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About an hour ago I got a chance to talk to Roberto Orci, one half of the screenwriting team that, in one summer alone, brought you both Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (for that one he and screenwriting partner Alex Kurtzman also teamed up with Ehren Kruger).
The conversation got mysteriously cut off after about 15 minutes, which meant I didn't get a chance to ask about any Star Trek 2 spoilers or even the hotly debated twins. But I did ask about another contentious character in the film, the co-ed-turned-Decepticon who pretty much defines the tagline "more than meets the eye." Did you think that Kurtzman, Orci and Bay made a hot chick a Transformer for the hell of it, ignoring the long history of the franchise?
Of course not! "They're called Pretenders in the Transformers lore. That actually does come from Transformers lore. I know that some thought it somehow violated the spirit of Transformers," Orci said, sounding just a bit triumphant over the fans who had already been outraged by the character.
Orci actually has some first-hand knowledge of the people eviscerating his new movie online, having boldly stepped into the Ain't It Cool comments section to mix it up with fans, if not exactly defend his film. The way he sees it, it's all part of the job. "It's partly an exercise, partly just mixing it up in a roller derby, that's what the talkback kind of is. Kind of getting into the spirit of the board itself, and not shrinking away, and also not advocating any responsibility to the audience. Just throwing yourself in there and seeing what happens, just be straightforward and react like a real person."
Having gotten his start writing for fan-centric TV shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, Orci says he and Kurtzman are both very familiar with fan outrage. "From our first job on Hercules: The Legendary Journey 10 years ago, when we killed his sidekick Iolaus. We had funeral wreaths delivered to the office, and fish wrapped in newspapers. I've had 10 years of training for these moments. And you do learn something. The audience is always right no matter what the opinion is, and you just want to find out what they're saying, even if it's disguised with insults."
Later today I'll post the audio of the rest of our conversation, in which we talk about the process of working with Michael Bay, teaming up with a third screenwriter, and which part of the script is defined as a "Michael Bay special."