Interview by AMC’s Clayton Nueman
Q: You were reluctant to write a Transformers sequel. What changed your minds?
AK: I think the “refusal to the call” story is what got us over the hurdle. In looking at the sequels that we all loved, one of them was Superman II. And what was so great about Superman II is he was faced with this amazing choice: do you be Superman and all the responsibilities that go with that, or do you give it up for love? And all of a sudden, in giving that up, suddenly the consequences show up. And we came to the idea that Sam never imagined himself in the center of an alien war and he would very justifiably want to be like everybody else. So in refusing Optimus’s call, a lot of bad things ensue.
Q: It occurs to me that what you’ve done with Sam’s story is like a scifi version of American Pie.
AK: [Laughs] That’s a really great way of putting it.
BO: If you think about it, the first movie is: get the girl and get the car. In this one, you’re going away to college and both relationships are threatened. In refusing the call and going away, you are going to maybe lose them both.
Q: Do you think you would have ended up with a different screenplay were you not writing under the pressure of the strike?
AK: No. We had a fairly long postproduction time. We literally finished writing the movie two weeks ago. We were writing robot dialogue right up to the last minute, until they locked picture and sound and they took the print out of our hands.
Q: Do you write a screenplay differently for a director like Michael Bay than you would for J.J. Abrams?
BO: It’s half that and half you’re writing to what the franchise is. We’re not writing big because it’s Michael Bay; Michael Bay is right for Transformers.
AK: With a director like Michael, who’s extremely specific about what he does and does not like to do, our job is to backstop him to a large degree and keep on him about plot and logic and emotion. We very rarely get resistance on that. He has such an innate understanding of what audiences want to see. Where he’ll push back is if he thinks logic is somehow overriding the fun for the audience.
BO: You’ve gotta have a pretty damn good reason to tell him why he’s gotta lose one of his awesome sequences.
Q: You originally wanted Leonard Nimoy to voice the Fallen, which he couldn’t do because of his work on Fringe. How many episodes will he be in next season?
BO: He is going to be in a few episodes for sure, and then we’ll see. The nice thing is, you make a plan, but you also want to be flexible and organic and if something starts to really work like gangbusters…
Q: Are Transformers fans as ravenous as Trekkies?
BO: Transformers fans taught us how to deal with Star Trek fans. And they’re both heavy-duty. But Transformers fans taught us how to interact, how to turn the conversation constructive a little bit, and not just have it be, “You suck. Go jump off of a building, please.”
Q: So when a fan says the Autobot twins are the Jar Jar Binks of Transformers…
BO: My favorite was someone called them Car Car Binks.
AK: Look, I can tell you that Michael designed those characters to reflect what he thought would be funny for kids. And we go with the ride. Literally.
Q: Did you learn anything from writing Transformers 2 that’s been helpful in formulating Trek 2?
AK: They’re so different. You’re putting on a different hat. And the choices that you make in Transformers with Michael as the director versus Star Trek with J.J. couldn’t be more 180 degrees in the opposite direction. So I don’t know that for me there’s a natural corollary between them.
Q: Would you ever again want to draw characters from the Prime universe in the sequel, like you did for Spock?
BO: We can’t be done with it completely. But I would start with what’s happening to the crew now, and if that became a great thing, organic to the momentum of where the first movie is going, then maybe. Anything is possible right now. That’s really the juice and the curse of this path.
Q: Gene Roddenberry always described Star Trek as a Western in space. Now you’re writing Cowboys and Aliens, which is almost the opposite: aliens landing in the old West.
BO: Totally. We were actually just talking about it the other day, that now it’s finally just a literal version of Star Trek‘s premise. Audiences are so sophisticated that one of the ways to show them something new is to literally try and see if you can crash two genres into each other and make them feel like they’re both real in that universe. Hopefully we will.