Roberto Gaston Orci (born July 20, 1973) is a Mexican-American film and television screenwriter and producer. He began his longtime collaboration with Alex Kurtzman while at school in California. Together they have been employed on television series such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. In 2008, together with J. J. Abrams, they created Fringe. In 2013, they created Sleepy Hollow alongside Phillip Iscove. Orci and Kurtzman's first film project was Michael Bay's The Island, and due to that partnership they went on to write the scripts for the first three films of the Transformers film series. Orci first became a film producer with 2008's Eagle Eye and again with 2009's The Proposal.
He and Kurtzman since returned to working with Abrams on Mission: Impossible III and both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. Between 2005 and 2011, Kurtzman and Orci's film projects took revenues of more than $3 billion. In April 2014, Orci and Kurtzman announced that they would only collaborate in television projects, and Orci worked on the third Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, until being replaced the following December. Orci created the television series Matador for the El Rey Network, but after this was initially renewed, it was cancelled at the end of the first season. Both Kurtzman and Orci continue to work as producers on the television series Limitless and Scorpion. Orci was awarded the Norman Lear Writer's Award and the Raul Julia Award for Excellence, in addition to shared awards and nominations including The George Pal Memorial Award.
Orci was born in Mexico City on July 20, 1973, to a Mexican father and a Cuban mother. His mother immigrated to the United States with her parents after Fidel Castro came to power. Orci grew up in Mexico, and moved with his family to the United States at the age of 10. He was raised in Texas, Los Angeles and Canada. He is the older brother of screenwriter-producer J. R. Orci.
He met his longtime friend and collaborator Alex Kurtzman when both were 17-year-old students at Crossroads, a privately funded school in Santa Monica, California. The first time they came across each other was in a film class, where they discovered each other's love for films and in particular the Steven Soderbergh film Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The duo found that they had a number of things in common, as Kurtzman had previously lived in Mexico City and the two could relate. Orci later called him an "honorary Hispanic". Orci went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin. The duo got together once again, and began to write scripts. These included one called Misfortune Cookies which Orci described as "loosely autobiographical", and Last Kiss, which Kurtzman said was their version of The Breakfast Club but was set in a lunatic asylum.
The duo modeled their relationship on writers Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, but were much closer friends rather than just writing partners. They took the approach that they were in a band together and purposely studied teams to discover why they break up. Kurtzman later explained in 2009 that "One big thing that makes the wheels start to wobble is when someone feels that the contribution isn't 50-50. We make sure we live up to the partnership. If we didn't, we wouldn't have lasted this long."
Television and film screenwriting
Orci and Kurtzman began their writing collaboration on the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, after being hired by Sam Raimi. After actor Kevin Sorbo suffered a stroke, the duo were required to come up with inventive ideas to minimize his appearances on screen. Due to this work, they became show runners at the age of 24. They were also involved in the sister-series to Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess. They sought to move to writing for a network-based television series, but found this difficult. After receiving a series of negative responses, they met with J. J. Abrams who was starting work on Alias at the time. The meeting went well, and resulted in them working on the series. They would go on to work together again on the Fox science fiction series Fringe where all three were listed as co-creators.
Orci and Kurtzman received their break in writing for films in 2004, with the Michael Bay film The Island, for which they developed the spec script by Caspian Tredwell-Owen. When Kurtzman and Orci first met Bay, he asked the pair "Why should I trust you?", to which Orci replied "You shouldn't yet. Let's see what happens." While the film was not an overwhelming success, they were brought back for Bay's following film, Transformers, after producer Steven Spielberg asked them to come in for a meeting. The movie took in $710 million at the box office.
Following their work on that film, the duo were brought in to revise the script for Zack Snyder's Watchmen, in an uncredited capacity. They worked once more with Abrams, on Mission: Impossible III. When they collaborated once more with Bay for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, they were under significant time pressures due to the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike. Kurtzman and Orci had two weeks to outline the film, and after the strike Bay had them moved into the Hotel Casa del Mar. The hotel was six blocks away from his office, enabling Bay to conduct surprise inspections.
In the period between 2005 and 2011, the films written by Kurtzman and Orci grossed more than $3 billion, leading to Forbes describing them as "Hollywood's secret weapons". The busyness of their screenwriting careers required them to collaborate with other writers due to the number of projects they were involved in. For example, on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, they teamed up with Ehren Kruger, who took over from them on the writing duties for the Transfomers franchise from Transformers: Dark of the Moon onwards.
Becoming a producer
Orci's first credit solely as a producer came with the film Eagle Eye, where he worked once again alongside Kurtzman. He said in an interview with the magazine Extra that he had previously been involved in productions where the producers had writing backgrounds and had looked to them for help, and he was happy to provide that same support to the writers on Eagle Eye. The director of the film, D. J. Caruso, praised the duo saying that "What's unusually cool about them is that they have maintained the producer-writer power that they earned in television and carried that over into the feature film area, and that is extremely rare." Following their work on Eagle Eye, they were executive producers on the Sandra Bullock film, The Proposal.
Despite their film careers, Orci and Kurtzman continued to create television series. These included Sleepy Hollow, which they developed alongside Phillip Iscove. They pitched the series to a number of networks, and it was picked up by Fox. Orci took five years to bring the series Matador to television, with it originating from a conversation with his cousin Andrew. It was created for Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network, and Rodriguez's one demand of the show was that he could direct the pilot episode. Orci later explained in an interview that it was an easy decision, and he needed to pretend to consider it.
Orci and Kurtzman also worked together as executive producers on the animated television series, Transformers: Prime, due to their involvement with the live action movies. Following the end of the series they were hopeful to be involved in a future animated series based on the premise, which Orci saw less like a reboot of the show and more of a continuation in a different guise. He felt that while Prime was sophisticated, there were concerns that it was leaving younger viewers behind because of its complexity and intensity.
Star Trek reboot
Orci and Kurtzman were asked to write the script for a new Star Trek film, but initially turned it down despite Orci being a fan of the series. Orci suggested rebooting the timeline as seen previously in the films and television series, and adding the return of Leonard Nimoy as Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series. He considered the first two films in the reboot series to be the origin story for the crew, and that the third film would start where the crew was at the beginning of Star Trek: The Original Series. Orci felt that the relationship between the James T. Kirk and the younger Spock was reflective of the partnership of himself and Kurtzman, he said that "We didn't even realize we were writing about ourselves until we were halfway through the script, that was a little embarrassing.
Star Trek was profitable at the domestic box-office, resulting in a sequel being greenlit by the studio and Kurtzman and Orci being asked to write it. The studio set aside a larger budget for the sequel, which was revealed by Orci in an interview with TrekMovie.com. Orci ruled out the "hero quitting" staple of a second movie, which had featured in the Transformers sequel, saying that the crew of the Enterprise were committed and that type of story does not have to apply to all sequels. During the buildup to the film, called Star Trek Into Darkness, Orci was one of the production team who didn't give much away about the villain in the film and denied that Benedict Cumberbatch was to play Khan Noonian Singh.
The criticism of the sequel resulted in Orci posting controversial comments on a Star Trek fan site. In response to a fan upset over Into Darkness, Orci called him a "shitty fan". He later apologized and deactivated his Twitter account.
Breakup of the partnership
In April 2014, Orci and Kurtzman confirmed to Variety that they are no longer going to work together on film projects but will still collaborate on television. Kurtzman wanted to work on the Spider-Man film franchise, while Orci was linked to the directorial role for Star Trek 3. Orci confirmed later that year in July that he was not involved in the production of The Amazing Spider-Man 3 alongside Kurtzman. Orci and Kurtzman's K/O Paper Products continues to operate as a production company within CBS Television Studios, and has created the series Scorpion inspired by the life of Walter O'Brien for the 2014-15 season and Limitless was created for the 2015-16 season from the 2011 film.
Prior to the split of Kurtzman and Orci, the duo were lined up to write the third film in the new Star Trek series. In May 2014, Skydance and Paramount Pictures announced that Orci was to direct the third installment of the Star Trek reboot franchise, after Abrams moved on to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This would have marked Orci's directorial debut, and he was to write the script alongside co-writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay. Due to his commitment to Star Trek 3, he dropped out of a new Power Rangers film, for which he would have been executive producer. But on December 5, it was announced he would no longer be directing the Star Trek film. He remains credited as a producer on the film, and was replaced by Doug Jung and cast member Simon Pegg as the script writers after Orci's initial script was dropped. Orci was replaced as director by Justin Lin, who had previously directed films in The Fast and the Furious franchise.
Orci created Matador with the idea that the main character would be a "soccer player by day who is a spy by night", and called him a "Latin James Bond". The series was broadcast on the El Rey Network created by Robert Rodriguez. It was renewed for a second season shortly before the pilot was broadcast, which had been directed by Rodriguez. But following the production of the first season, the series was cancelled despite the earlier renewal. This decision was blamed on poor international sales.
In mid-2016 he became engaged to actress and dancer Adele Heather Taylor.
Awards and accolades
The Hollywood Reporter listed Orci as one of the 50 most powerful Latinos in Hollywood of 2007. His first solo accolade was the Norman Lear Writer's Award at the Imagen Awards in 2009. He described the experience of receiving an award without Kurtzman as "bizarre". Orci has also been awarded the Raul Julia Award for Excellence by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Together with Kurtzman, Orci won The George Pal Memorial Award at the 2010 Saturn Awards.
Orci and Kurtzman were both honored by the nonprofit organization Chrysalis, alongside Josh Lieberman and Katherine Pope at the Butterfly Ball on June 8, 2013. The organization raises money for homeless people and low-income families, Orci said that "When you hear the life stories from people right here in our own community, who are clients at Chrysalis, and when you come to learn of their lowest moments and how Chrysalis has led to their proudest triumphs, it's easy to see why this local organization is so impactful."
|2005||The Island||Yes||No||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and Caspian Tredwell-Owen|
|The Legend of Zorro||Yes||No||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio|
|2006||Mission: Impossible III||Yes||No||Co-wrote with J. J. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman|
|2007||Transformers||Yes||No||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and John Rogers|
|2009||Watchmen||Yes||No||Uncredited script polish|
|Star Trek||Yes||executive||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman|
|Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||Yes||No||Co-wrote with Ehren Kruger and Alex Kurtzman|
|2011||Cowboys & Aliens||Yes||Yes||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Steve Oedekerk, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby|
|2012||People Like Us||Yes||Yes||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and Jody Lambert|
|2013||Star Trek Into Darkness||Yes||Yes||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof|
|Now You See Me||No||Yes|
|2014||The Amazing Spider-Man 2||Yes||executive||Co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt|
|2016||Now You See Me 2||No||Yes|
|Star Trek Beyond||No||Yes|
|1997–1998||Hercules: The Legendary Journeys||Writer, co-executive producer|
|1999–2000||Xena: Warrior Princess||Writer, co-executive producer, creative consultant|
|2000||Jack of All Trades||Writer, executive producer|
|2001–2006||Alias||Writer, supervising producer, co-executive producer, executive producer|
|2004||The Secret Service||Co-creator, co-writer, executive producer||Pilot|
|2008–2013||Fringe||Co-creator, writer, executive producer, consulting producer||
|2010–2013||Transformers: Prime||Executive producer||
|2010–present||Hawaii Five-0||Developer, writer, executive producer|
|2011||Locke & Key||Co-creator, co-writer, executive producer||Pilot|
|Exit Strategy||Co-creator, co-writer, executive producer||Pilot|
|2013–2017||Sleepy Hollow||Co-creator, co-writer, executive producer|
|2014||Matador||Co-creator, co-writer, executive producer|