Roberto Orci (left) and Alex Kurtzman (right) were working on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Bruce Campbell-starring Jack Of All Trades when they heard about a new spy show that a certain J.J. Abrams was putting together. The pair had been trying to break into network TV for some time and finding doors shut, since their work on syndicated programming made them second-class citizens to network execs. But Abrams had no such bias. “Alias came up, and we were told that J.J. really liked what we’d been working on,” says Kurtzman. “He was excited by the thing that everybody else was turned off by.” The trio formed an instant rapport, discovering a similar taste in film, TV and more. “We all know the same geeky references and can quote them to each other,” says Orci.
That fan shorthand was to prove critical in a working relationship that would stretch across four seasons of Alias, Mission: Impossible III, Fringe and now two Star Treks. “As things in our lives get crazier, that shared language becomes even more necessary,” says Kurtzman, “because the clock is ticking at such a crazy rate.” But that’s not to say they always agree. “If he (Abrams) cannot accept the emotional truth of a scene,” says Kurtzman, “he locks up completely. There’s no moving forward if he doesn’t believe it. Sometimes as writers you fall back on cleverness, and cleverness is, I think he would say, the enemy of truth.”
Their Alias work became a launch pad for non-Abrams-related feature work on Michael Bay’s The Island and the first two Transformers films, and, most recently, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But the relationship with J.J. remains close. “We’re still working very much like we did on Alias,” says Kurtzman. “He really likes to talk things out. I’m always amazed how much humour he finds in serious moments —
I think that’s an incredibly rare gift.” “His approach is to make it seem as little like work as possible,” says Orci. “It’s only when the pressure surrounds you that maybe he gets a bit serious, but it’s the most fun environment I’ve ever seen anyone create.” The pair are now working on Hawaii Five-0 on TV, without Abrams, as well as a new Sleepy Hollow and Tom Cruise sci-fi All You Need Is Kill, but in the meantime they’re putting the finishing touches to Star Trek Into Darkness. “One of the things we all subscribe to is that it’s really not finished until they rip it out of your cold, dead hands,” laughs Kurtzman. “Right up until the point they make wet prints and throw it into theatres…”