If the trailer to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made you feel like a kid again, you’re not alone — even among some of the heaviest hitters in Hollywood. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (whose credits include Transformers; Mission: Impossible III; and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek reboot) were equally thrilled by the silhouette of a dusty fedora and the first few bars of the triumphant theme song that led into for the upcoming film (written by David Koepp). Sure, the cowriters have spent time spitballing with Steven Spielberg on Transformers, but deep down they’re still just fans with May 22 circled on their calendars.
Here they talk about the enormous impact Indiana Jones has had in their own screenplays, what it’s like to steal from Steven Spielberg, and how Harrison Ford’s venerable archeologist is still the gold standard when it comes to action movies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How old were you when you first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark?
ALEX KURTZMAN: I was 8. I remember that there was a lot of debate about the face-melting scene. And I think my parents had to decide whether or not I was old enough to handle that, but they did.
ROBERTO ORCI: I had the exact same experience. I remember my mom asking my dad, ”Do you think it will be too intense for the kids?”
Is there a scene that still excites — or terrifies — you?
ORCI: For me, the indelible image was the Ark, and just finding out that that was a real historical artifact was kind of a shocking thing to me. It was the first movie of this genre where I thought, Oh, that could be real. And that’s an amazing thing to feel as a kid.
KURTZMAN: I also think that the Ark represented that amazingly fine line that the movie is walking between reality and magic, and how it manages to hold the perfect balance between those two things is really a tonal miracle. Raiders defined something that we’ve been chasing forever. It was such a major motivator in our falling in love with genre and understanding that you could tell a story that was emotional and funny and scary and adventurous all in one go. You want people [watching your films] to feel like you felt as a kid watching that movie. That’s the dream.
NEXT PAGE: ”We’ve been in meetings with Spielberg where we’re like, ‘Listen, at the risk of analyzing your own work back to you, this is kind of like, you know, the Staff of Ra.”’