Last week we put up a partial transcript of the Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman Q&A from the Paramount Home Video press event promoting the upcoming Star Trek DVD & Blu-ray releases. That focused on the sequel and other projects. Today we have the rest of the Q&A, with discussions of the Star Trek movie, the DVD & Blu-ray, their writing process, and a bit more on the sequel as well.
Q&A WITH ROBERT ORCI AND ALEX KURTZMAN, Part 2
More from Bob and Alex on Star Trek sequel
Question: Now that you have Spock Prime who has actually boldly gone everywhere, is that going to be a problem with the exploration of the next film because you have a character that can say "if you go that way you will hit the Denobulans, and if you go that way…"?
Alex: No, because Spock came back into a different timeline where everything is….the circumstances on those planets could be entirely different than what Spock is aware of.
Bob: Spock may decide it is wrong to tell them everything.
Alex: Even going back in time is a violation of the prime directive for him.
Question: Does the success of the first movie sort of embolden you guys to take more liberties as you’re coming up with ideas for the next one? Or does it put more pressure on you to go further to explore canon?
Bob: I think it is the exact same pressure as the first one. It’s like, “Great, I’m glad we had a nice victory, but now we’ve gotta do it again.” There’s the same amount of trepidation and reverence for Trek.
Alex: But, the excitement is knowing that we have everything in place. Going into the first movie, we had no idea what the actors were even going to look like. Now, knowing what the feeling was and who’s playing the parts, will definitely be helpful.
Question: In Star Trek, you hear Greg Grunberg as the stepfather, but you don’t see him. Will you see him on the DVD?
Alex: You will see the stepfather on the DVD, but not Greg. You’ll see a scene there that we ended up losing.
Bob: Greg wasn’t originally cast as that, and then he came in as the voice. There is a scene that was shot with another actor.
Question: s there room for Greg Grunberg to fit into the Star Trek sequel?
Alex: There is always room for more Grunberg. It’s whether or not he can find the time. He’s one of TV’s heroes. We’ll see how that goes. If he has the time, we’d love it.
Question: Grunberg wants to play Harry Mudd, what about that?
Bob: Maybe, he can fight it out with Jack Black.
Bob and Alex at Paramount press event
Bob and Alex on Star Trek movie
Question: JJ [Abrams] spoke earlier about the importance of Leonard Nimoy’s involvement in Star Trek, so I was wondering, from a writer’s point of view, how important was his involvement.
Alex: We couldn’t have made the movie without Leonard. We knew early on that so much of what was going to be required in re-imagining Star Trek, and also in staying true to everything that came before it, was going to hinge on Leonard, in a way, blessing us moving forward. And telling the audience that it is OK, you can make this transition now, I am here to help you. And we knew without him, we were never going to be able to have a movie.
Bob: We didn’t agree to do the movie until we had the idea that if we could get Leonard to agree to be in the story, that is a way to do both pleasing old fans and having him him, the soul of Star Trek, be the plot reason for the changes. So we we needed his blessing…it wasn’t until we hit upon that, that we said "now we know how to do it." So, it was pivotal for us.
Alex: Pitching the fate of Spock, to Spock, was a bit unnerving. [Bob interjects "and then your planet blows up, you like that?"] But, it was great and actually gave us the confidence. He didn’t commit right away, but he gave us the confidence to move forward, knowing that he liked the direction we were going in. So I think both creatively and in our hearts where we wanted the movie to be could not have happened without his ‘OK’
Bob: We took a big risk. We spent five months writing it, with him in it, without knowing if he would say ‘yes.’
Question: Someone sent me a letter saying that the fact that Spock had to stop the movie to explain to Kirk was some sort of break point script-wise. Do you agree with that? That you had to stop and explain to the audience, everything that has happened?
Alex: I think that we tend to be drawn towards structures that are very mysterious, for at least and hour, or hour and fifteen minutes. As an audience member, I always really like to be wondering, “What’s happening here? I don’t understand it. It’s really intriguing. Where is the punch line going to go?” But, when you incur that debt, then you owe the pay off, and the pay off is always the moment where someone comes in and says, “Okay, here’s some of the answers to the questions you’ve been asking for the last hour and fifteen minutes.” The trick with those kinds of scenes, is to make them really interesting and to make them very character driven, because what you don’t want is a scene where someone is just telling you plot. That’s really boring, and the audience tends to just check out. The ace that we had in the hole there was that we knew that it was a very emotional story for Spock to tell, because he was telling the loss of his planet and he was talking about his
responsibility in that.
Bob: And it is a mind-meld. It is not just an information dump. It is an artistic element from Star Trek.
Alex: That’s right And It’s literally a new Kirk, who doesn’t like Spock, realizing, “Oh, wait, Spock is a much broader character than I ever knew.” So we were very lucky in that case, to have so much character stuff infused in that scene
Bob: We wouldn’t change it.
Question: Can you talk about, with Star Trek, what was the first moment, whether in the writing or once you start to see it come together in the editing room or on set, where you began to feel you had it?
Bob: You get it twice. You get it once when you know you have the right story, and I think we did feel that that, very strongly, as we were writing it. The “Ah-ha!” of having Leonard Nimoy in it was big for us. But then, you have to actually shoot it, and cast it. Can you really replace icons? What’s that going to be? Even in the middle of shooting, when you go onto a set, you’re hoping it’s looking cool and not like Saturday Night Live, or something. I think it was after we saw the first cut, probably. So, once when we wrote and once when we saw the first cut and realized, “Oh, man, these actors are great, and the production design actually looks great.” We saw it come together then.
Alex: I think that writing was probably the most emotional experience we’ve had, in the actual writing part of it, because you are dealing with, not only these iconic characters, but the responsibility that you are suddenly bearing, of bringing them back to the world in a new way and then telling a story that is deeply deeply emotional.
Question: You are fans right?
Alex: Exactly. It’s like, take this thing from your childhood and make it someone else’s childhood. It is very daunting. That is the kind of thing where you have to tune everything out. We literally locked ourselves in a hotel room for weeks and weeks and just scene for scene, line for line. You don’t always get the luxury at the pace that we work at, to luxuriate in every dot and comma, and in the Star Trek it really was that and we really loved that.
Question: When you’re writing characters that are that well-established and on the other hand, but with Star Trek the Original Series, some of that dialog is a little iffy. How do you capture the sound of it, without having dialogue that is 60’s clunky?
Bob: We were lucky in this one when we came up with the idea, because we we knew it was going to be them young and them turning into who they are, so it prescribed a very natural arc that they don’t arrive at the people you see in the series, until the end of the movie, so it freed us up to not have to mimic them exactly, and be able to tell a growing up story.
Alex: Also, because these characters were so ingrained in our minds from childhood, they are already a live in your head, in some way. So, once you are sitting down to actually write them, you’re listening to your childhood voice, coming back up for you and that becomes your best compass when you are writing dialogue because we all knew that there were certain key traits about all the characters that had to be represented, but the question became, “How are you going to do it in a new way?” We hadn’t cast any of the actors that we had in the movie, when we were writing the first draft, so it was very much about knowing their personalities, but then finding a way to make it fresh.
Bob: And, reading the novels helped, a lot of Star Trek novels.
Question: The opening sequence of Star Trek was very surprising. How did that evolve, and how did you approach that?
Alex: Interestingly enough, that was not the first scene of the movie that we wrote. That was the second scene of the movie, and the first scene of the movie is actually on the DVD. The first scene of the movie was the birth of Spock. We knew that the way these characters were born was going to define everything about who they would become. Knowing that Kirk was going to be a renegade, knowing that he was going to have father issues, knowing that he was going to be lost, knowing that he was going to have to come into his own as captain, prescribed a series of things that allowed us to think about, “What would create a man like that?” Rising to the challenge of, “Are you going to be as good as your father, who literally died in the service of keeping you alive? Are you going to rise to that challenge?,” was a very emotional place to begin.
Also, one of the things that we heard a lot was that women do not like sci-fi because there is no emotion. We were like totally offended by that and thought, “Well, okay, that’s bullshit. Let’s show them how wrong that is, from the word go, and then everyone will be equalized. Then, we can all go forward from there.”
Bob: I think the first kernel we had of that was that we thought, “Kirk should be born in space. He’s on his dad’s ship, and he’s in battle.” It started that he should be born in space…and not Iowa.
Question: You spoke about your childhoods. Do you have any specific memory of the first time you encountered Star Trek, as a child?
Bob: For me, it was being with my uncle and he did the kid’s version of relativity, why going faster than warp was a crazy cool concept. I just remember, that was the first time I heard the name Einstein, and I just realized there was a larger physical, scientific, magical world, and it was through family, my uncle.
Alex: The Original Series was what I knew, it already in re-runs on KTLA, when I was growing up. Then the big bang–I liked that, but I didn’t lock in, in the same way that I did when I saw Wrath of Kahn. Watching that, in the theater, and watching that Ceit Eel go in Chekov’s ear and going, "Oh my god, what is this?" And the friendship between Kirk and Spock, that was so beautifully drawn in that movie, it just touched me then and it was a huge compass in terms of what we wanted to get out of the movie.
Bob and Alex on Star Trek DVD and Blu-ray
Question: JJ talked about taking the opportunity [on the DVD] to sort of explore or examine some of the logical questions that even fans of Star Trek had. Was that important to you, or was there even a possibility, with Star Trek, of sort of making some of the logical leaps or logical explanations for the story on the DVD?
Bob: Yeah. As we said earlier, we tried to be open about what we’re aware of at the moment. Certainly, some of the decisions that we made, scientifically, in terms of canon, and all that are there, yeah. That’s what the whole movie is about. Is it canon or isn’t it? And where do you fall on it, if you’re a fan? You can’t avoid that conversation.
Question: There’s a lot of deleted scenes on the Star Trek DVD, and there were even scenes deleted from the script before it was shot. What was the hardest scene for you guys to lose?
Bob: There wasn’t anything because our original script didn’t include the scenes that ended up getting cut.
Question: What about the whole Klingon thing?
Bob: We added that later. We knew it might be long, but we just went for it. So ,we were fine with exactly how it ended up.
Question: Can you talk about some of the the differences in your approach to the Star Trek DVD and the special features on the Transformers DVD? Is there a difference in overall approach?
Alex: No, we tend to sit down and talk very loosely about the experience of making the movie. I think the differences are in the way that the movies were made, but not necessarily in the approach of the DVD extras. What’s really cool about the DVD extras is that, in both cases, they documented everything we were all doing together, from the minute that it started, to the minute the movie was released. So, tt’s pretty extensive.
Bob: We tend to try to just be as open in how we came to things as possible. It’s not just, “I remember that day.” It’s more of an interpreting of what we did.
Alex: We grew up having nothing like this at all. For example, there was one screenwriting book when we grew up. Only one! Now, there are DVDs, you can go online, and you can see everything. There is so much there. I think we feel like, “How cool is it for people to actually have the thing that we didn’t have?” So, we try and give as much to the DVD extras as we can.
Bob and Alex on their writing process
Question: What was the screenwriting book you grew up on?
Alex: Well, there was actually one screenwriting book that was interviews with screenwriters, and one that was just format.
Question: How did you learn your craft?
Alex: A lot of writing badly for a long time.
Bob: We met in high school in senior year and we just just wrote in every year in college. And by studying movies. We would watch a movie and write down every scene and stare at it and outline it to see what are the structure looked like on paper and you reverse-engineer from that.
Question: JJ has this great working relationship with Michael Giacchino, and I was wondering if music was a critical part of your writing process and at what stage?
Alex: It is almost the first thing, actually. I don’t have anything in my car or my iPod that isn’t a soundtrack, which is very sad, actually. It is how the ideas get dreamt up. All of Michael’s stuff is on there, along with a million other composers.
Question: How do guys work with each other? Who comes up with the ideas? Do you have roles between the two of your?
Alex: Our writing is a dialogue. It is a process of debate back and forth. I’ll be like "what if we did this, or did that?"
Bob: We sit across table from each other, both at computers, and we decide what is the right line.
Alex: We started writing pre-Internet, with both of us on the phone, and that is how we developed our voice. That back and forth became how we write.
Question: With the relationship between Spock and Kirk, does it resemble your relationship?
Alex: We were in the middle of writing the fight scene on the bridge, after the destruction of Vulcan, and realized that we were writing about ourselves.
Bob: I realized that a lot earlier.
Alex: Yeah, but Bob didn’t say anything.
Question: Which one of you is Spock and which one of you is Kirk?
Bob: I think Alex is Kirk and I’m Spock.
More to come
Look for more coverage on the Star Trek home video releases coming November 17th. You can pre-order your copy or copies below.
|Star Trek 2009||3-disk set
3-disk set w/ replica
3-disk set w/ badges