harper Collins in 2006. Written by the talented team of Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, the story revolves around beings from another world landing in Arizona during the mid-1800s with the goal of enslaving the human race. That crap may have worked in France but over here in the U.S. of A. we had Cowboys and Indians to fight back against alien scum! Sorry I got carried away; it happens because I’m southern.
Cowboys & Aliens is being helmed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau and will most likely star Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. That’s great news because both have proved themselves to be fans of comics and have already helped to elevate lesser known comic book lore to pop culture heights. So how do Orci and Kurtzman feel about working with Favreau and where are they drawing their inspiration from for Cowboys & Aliens?
Alex: It’s the greatest.
Bob: We just started and we’re getting along really well. We’ve sent ourselves back to school and we’re watching Westerns together and analyzing them. We’re just getting into it. We just watched The Searchers last.
Alex: We had a lot of these Westerns in our head, but Jon is an incredible fountain of Western knowledge.
Bob: And, Star Trek was originally pitched as a space Western, anyway, so it was a nice lead up to this, for us.
Alex: I think Jon also comes from a very similar emotional place and, because he’s an actor, he knows what plays and what doesn’t play very quickly. We’re having an unbelievably good time working with him.
I think that’s great that they are pulling from some older westerns for inspiration and I had no idea that Favreau was a big western buff. I wonder if he dresses up and goes to Old West Conventions walking with his best John Wayne swagger, dressed in chaps, a dusty vest, a bandana wrapped around his neck, and a six shooter strapped to his leg, tipping his hat to the ladies and saying “Howdy”. HEH, I just made myself chuckle.
Continue reading for Orci/Kurtzman updates on View-Master
So we’ve discussed (ad nauseum) here at Screen Rant all of the terrific (read: bad) ideas for films based on toys. Video games aside (I’m talking to you, Asteroids), the two most ridiculous ideas for toy-based movies would be Magic Eight Ball and View-Master. Since someone could technically argue that Magic Eight Ball is a “game”, that leaves the poor View-Master all by itself in the ridiculous category. How does someone write a story for a toy that a kid only plays with for a few minutes and then ignores for something more interesting like say, watching paint dry?
While Orci and Kurtzman have a great reputation for bringing about decent, interesting and even enjoyable stories, I just don’t see where they are going to take this one. Here’s the kicker: the idea of including the View-Master toy was solely theirs, so if they can’t deliver then the disappointment or “I told you so’s” will fall squarely on their shoulders. Could they have an interesting concept or unique twist to bring to the table for the movie? Let’s find out:
Alex: We’ve read a lot of the wildly cynical response to that. What I’ll say is that some toys should be movies and some toys should not be movies, and I’d like to believe we know the difference between those things. The movies that work, work when there’s a story there that you could take the toy out of, but then, when you put the toy in, it becomes an even more amazing experience, for whatever reason. Brad Kane, who was 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 and thought it was fantastic.
Bob: But, we said, “It’s missing one thing. I don’t know what that thing could be.”
Alex: And, along came View-Master, and it sounded like the perfect marriage of ideas. But, it’s because we started with a story that felt like it could be told, all on its own, before that came along. So, it’s like, “Bring it on!” If you want to be cynical about View-Master, great ’cause we’re so confidence in where it’s going to end up going that we feel like there’s nowhere to go, but up.
Ah ha! So the original concept was Brad Kane’s and then Orci and Kurtzman ADDED the View-Master. Why would they do that you ask?
Bob: Spielberg actually told us once that his first draft story of E.T. didn’t have an alien in it. It was a family drama about a kid missing his father, and E.T. was born from that. And, that’s always stuck in our minds. You’ve got to be able to take out the thing.
OK, so I can understand a little better where they are coming from now; story first, object second. If you can remove the object and still have a good story then adding the object shouldn’t affect the story at all. It is an interesting concept for storytelling. They at least seem to be focused on delivering a solid story and incorporating the View-Master toy into it and not the other way around. When asked if the View-Master will be used as a device in the movie Kurtzman responded with, “Perhaps.” In Hollywood translation that usually meand, “Yes of course”.
The only thing I can see coming from this is a family or children’s film involving the View-Master as a sort of transportation device that takes you to a fantastic world whenever you look through the eye holes and press the button. If they’re going that route with it then it very well could make a decent enough family film but I’m still very, very skeptical. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months when Kane turns in his script.
I will add, however, that since Kurtzman and Orci dropped out of Transformers 3 because they didn’t feel they could further the story in a good way, that actually speaks volumes to their scripting integrity. Transformers 3 is a sure-fire payday and if they were just in it for the money, then why not hang on and deal with the heavy-handed criticism that is almost sure to follow?
Maybe they just don’t want the hassle of dealing with another Michael Bay “modified” script and having to defend themselves for elements of the story they did not originally include. I think they are sincere in their statement about trying to bring something new and interesting to the table.
So there you have it. From the mouths of the Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman to your brains, everything you wanted to know about the status of Cowboys & Aliens and View-Master.
What do you think about both projects and the direction they plan on going with them?
Cowboys & Aliens is slated for a 2011 release, while View-Master is tentatively penciled in for 2012.