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Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci

10 screenwriters to watch

Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci met in high school in Santa Monica, Calif., started writing together at 16 and have been a team ever since, even working on scripts by phone when they attended colleges in different cities.

The scripts they wrote as teenagers, Orci recalls, had almost no structure and were notable for “their narcissistic subject matter, communicating not just our angst but our theory of the universe.”

Nothing unusual about that, they were 16 after all. But those plotless stories made them focus on character, something they’ve carried over into their work on TV series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Alias.” Now they’re bringing that same charactercentric style to pics such as “Mission: Impossible 3” (slated to be helmed by “Alias” creator J.J. Abrams).

They’re also in line for sole screenplay credit on the upcoming “Zorro” sequel at DreamWorks and did a rewrite on Michael Bay’s summer sci-fi thriller “The Island.”

“We’re making the kind of movies we grew up loving,” says Kurtzman.

The two say that their trademark is that they take the genres they work in seriously.

“The first rule we learned on ‘Hercules’ was ‘Commit to your universe,’ ” says Kurtzman. “The minute you start going tongue-in-cheek with it, you’re in trouble. The audience will tune out.”

Most of their scripts have been action-oriented, but the pair enjoy leavening their work with comedy. It’s so important to them that their sure-fire way of knowing they’ve nailed a scene, even a serious one, is when they make each other laugh.

DreamWorks’ Walter Parkes has high praise for that side of their writing. “Their comedy tends not to come from jokes that are laid on top of a situation, but from finding a comic turn within a situation — they don’t punch up a scene, they find something on a character level that makes it funny.”

Parkes says that unlike some writing teams, Kurtzman and Orci are excellent writers in their own right and whose voices aren’t lost when they work together. “No one sees the big picture better than Alex, and nobody’s better than Bob at finding the utterly unexpected line or action that makes a moment come alive.”

VITAL STATS
Age:
Both 31
Birthplaces: Kurtzman, Los Angeles; Orci, Mexico City

Inspirations: Orci: “The ability to take care of the people I love. When you watch the movies, you’re always rooting for the hero, and I always wanted to be the hero of the family.”
Kurtzman: “Getting to work with the people we grew up worshipping, on the kinds of movies we’d be first on line to see.”
Favorite unproduced script: “28th Amendment,” in which a Kennedyesque first-term president discovers the U.S. has actually been run by a secret committee since World War II, and all subsequent presidents have been puppets of this shadowy organization.
Agents: Emile Gladstone and Chris Silberman at Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silbermann

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