Director Joseph Kosinski speaks exclusively with MTV News about his sci-fi feature.
By Amy Wilkinson with reporting by Josh Horowitz
Sixty years after an alien invasion, little is left on Earth's eviscerated surface — save for drone repairman Jack Harper. And thus begins the twisty tale of "Oblivion," written and directed by "Tron: Legacy" helmer Joseph Kosinski.
The film's first trailer, starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko, dropped Monday (December 10), and MTV News spoke exclusively with Kosinski about the project's genesis, pitching to Cruise and how "Oblivion" stacks up against his previous sci-fi project
On the Story
"I started writing this small character-driven science fiction story that was in the vein of those science fiction films of the 1970s that involved this lone survivor among the ruins of civilization, like 'Mega Man' or 'Silent Running' — it was kind of in that vein. I thought if it was going to be my first movie it would have to be something very small and contained in order to even get a chance at pulling it off. So it's the story of a drone repair man, Jack Harper, who is one of the last human beings left on earth after a massive war, which was the result of an alien invasion. Even though humankind won the war, Earth was left in such a state that we had to look for another place to settle, and Jack is left behind to monitor and secure the resource gathering operation that's happening where we're gathering the last bit of energy out of the earth's seawater in order to move onto the next step."
On That Graphic Novel
"That was the original treatment, the story. At the time I was ready to turn it into a screenplay, WGA went on strike and we couldn't actually hire a screenwriter to work on a screenplay at that point. So in order to keep the process moving forward I teamed up with Radical Comics to develop and illustrate a novel in parallel based on this story. And we did that over a couple years, and then I got pulled into 'Tron,' which was a couple years, and as 'Tron' was in post [production] I had enough between the story and the illustrations I had done with Andree [Wallin], the artist, I had enough of a package to go out and set the project up at a studio which is what I did. And then I went into feature mode so, we never actually finished the graphic novel because once it got picked up I realized that the way I wanted this story to be experienced was on the big screen and not out of the book."
On Landing Tom Cruise
"It was our final Comic-Con for 'Tron,' and while I was showing the big Comic-Con trailer and we were doing our big song and dance for 'Tron: Legacy,' I was also launching an ashcan for 'Oblivion'—which was just kind of like an introductory chapter with eight images at the Radical [Comics] booth. And the day after I got back from Comic-Con, I got a call from Tom's agent saying that Tom had seen the ashcan and wanted to meet me and talk to me about it. I went over and met him at his hanger and I pitched him the full story 'cause he had just read that introductory beat—there wasn't a script at that point it was a story in my head. And I pitched him the whole story over about two hours and at the end of the meeting he said, 'Let's do this. I want to do this. I want to do this movie with you.' ... The role fits him like a glove. I just can't imagine anyone else playing this character."
On Bringing Sci-Fi Into Daylight
"Visually, I always knew exactly what I wanted the film to look like. 'Alien' is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I feel like after 'Alien,' science fiction kind of went into the dark for a long time. It became about deep space and dark ship holes and it just went into darkness. I liked the idea of bringing science fiction out into the daylight again. So it is a daytime science fiction film where the world is kind of divided into two zones: the world above the clouds and the world below the clouds. The world above the clouds is where Jack lives with Victoria, his partner, in this operation, in the skytower which is 3,500 ft. above the ground, away from the dangers that live below, which is a very different world from the ground where Jack actually has to do his job every day. And that juxtaposition to me in concept lends itself into a visual juxtaposition as well, where you're gonna see technology set against a landscape that I feel is something we haven't really seen before."
On Building From "Tron" Technology
"For this movie I had an idea of a new technique that I knew would provide a level of realism and immersion that you could never get from blue screen or green screen because the interactive lighting environment is something that always has to be faked. So I had an idea for something that was outlandish and I figured out with my DP audio [Claudio Miranda] how to actually pull it off. I'm really excited for people to see that in the movie because I think that from a technological point of view it was the most advanced thing I've ever done, and it was only possible because of the camera we had and the lenses we were using."
On The Score
"The composer is Anthony Gonzales, also known as M83, who's working in conjunction with Joe Trapanese, who was my orchestrator on 'Tron' and worked with Daft Punk. We've done a score for this film that I am as excited about as I was for the 'Tron: Legacy' score. It's just spectacular, I'm really psyched. And we will be recording that in January."
On What You Haven't Seen Yet
"I think the trailer does a good job at hinting that the film does have a number of twists and turns and there are hard questions being asked and there is a character who is under pressure. But I don't really want to say much more than that as to what the plot of the movie is."