We caught up with Roberto Orci, co-writer of Star Trek and producer of Fringe, last night at a Comic Con party. He told us how Steven Spielberg schooled the Cowboys and Aliens crew on Westerns, and gave a Trek update.
So I apologize in advance for the audio quality of these recordings - it was a really noisy party and our equipment was crapping out, plus I had already lost my voice hours earlier. That said, I'll attempt to summarize for those of you who can't make out what Orci is saying.
We asked him about Cowboys and Aliens, and he said they're about five weeks into filming. He's seen all the dailies so far, but he hasn't seen any of it edited together yet. "But the dailies are looking very Western-y, very beautiful."
We asked whether people often assume a movie called Cowboys and Aliens will be a comedy, and whether that's a problem. He responded:
Absolutely. People hear the title, and they say, "Is that a cartoon? Is that like a slapstick comedy? What is it?" And ultimately, the first material shown... whenever we show them, I think they'll show it's a Western and a scifi movie that's taking itself seriously, but it's still fun. But it's not a wink-wink, it's not a joke.
And the combination of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, on screen together, ought to get people's attention.
The alien invasion movie never goes out of style, and the cowboy movie is one that's kind of gone out of style. So the idea of mixing them to make a third genre that is something you haven't seen, even though the two elements are familiar... I keep calling it chocolate and peanut butter.
And he said that this is a film about the ways an alien invasion can bring people together — in this case, cowboys and Apaches who had previously been at war:
Ronald Reagan always talked about... in a couple of speeches he ever made in the 1980s, if the aliens ever attacked, the Russians and the United States would soon forget their differences and work together. And certainly the Apaches and the whites coming together when they were previously at war, echoes a very Reaganesque theme. Not that I'm advocating Reagan.
But don't assume that Cowboys and Aliens will end up being that optimistic - some Westerns have very dark endings, like Unforgiven.
Orci also told us about how Spielberg put him, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and director Jon Favreau in a theater and showed them a restored print of The Searchers:
He literally showed us a brand new print, and he commented throughout the whole thing. We had basically Steven Spielberg commenting on this movie, so he took us to Western school. And that was the first one we saw. And then he kind of gave us a list, and we saw a couple of movies after that every weekend. And we just saw Shane, The Professionals, Who Shot Liberty Valance, High Noon... but The Searchers was the first one, and that's the one that really stuck in our minds. [It's a dark film but] very emotional. That moment when John Wayne picks up that girl, you know... if you've sat through the whole movie, it gets you.
We asked about Fringe, and Orci said that the producers all sat down for a week and talked about what they'd like to see in Year Three. But now it's up to showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman to decide what they actually want to include in the series going forward.
We also got an update on Star Trek - Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof have a story they like, and now they just have to crank it out. Will Khan be in it? Orci half-jokingly said that if enough people on the Internet weigh in against Khan, or in favor of Khan, they would abide by the Internet's decision. (Although I suspect the decision is already made.) And he said he and Kurtzman were also developing a new horror TV series with Heart-Shaped Box author Joe Hill, through their development deal at Dreamworks, and they're trying to figure out where a new horror TV show can go these days.