Roundtable Interview With Joseph Kosinski On Oblivion

Filmmaker Joseph Kosinski follows up his directorial debut, TRON: Legacy, with an even more ambitious science fiction film, Oblivion. It takes place in a distant future where aliens have shattered the Moon, which in turn nearly destroyed Earth, and Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) spends his days repairing drones that are designed to protect the planet from another alien invasion. But one day Jack meets up with a mysterious woman named Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko) who alerts him to a past he wasn’t aware he had, and he soon calls into question all that he was led to believe in.

We met up with Kosinski at the Oblivion press conference last week, which was held at the back lot of Universal Studios, and he talked with us at length about his new film. He discussed the incredible score, the fantastic production design, the challenges he faced while writing the film and more.

Check it out below.

We Got This Covered: How does the finished film compare to what you originally envisioned, and is there anything you wish you had known on the first day of shooting that you learned in the process of making the film?

Joseph Kosinski: I wrote this story, the first version of it, eight years ago. I thought it would be my first film so I wrote it as a contained cast. The Sky Tower was going to be the main setting. There was always this story of drone repairman Jack Harper and his journey of redemption, but I never would’ve imagined eight years ago that I would be able to make it on this scale; going to Iceland, New York City, building all the incredible sets and vehicles and getting the cast that I was able to get for this film.

But I will say in the end that it’s the same story I originally wrote. Despite the spectacle of the final product, the story of Jack Harper has remained unchanged so that’s something I’m really proud of. In terms of what can I tell myself on day one of shooting, I don’t know. I would say it’s all going to be fine, don’t worry, but it’s a lot of work and there’s a lot of challenges. Some of the experiences I’ve had in this movie of shooting on a mountaintop in Iceland, working with Tom Cruise and seeing him and Morgan Freeman together were just spectacular. It’s kind of what I always dreamed that filmmaking would be like.

We Got This Covered: What’s great about Oblivion is that you are not afraid to let the audience wonder and you pose questions. Most of the time, every movie has to be clear, otherwise you’ll confuse the audience, but you didn’t do that here. How were you able to pull that off?

Joseph Kosinski: Well you don’t want to make a confusing movie. I wanted to make sure that people understood the story which is not a straightforward story, at least in the context of watching the movie. You never want to intentionally make a confusing movie, but I love movies that ask big questions but don’t necessarily answer everything. I like people walking out thinking about something. I wanted this to be a movie that people would talk about and debate and argue over and discuss and think about a couple of days later, and hopefully great science fiction films help you think about issues that relate to yourself whether it’s “what’s my purpose,” “why am I here” and “what is it that makes me who I am?” Those kinds of questions I think my favorite science fiction films ask.

We Got This Covered: The film’s score by M83 is fantastic. How did you get them on board?

Joseph Kosinski: I remember I was listening their song Unrecorded. I think it’s on the Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts album which came out in 2005 and they were relatively unknown back then, but I remember listening to that track while I was writing this treatment. It was such a great experience working with Daft Punk on TRON: Legacy that I wanted to find that artist from outside the film business and try to bring them in and create a film’s score.

Anthony (Gonzalez, one of the founders of M83) always wanted to do a film score so we met and talked about it, I showed him some imagery and explained him the story. Then I paired him with Joseph Trapanese who was the orchestrator on TRON: Legacy and he joined Anthony as a co-composer. I really wanted to create something that sounded original and different and fit the film. It’s a more complex film than TRON: Legacy in terms of writing music for it because it’s got so many different types of scenes, but considering it’s his (Anthony Gonzalez’s) first film, he did a pretty phenomenal job.

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