INT: Eagle Eye producers
There is something really likable about Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. As a team, they have been involved in some very fan boy friendly material including the ultra fun “Xena: Warrior Princess” and of course “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”. And lest ye forget they were also a part of “Alias” and most recently, the new T.V. series getting a ton of buzz, “Fringe”. I guess I could mention that they wrote the mega-hit for Michael Bay TRANSFORMERS and they were also the scribes behind TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN and even the newest STAR TREK film. So you could say they’ve done quite well for themselves. And now, they team up with D.J. Caruso as the writers of EAGLE EYE for Amblin.
I’ve spoken with them before with a ton of other journalists it the room, so I was thrilled to talk with them again, expect this time one on one. First off, they are both big fans of JoBlo, but they are also super cool guys. For all the success they’ve had, they don’t have any arrogance or some superficial bullshit attitude. They are just guys with a talent for bringing characters to life and also knowing a good project when it comes their way. But the fact that they are involved with what could very well be two of the biggest films of 2009 with the Transformers sequel and Star Trek, it is nice to see that they are just fans that love a good story. You can check out all the paranoia goodness they helped create this coming Friday when EAGLE EYE lands at a theatre near you. But be warned, there are some spoilers below…
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Roberto Orci: Absolutely. I was taking that idea that the world was… it wasn’t just that the world wasn’t ready to be done ten years ago because the technology was there, but also, the world was different ten years ago. So we had to absolutely make sure that what we brought to it was to reflect this great, kind of classic, kind of Amblin-y, cool, crazy idea. You know, very much in the vein of some of our favorite films like WARGAMES. We worked with Walter Parkes who we totally… you know, he totally taught us a lot. And so it was then our job to make sure that that classic idea was done in a very modern… we wanted it to be more than just a popcorn movie. [We wanted] it to actually bring up some discussion points about where we’re at right now.
Alex Kurtzman: It’s like when we were doing TRANSFORMERS, it’s like we are always trying to push our movies from this place of what’s the character story. You know, could you take the character story and make a little two million dollar movie out of that? And then if you can add the giant robots or whatever the selling point plot is of the movie… great. And I think in this case, it was sort of like, what are we really doing here. This is really a story about these two characters who were thrown into this extraordinary situation that they cannot stay out of. They literally don’t understand. And what it brings out about the two of them as they’re going through the journey. And I think we felt like putting it… Steven was very right in a way, to hold the movie until now. Because now, there is a topicality about the concept that just goes past the basic idea of, ‘oh, you’re being watched.’ It’s like, what does that actually say about the world we live in now. What it says about the world we live in now is we are living in times of heightened fear and paranoia.
RO: We played around with calling it PARANOIA for a bit.
AK: Yeah, and just that we live in that kind of a world now. So what does that say about human nature? What does that say about our relationship to each other? What does it say about our relationship to technology? And if all those questions could be done in a very… you know, let that be background, let this be a character story first and let them be moving through a world where those things were sort of obvious to you, you know.
RO: We call it the most simultaneously patriotic and unpatriotic movie that we could ever make. You know what I mean? It literally bounces you back and forth which to us is great. It means the story is just embedded in a world and it’s not taking a position particularly in anything, it’s just opening it up for discussion.
AK: We really hope that the movie is not trying to tell you what to think about anything. Rather it is just raising a bunch of questions. You know, if Steven’s goal was let people walk out of the theatre and turn off their Blackberrys, then the question is why. You can interpret any number of different things about this movie in terms of what it’s trying to say. It was not our intention to make a movie that had a singular message.
It’s funny you say that because when I was watching it I kept thinking at times it feels anti George Bush and the current administration, but then it really isn’t and it doesn’t really mention him…
RO: Exactly! That was a tightrope walk.
AK: Yeah it was a tightrope walk and to their full credit, the military gave us full support of the movie. All the aspects… filming at the Pentagon… and it was because ultimately, they felt it was fair. Yeah, the felt it was fair and they felt that we were not trying to impugn them and their decision making process in any way. It’s ultimately about good people trying to do the best they can to make very difficult decisions in the spur of the moment.
Yeah, because even ARIA is not necessarily a typical bad guy.
AK: No, not at all. If you listen to her logic, she’s not wrong [Laughing]. She’s just taking into account certain key things that have to do with humanity.
AK: You know, that’s her blind spot. She just doesn’t understand human subtlety, you know, nuance. For her it’s all probability.
AK: Some people will agree with her. And some people won’t.
Yeah, I mean when it comes to humanity, she’s a computer, but it is getting to an age where computers are all around us and sometimes we don’t have to think for ourselves.
And that’s what is kind of scary.
AK: And ultimately her fatal flaw is that she looks at our characters and she does a character assessment based on math, not based on seeing who they really are. And that is why Jerry is ultimately able to do what he does. She would never have predicted him doing that kind of a thing, she just wouldn’t have seen it.
RO: That’s the thing about being judged by your collective, electronic fingerprint. And as that becomes more who you are to the powers that be, then the more you’re going to be reduced to something that doesn’t take you fully into account. And that is very scary.
Now we were talking about characters, let’s talk about Shia [LaBeouf] and Michelle [Monaghan]. How did you go about casting them aside from D.J.’s successful relationship with Shia and DISTURBIA…
AK: And we did MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 with Michelle…
AK: So they were already people that we had in mind but the thing about both of those actors is… you know, given that there were two versions of this movie we could have done. One would have been a much more, sort of heightened reality where everything felt a little bit more in the TRANSFORMERS world. And the other was one that was much more grounded. And we felt like, you know, the reason that D.J. [Caruso] was the ideal director for the movie was that he has the greatest bullshit detector that you’ll ever encounter. And he really was so vigilante about making sure that everything hopefully wasn’t implausible. And any time we would veer from stuff in the script that felt too, say TRANSFORMERS-y, he’d say we can’t do that. So he kept it in that place where as crazy as the shit is that’s happening to them, it feels like it exists in our world. And Shia and Michelle are two actors who are one hundred percent about being in the moment. I feel like when I’m watching them, they’re reacting the way that I’d react in the moment. And that they’re not like, action heroes who can just handle anything. They’re scared, they get hurt, they don’t know where to go, as opposed to…
RO: They start flirting or any of that nonsense.
Yeah, yeah, there is no ridiculous sex scene in the middle.
AK: It’s funny, you know, because that was something that everyone talked about. Of course when you have a male and female lead, both of whom are as attractive as our stars, everyone goes, ‘Oh, they’re going to get together in the end.’ It really felt like… because we talked about this a lot, it was like, we can only do that if it feels like it’s earned. If it feels like these two people in this situation would go there. And I think it’s why the end works so well…
I also liked the characters and their personal stories… like Jerry working for the copy place.
AK: Well it’s funny ‘cause we were talking about what we sort of wanted that character to be. And obviously twin stories are tricky. You really have to do that well, you really have to make it a very personal story. It can’t be a gimmick that they’re twins. And of course as we’re joking about it… ‘Oh yeah, he’s a twin and he works at a copy store, that would be really funny.’ and we were like, ‘Wait, that’s kind of perfect. It says everything.’ [Laughing] So that’s how that was born.
Now of course there is a lot of excitement for TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. What can we expect this time around?
AK: Well, one thing that we can sort of tell you is that is we just scratched the surface of the mythology in the first one. We give the audience hopefully just enough to peek their interest and to bolster the story we told in the first movie. But I think as a fan, if I was going to a sequel, I’d want to know more about the Transformers.
RO: Like the first one was structured as a disaster movie. This one is more of a mystery that reveals more about the back-story of the Transformers. I think it’s going to be a little bit more “transformers centric” in terms of its focus.
Are there going to be any of the early mythology brought in when it comes to new characters?
RO: We can give you one tease which is, in line with the cartoon, you will find out that they may have been here before.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.