Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski literally just finished working on his Tom Cruise/Morgan Freeman-starring sci-fi epic before heading to Anaheim for WonderCon. “I just finished it two nights ago,” Kosinski said. As shown in the Oblivion trailer, the story follows Cruise on a post-alien-attack Earth and beyond that... the plot is a mystery!
We caught up with the helmer (who made his directorial debut with Tron: Legacy -- see what he said about a Tron: Legacy sequel!) to talk about what inspired this story he created, how having Cruise in your movie changes everything and also what it is about the sci-fi genre that he loves so much for telling far-reaching stories.
Movie Fanatic: What does having Tom Cruise in your movie mean? Is it a guarantee that it will get made?
Joseph Kosinski: I don’t know that anything is a guarantee, but your odds go way up for sure. For me, it is above all else… having a fantastic actor. There are few people out there that can carry a movie on their shoulders. Tom is the biggest movie star in the world, but he is also an amazing actor. What I’m most excited about people seeing in this movie is his performance. It’s really just incredible.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve got a strong actor in Tom Cruise, but having Morgan Freeman too, that’s like icing on the cake…
Joseph Kosinski: You know Tom and I from the very beginning talked about how amazing it would be to get someone like Morgan Freeman in that role. Then to be able to get him was not only a huge thrill for me but for Tom as well. And I think for Morgan. Morgan told me that he and Tom had always wanted to work together but they were waiting for the right project and that Oblivion was the right one. So for it to be in my film was a real honor. I think the scenes between Tom and Morgan are some of the best in the movie just because you’re seeing two incredible actors with so much experience playing off each other in a really fascinating way.
Movie Fanatic: What is it about the genre of science fiction that you like as a mode of story telling?
Joseph Kosinski: Well, I feel like it has no limits. You can tell familiar stories in ways that are completely different. The way Avatar told a love story in a way that we had never seen before. 2001 opened people’s minds to the world of space exploration in a way that had never been done before. So for me in a way it’s kind of like the new Western, you know? We live in a science fiction film. The world we live in is surrounded by elements of science fiction so I think it is something that people are very comfortable with but at the same time you can bend the rules in ways that are very exciting.
Movie Fanatic: What do you personally enjoy about it so much?
Joseph Kosinski: I love the idea of taking people to the cinema and disappearing and going somewhere else for a few hours. Science fiction allows that. They are very hard movies to make. From a story point of view there is a lot of world building that you have to do. It’s not like a cop drama where you can just drop people in New York City and you know the rules of the world and you can go right into story. You have to set the table correctly. There is an arc to that and a challenge. But I think that when you do it right the payoff to that is huge.
Movie Fanatic: What was the actual first inspiration for the story?
Joseph Kosinski: Who knows where it comes from [laughs]? I will tell you that I had just moved to Los Angeles, I was having a lot of trouble breaking into the commercial business. I was trying to get into the commercial/music video business as a steppingstone into feature films and mimic the path of Ridley Scott and David Fincher, the guys I kind of looked up to. So Oblivion became a way for me to keep my creative juices flowing because I wasn’t able to get any work at the time. It was kind of a side project.
Movie Fanatic: Was there anything that inspired it from your past?
Joseph Kosinski: As a kid growing up, I loved the Twilight Zone television series. The half hour episodes had a small cast of characters, very limited budget -- sometimes just a couple of sets -- but somehow the stories had such big ideas. So I was trying to create a character-driven mystery thriller, set in the future that I thought might be my first film. Obviously eight years later… it’s become much bigger than that.
Movie Fanatic: Has the story framework remained the same as you envisioned it years ago?
Joseph Kosinski: I’m really proud of that, that it survived being turned into a big tent pole film with that story intact.
Movie Fanatic: Considering this is a story that you’ve had in your head for so long, what are your emotions as the world is getting to see it? And are you ready to let your baby go out into the world?
Joseph Kosinski: I just finished the IMAX version! It’s interesting. It’s like you give birth to a baby and you get to hold it for like five seconds and they take it. With a post schedule and release schedule like we have on this film, I literally got to watch the movie once complete before it was shipped. It’s a surreal thing to see how fast the process works, especially with digital distribution. But the truth is -- I’m pretty relaxed now. Nothing I can do right now will affect the movie anymore. It’s an oddly calm time.