Joseph Kosinski On Oblivion

'Getting any movie made is a miracle...'


With the movie in the can as of late March, Joseph Kosinski has no more decisions to make about Oblivion, his ambitious follow-up to Tron Legacy, and is able to throw himself into the real final stage: getting the word out about it. The writer/director arrived at WonderCon this weekend and sat down to discuss getting the movie made, locking in Tom Cruise and the still-unpublished graphic novel that formed part of the development process...

Kosinski’s history with Oblivion stretches back years, and served as something to help keep his mind active during the drudgery of finding work when he first arrived in Los Angeles. “I was trying to get into the commercial/music video business as a stepping stone 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,” he says.

“As a kid growing up I loved The Twilight Zone television series, the half hour episodes, with a small cast of characters, a very limited budget, and sometimes just a couple of sets. But somehow the stories had such big ideas, and big concepts to them that they always felt so much bigger than that show and even now they are a blast to watch.

“So I think for me it was trying to create a character driven mystery thriller, set in the future that I thought might be my first film,” he continued. “I purposely kept it small and contained so I could make it for a small budget. Obviously eight years later, it’s become much bigger than that. The story of Jack Harper, the core elements of that are basically unchanged. I’m really proud of that and that it survived being turned into a big tent-pole film with that story intact.”

Especially since it had to survive years of gruelling development hell. “Getting any movie made in the first place is kind of a miracle,” admits Kosinski. “There are hundreds of thousands of scripts written each year in Hollywood and a select few make it to the end and actually make it on screen so for me this is the end of an eight-year process. I wrote this story in 2005, so that journey of getting it into production was most of it, just selling it to a studio. Certainly the making of it has been challenging in itself but I think the hardest one is the first hurdle of just getting a studio to buy off on it.”

A big part of making it happen was securing the services of Tom Cruise as the leading man. “I don’t know that anything is a guarantee but your odds go way up for sure,” Kosinski laughs. “But for me it is above all having a fantastic actor. There are few people out there that can carry a movie on their shoulders, a movie that really relies on a protagonist that can do everything. 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.”

One major element of the film’s development, talked about while it was bouncing between Disney and Universal, was Kosinski turning the story into a graphic novel, and worked on with Radical Comics, but never published. “It was just a stage in the project. The writers' strike occurred in 2007 so I had a treatment for a film but I had no way to actually write it. It couldn’t be written by anyone in the guild so the partnership with Radical Comics allowed me to continue working on the story by developing a series of images and continuing to refine the story more over a period of years. Then I basically used all that development as a pitch kit to the studio. So even though we really never released it as an illustrated novel the story is being told as a film, which was always the intention.”

As for whether we’ll ever see the printed version of the story? “I don’t have any plans to do it right now. To me it’s feels like it’s in the rear-view mirror, you know? It’s like part of the development process. The film is the end result. But never say never. Maybe at some point it will be fun to go back and show the steps and the journey."

Oblivion is out on April 12. Check out the latest trailer below.