“Once Upon A Time” creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz wanted to take a breather after finishing their seven-season run on the ABC series.
But then they got an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“We were determined to not take the first job that came our way,” says Horowitz, 48. “But we got a call from Steven Spielberg’s company saying they were interested in us coming aboard as showrunners for ‘Amazing Stories.’ Would we be interested in talking to Stephen Spielberg about it? And that was a call we could not say ‘no’ to.”
The Apple + anthology series (a new episode premieres every Friday) is a reboot of Spielberg’s NBC series of the same name. A hybrid of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” “Amazing Stories” aired from 1985-87 and won an Emmy. It was distinctive for its tone of hope and wonder — Spielberg trademarks — and for its high-profile cast and directors, including Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Spielberg himself.
“Adam and I met in college [at the University of Wisconsin],” says Kitsis, 49. “And we bonded over our love of Spielberg. Both of us were in the business wanting to be writers because of how much his films meant to us. And we would talk about ‘Amazing Stories.’ So for us to get a chance to do it now years later is really a dream come true.”
The reboot’s first episode, “The Cellar,” follows Sam (Dylan O’Brien, “Teen Wolf”), an aimless millennial who ends up traveling back in time to 1919 while he’s restoring an old house. There, he falls in love with Evelyn (Victoria Pedretti, “The Haunting of Hill House”) and the two try to escape to the present-day.
Kitsis and Horowitz say the reboot won’t rehash any storylines or characters from the original.
“It’s all entirely new,” says Kitsis. “The spirit behind ‘Amazing Stories’ was just that, an opportunity to let your imagination go and tell many different kinds of stories. At its core, it’s a show about the ordinary meeting the extraordinary, and finding real relatable people in relatable situations, and how something extraordinary can touch their lives.”
The third episode, “Dynoman and the Volt,” features Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown”), who died in October at age 78, making “Amazing Stories” his final role.
“Robert Forster came aboard to do this part in episode three,” says Horowitz. “He does what he has done his entire career — he makes the role his own and blows you away with his talent, heart, and humanity. It’s a really special performance.”
The episode is about a boy and his grandfather (Forster) who discover that a ring ordered out of a comic book has the power to turn them into real superheroes.
“Everybody, cast and crew, loved Robert,” says Kitsis. “We were all in awe of him. I remember even in the writers room during lunch we would huddle around and watch his dailies with our jaws dropped, because he was just so good.”
And although they handled the daily aspects of the show, Kitsis and Horowitz say they still worked closely with Spielberg.
“We would run every story idea by him. We would sit with him and talk about stories [and] he would have ideas,” Kitsis says. “We would brainstorm. He would have incredible thoughts on every aspect of the production.
“There’s a reason he’s the greatest living filmmaker we have — because there’s no one like him.”