Roundtable Interview With Joseph Kosinski On Oblivion

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We Got This Covered: Drone users don’t come off very well in this movie. Is there a message here for the American military?

Joseph Kosinski: Well it’s interesting how sometimes the news somehow parallels the entertainment business. All the stuff in the paper recently about drones is interesting. I remember seeing a depiction of a drone in The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, and it was the most terrifying thing, this notion of a machine with no soul battling on the surface. That was the inspiration for the fleet of drones in this movie. Both movies have explored the idea of our relationship with technology, how it can be good but also can be not so good. I just think it’s something we need to be wary of. Technology can do amazing things for us, but it’s something we need to keep an eye on.

We Got This Covered: Melissa Leo is a terrific actress and she was great in Oblivion as Sally. How did you get her involved in this small but pivotal role?

Joseph Kosinski: The role of Sally was one that I looked hard at in looking for the right actress who could be both caring and almost motherly, but have a firmness and a strength behind it that is unmistakable. I sent Melissa the script and she just sparked to it immediately. She got it, she understood the character, and she had never done a movie like this before. She’s usually doing more independent films, so the opportunity to be in a big movie in an unexpected way I think really appealed to her. I’m thrilled to add her to this incredible cast that I was able to get for this film.

We Got This Covered: The designs of the Bubbleship, the drones and the Sky Tower in Oblivion are very striking. I understand you have a background in engineering and architecture. How much did you contribute to the designs in this movie?

Joseph Kosinski: My background is in mechanical engineering and industrial design, that’s what I went to undergraduate school for. Then I went to architecture school for graduate school thinking I was going to be an architect. I was always looking for a career that could combine my creative interests with my technical side, and it ends up that directing films is the perfect combination.

With Oblivion and the vehicles you see in this film, I wanted it all to feel like it was part of the same design family which makes sense when you see the film, why everything feels related. The Bubbleship and the Sky Tower were two elements of the story that I had a very clear image of from the start. I brought my same design team from TRON: Legacy onto this project to flesh out the details of the hardware.

We Got This Covered: With TRON: Legacy you had to update a sci-fi world we were already familiar with. As a writer, what were the challenges of creating a sci-fi world in Oblivion that we have never seen before?

Joseph Kosinski: Well I was inspired by some of the films I remember having seen as a kid, science-fiction films of the 60’s and 70’s. I loved The Twilight Zone television show and I loved Planet of the Apes, Omega Man and La Jetée. It felt like in the 80’s after Alien, which is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, science-fiction went into a very dark place of deep space and dark ships, and I like the idea of bringing science fiction back out into the daylight.

So for me that felt like something we hadn’t seen in a while and that juxtaposition of the world we know set against the landscape of Iceland to me was an exciting depiction of the Earth’s surface. We’ve seen so many dusty, gray, green, brown post-apocalyptic worlds that it would be fun to see something with some color and daylight and brightness and this world above the clouds. That to me as an aesthetic was really exciting.

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Joseph for talking with us. Be sure to check out Oblivion, in theatres this Friday.

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