Back from the brink

Survivor: Tom Cruise plays an evacuee from an invasion-ravaged Earth in Oblivion.Two years ago, filmmaker Joseph Kosinski was trying to drum up attention for Oblivion, his idea for a movie about the last man on Earth. He created a graphic novel of the first chapter and took copies to the pop culture convention Comic-Con in San Diego to create interest.
Nanjing Night Net

”Someone picked up a copy and somehow it got to Tom Cruise and when I got back to Los Angeles, I got a call saying Tom wanted to talk about it,” the youthful-looking 38-year-old writer/director/producer recalls, still marvelling at the synchronicity that got his science-fiction blockbuster off the ground.

We are sitting in Hangar 8 at Santa Monica Airport, where some of the more elaborate space machines used in the film are being stored, including the impressive Bubbleship, a futuristic hybrid of a Bell 47 helicopter and a jet fighter that took five months to make and weighs more than 2000 kilograms. It’s flown by Cruise in the film and is one of the many ambitious props and sets that make the film a visual feast.

Ironically, Kosinski says his first meeting with Cruise was at the actor’s own airport hangar across town, where they bonded over toys. ”I’m such an aviation buff and he has a P51 Mustang, a whole suite of other planes and 30 motorcycles so we ended up talking about planes and cars and bikes and all this great stuff,” Kosinski says excitedly. ”Then we got down to the story and I spent an hour pitching him the movie and he was instantly hooked by the character and said, ‘Let’s do it!”’

The film is set in 2077, and Jack Harper (Cruise) is a drone security repairman working with a by-the-book navigator (Andrea Riseborough) stationed above Earth’s evacuated surface in a floating home called Skytower. He’s part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat decimated the planet. But when he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft and meets a band of survivors led by Beech (Morgan Freeman), he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Kosinski, who made his feature film directorial debut with the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, says it’s no coincidence both his films are science fiction. ”I was a child of the late ’70s and ’80s so I was brought up in that world of Star Wars, Blade Runner, 2001 and Back to the Future,” he says. ”Science fiction for me is the genre where you can really challenge people’s minds and their hearts and you can play with emotions. I love design, I love building worlds and I went to school for product design and architecture, so creating worlds is the fun part of making these kind of movies for me.”

Raised in Iowa as the son of a doctor, Kosinski earned an architecture degree from Columbia University in New York before moving to Los Angeles in 2005. ”I was having trouble breaking into the commercial music video business, where I wanted to get started,” he says. ”I’d been trying for months to get a foot in the door and couldn’t even get a fabric softener commercial, so I wrote a lot, including this story for Oblivion, in order to keep myself from going crazy.”

After TRON: Legacy grossed $400 million worldwide, Kosinski was given the green light to make the ambitious action-adventure Oblivion film, which shot for more than 80 days in Louisiana, New York and Iceland. ”When I was writing this, I had no idea it would blossom into something so big,” he says. ”Getting to a mountain peak in Iceland via helicopter, dropping off cranes and putting the biggest movie star in the world on the tip of that mountain and shooting a scene up there is something I’ll never forget.”

Kosinski admits he was also eager to learn from his leading man. ”I was shocked how down-to-earth he was, but it was also an amazing experience to hear him talk about working with Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott,” he says.

”I felt like I was learning second-hand from all my heroes thanks to Tom.”Oblivion

Genre Science fiction

Critical buzz Will this big-budget sci-fi film turn things around for Tom Cruise at the box office after a tepid response to his past two efforts, Jack Reacher and Rock of Ages? The early buzz is that it will.

Stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko

Director Joseph Kosinski

Rated M

Release Now screening

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.