How do things like robot urination and teabagging end up in the Transformers movies? We asked co-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. And the duo hinted that, contrary to press reports, they may be up for Transformers 3. Spoilers ahead...
Testicles on the page:
When we got the chance to talk with Kurtzman and Orci about Transformers, we had to ask about the movies' signature moments of freakiness, like robots peeing on people or — in the new movie — a set of giant testicles hanging down from Devastator, the massive robot made out of five construction vehicles. (He's a bunch of construction vehicles, and there are two wrecking balls hanging between his legs.) Do Orci and Kurtzman write these things into the script, or does director Michael Bay "ad lib" them?
Generally, the duo said, these things are in the scripts. Although they couldn't remember the origins of Devastator's testicles. Orci thought that Bay had demanded "a big pair of testicles." But Kurtzman reminded him that it was actually co-writer Ehren Krueger's idea, when the three of them were holed up for a few months writing the script after the writers' strike. "The testicles are in the script," Kurtzman said. "Well, it's a construction machine, so you of course have wrecking balls. And Michael, immediately, of course, loved it."
As for how that strike impacted the writing process, Kurtzman explained:
We broke the story together, two weeks before the strike, handed in twenty pages of a treatment. Michael and Ian Bryce and everyone went off and started to prepare the movie off of that. The strike ended, and we had three months between the strike ending and the first day of shooting. So in those three months, we actually wrote the script, the three of us. Giving Bay pages every day or two, until we had a movie. So it was crazy.
Humor in Trek and Transformers:
There's a lot of humor in both Transformers and Star Trek, which the duo also co-wrote, but it seems like it works somewhat differently in either franchise. So we asked Orci and Kurtzman where the difference comes from.
Well, our director has a very different sensibility as far as where he's getting his humor from. The The Transformers are generating humor from the way they talk. And the humor in Star Trek is very much about the circumstances our characters find themselves in. It's literally the difference between cracking jokes and being in a funny situation. They're different franchises.
So how much of their sense of humor comes from their early experiences writing for Sam Raimi-produced shows like Hercules? Some of it, they said, although it has deeper roots than that.
"It comes from the voice that we learned," says Orci. "Certainly, Hercules was one of htose interesting shows where it lived in a world where everyone perceived it as camp, but we had to never approach it that way in the writers' room. It had a real sense of humor, and I think actually, the seeds of that sense of humor in [Producers] Rob (Tapert) and Sam (Raimi) come from the screwball comedies, like the Preston Sturgess screwball comedies and Billy Wilder. And in a weird way that stuff did fuse itself into Hercules. We paid homage to those shows very frequently in our writing."
"And they gave us the freedom to do it," Kurtzman said. "They weren't afraid of that stuff." And you can see that kind of humor in Evil Dead 2, he added.
Why does Sam want to leave his awesome girlfriend and robot?
One question that io9 readers have been asking lately is, Is Sam Witwicky nuts? He has an amazingly cool car that transforms into a robot, and he has an awesome girlfriend who changes into a killer white dress to bring him flowers. Why would he want to leave them to go off to college and hang out with dorky roommates?
"Most of us go off to school, don't we, and leave home," said Orci. "Didn't that happen to you? Why'd you do that?" And the college where Sam is studying doesn't allow freshmen to have cars. "Thematically, it turns out to be what gets him trouble," Orci adds. "The lesson of the movie is, don't leave your girl or your Transformer."
"The grass is always greener, right?" Kurtzman added. "You get used to what you have."
In a sense, Transformers 2 has a similar theme to Spider-Man 2, where Peter Parker tries to give up being Spider-Man.
Sam never expected to find himself at the center of an alien war. He just wanted to have a normal kid and have a normal kid's experiences, and so he's at the natural point in his life where college would be the next step for him, and he wants that... the sequels we grew up loving, like Superman 2, Terminator 2 and Aliens are often about the hero's refusal of the call, and the consequences that follow.
It's been widely reported that Orci and Kurtzman are definitely not writing the script for Transformers 3, but actually they sounded pretty open to doing it.
"We never say never, but since the movie's not even out, it's impossible for us to go, 'Yes, we're in,'" Kurtzman said.
What's the difference between having a mythos and being mythic?
Transformers is a franchise with a lot of mythos, meaning that there is tons of backstory about Cybertron and the Allspark and the Fallen and so on. What is the difference between having a rich mythos and having a mythic storyline?
Kurtzman took a stab at this question for us:
I think mythos, in the way you're talking about, is set up to deal with more what is the past. Mythic is about what's happening to you now, it's epic, going into the future. Star Trek doesn't rely too much on the history of the world, it's mythic, and you're taking someone from childhood and taking them all the way from the womb back to space. It's a long journey, as oppposed to discovering something about your past.
Cowboys And Aliens:
We had to ask the duo what's going on with their movie adaptation of the graphic novel Cowboys And Aliens, which is about alien invaders falling afoul of cowboys and Apache warriors in 1800s Arizona. Orci said they're three or four weeks away from finishing their script draft, and hopefully they'll find a director and take it from there. "There's been a lot of invention, and a lot of reinvention, and we took the spirit of the graphic novel and figured out how to [bring it to the screen.]"
"But certainly, there are cowboys and aliens," said Kurtzman.