One of the things we’ve heard about Cowboys & Aliens is that the filmmakers are playing it as a straight western. So the question becomes how do they balance the seriousness while still keeping it fun? When I spoke to screenwriter/producer Bob Orci about the film backstage at WonderCon, one of the things I really wanted to know was how they would manage the tone. Thankfully, it sounds like they cracked the code on how to tell the story, as he told me:
“You want it to be adventure. So even though we’re taking the genre of both the western and the alien movie very seriously, you want jokes, but you don’t want them to come out of winking or out of not taking what’s happening seriously. You want it to come out of the situation that they find themselves in, and that’s the best kind of humor when you can find it.”
We also talked about how the script has changed over the years, what it was like being a producer and screenwriter, how he has the time to work on so many different projects, and I got an update on Star Trek 2. Hit the jump to either read or watch the interview.
Could you talk about working as both producer and writer on this film?
Orci: I had to fire and re-hire myself several times during the process of the movie and that was very confusing for me. In television the writers are the producers, and because Alex and I started in television and we did a draft with Damon Lindelof, you kinda get a sense for what things cost so it wasn’t a new experience for us. Obviously what’s new is the scale of it and the talent surrounding us. But you know we have a lot of safety nets in that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are [also producers], so we could call them any time we got into a jam or needed some wisdom, we could refer to them. But it’s definitely as much work as I feared it would be.
This has been one of those scripts you’ve been working on for a while now. How much has it changed over development?
Orci: Well first of all I have to give credit to Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby who wrote the first Iron Man, we hired them to do the first draft and we broke the story with them and they had a great first draft, and then as I said up on stage Iron Man came out and we couldn’t afford them anymore. But the structure of the story didn’t ever change that much, what changed was the tone. It started out a lot funnier, then we did a draft that was too serious, and then we kinda went back the other way, and the just kinda kept going back and forth until we found hopefully the sweet spot that you saw.
How is humor sort of peppered throughout this film to give it a serious but still fun, summery tone?
Orci: Yeah exactly, you want it to be adventure. And so even though we’re taking the genre of both the western and the alien movie very seriously, you want jokes but you don’t want them to come out of winking or out of not taking what’s happening seriously you want it to come out of the situation that they find themselves in, and that’s the best kind of humor when you can find it.
How do you manage working on so many projects in both film and television at the same time?
Orci: Well people only see Alex [Kurtzman] and I out there but we actually very much invest in our company and so we have an amazing group of collaborators in our feature executives and television executives, an amazing support staff, and so we’re a little production company even though people don’t know that, they think we do everything ourselves. We have an amazing, amazing team.
Orci: I’ve heard that they wanna shoot in the fall. We’ll be ready if they want to. We’re in the middle of writing it and hopefully we’ll be shooting in a few months.
Are you guys close to being done with it? Are you just doing minor tweaks?
Orci: We’re never done it with. You know, you’re never done. You’re not done until it’s projecting in the theater.
I’ve heard J.J.’s coming back [to direct]. Gut-feeling, do you think he’s coming back?
Orci: I dare J.J. to come back. I dare you J.J. You hear me? Star Trek!