Orci & Kurtzman: Cowboys and Aliens won't be Wild Wild West

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Jun 26, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT

Writing partners Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek) told SCI FI Wire that their upcoming Cowboys and Aliens movie will mash up sci-fi and the Old West in a way that hasn't been done before.

"We're in the middle of writing that with [Lost executive producer] Damon Lindelof," Kurtzman said in an exclusive interview last week. "We're hoping to deliver that soon, but it's feeling really good, and it's really exciting because it's just fun to write a genre [mashup]."

Added Orci: "Audiences are so savvy now that you almost—I think these are the kinds of things that we look for, is things that you can't imagine well together."

Cowboys and Aliens is based on the Platinum Comics graphic novel written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley. Set in the mid-1800s in Arizona, it deals with the invasion by an extraterrestrial species with plans to enslave humanity, but cowboys and native Apache have other plans. Orci and Kurtzman are acting as producers and writers on the project for DreamWorks; Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg are also producing.

Following is an edited version of our interview with Orci and Kurtzman about Cowboys and Aliens. The movie is slated for a 2010 release.

Well, this seems like such a natural idea that it's surprising it hasn't been done yet.

Kurtzman: It's deceptively tricky, though. ... That's what they said about Transformers [which Orci and Kurtzman also wrote], and it was in development for almost 20 years. It's just one of those weird things where you have to find the right story, and hopefully we have.

Orci: And the right tone.

Kurtzman: Tone is the whole ballgame, yeah.

Talk about tone. How do you marry these two disparate genres like that?

Orci: By trying to be really true to both. It's odd. You want it to feel like a real western that then gets interrupted realistically by this phenomenon, as opposed to a cartoon.

Kurtzman: Yeah, ... It's not the Wild Wild West tone. You know? It's much more of a straightforward kind of serious movie that is all of a sudden interrupted with the arrival of aliens.

In a way that feels organic to the milieu you've created?

Orci: Yeah, because that's the tricky part, you know? ... Some of the words that we'd all use in everyday language to describe an alien invasion simply don't exist in 1880. And so you have to make sure that you are somehow putting yourself in their mindset, thinking about "How would you even talk about what you're looking at here?" ...

Will it be relatively true to the comics, or are you just taking the premise and creating your own thing?

Orci: Like Transformers, you have to come up with what is the live-action translation of a good concept.

I don't think it's a particularly well-known graphic novel

Kurtzman: No, it's just, it was just kind of like, what are some of these ideas? And we ended up [fabricating] a new story.