Tom Cruise and Director Joseph Kosinski on set (Universal)
Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski got up close and personal with fans on Monday night when they participated in a Q&A following an exclusive IMAX screening of their new sci-fi extravaganza, "Oblivion."
Based on a 2010 graphic novel Kosinski penned with comic book writer Arvid Nelson, "Oblivion" takes place on a future Earth left decimated by an alien invasion. Former Marine Jack Harper (Cruise) is a working-class drone repairman assigned to extract what remaining resources the broken planet has to offer ... until the discovery of a mysterious spacecraft makes him question his mission and, later, his very existence.
Cruise and Kosinski sat down with Hero Complex contributor Rebecca Keegan at New York City's AMC Loews 34th Street to discuss the film and answer questions that were tweeted by fans.
"Should I do a stunt over this rail?" Cruise jokingly asked as he had a little trouble getting to his seat in-between Keegan and Kosinski. Cruise is known for his boundless enthusiasm for the films he works on and the people who make them, and he immediately set things off with praising his director.
"I wanted to do this movie because of Joseph Kosinski," said Cruise when asked what initially attracted him to "Oblivion." "He's a world creator and a visionary, and this story has amazing twists up until the final frame. It's a big action adventure with thrills, mystery and romance."
Cruise also praised Kosinski's filmmaking techniques, which involved applying practical effects in clever ways rather than defaulting to green screen and CGI.
"A key location is the Sky Tower, and Joe wanted to have real clouds and a real sunset around it," said Cruise. "He took footage of cloud formations and sunsets on the top of a volcano in Hawaii and brought it to the set we built in Baton Rouge. He projected the images onto the soundstage screen ... it made for such a haunting beauty, such a unique aesthetic."
Even though there was a set built in Louisiana, the bulk of the filming on "Oblivion" took place on location in Iceland. The sun shone for 24 hours a day, which made for "very long shooting days," according to Cruise.
"I wanted something that looked desolate but beautiful," said Kosinski on how he chose the location for the landscape of future Earth. "I was looking at landscape photography of Iceland -- there are no trees, and everything looks so clean -- it was a perfect place to put monuments from our world sticking up out of the ground."
While Cruise appreciated the natural beauty of Iceland, he seemed more excited about the production's high-tech elements.
"I got the motorcycle from the production as a gift but I really wanted the 'bubble ship,'" said Cruise, referring to the vehicle that his character pilots. "The bubble ship ... and the pool," he added, alluding to a location we'll just have to wait and see for ourselves when the film opens.
Cruise's character of Jack Harper has "so many layers," according to the star, one of which makes him the perfect role through which the "Mission: Impossible" hero can show off his knack for doing stunts ... even though the physicality of "Oblivion" made for some rough going at times.
"There's a particular fight scene in the movie ... I had never done a fight like that, and I probably never will again," laughed Cruise. "The fight scene is in a very hot environment, and the suit I was wearing was like a sauna ... we were worried that just one take of the fight would cause dehydration and going into shock. We'd unzip after every take and they'd fill my suit with ice packs."
"It was a very challenging fight scene -- we had to figure out how to do it without killing him," added Kosinski.
Cruise also had a motorcycle scene with Olga Kurylenko in which his co-star kept grabbing the handles of the bike rather than onto him, which made for some rather sudden and dangerous run-ins with gravity whenever they would hit a bump. "I was scared s**tless!" exclaimed Cruise, and again a second time when he was assured that he was "allowed to swear on the Internet."
It wasn't all fights and motorcycle chases, though -- Cruise got to flex his dramatic actor muscles as well in portraying Jack Harper, a man who feels out of place in his own time. Kosinski especially liked conjuring the artifacts that make up Harper's own personal collection of knick-knacks.
"He's got a Yankees cap, a Led Zeppelin album, chewing gum ... he's a guy who's in love with a time that existed before he was born. He has a special connection to it but he doesn't know why. All that stuff are like pieces of the puzzle in the mystery."
Cruise acknowledged that "Oblivion" is most certainly not a one-man show by giving props to his co-stars.
"It was awesome to work with Morgan Freeman," he said. "I had followed him since 'Street Smart,' and we were both up for Oscars that year [Cruise was nominated for 'The Color of Money']. If you see the movie a second time, you'll see more and more the layers of each performance -- Olga has a dignity and quiet strength, Morgan has this sense of power."
The movie not only looks good thanks to the incredible production design and all-star cast, but it also sounds good, too. Kosinski's first feature directing gig, "TRON: Legacy," was praised not only for its astonishing visuals but for its unique electronica score by Daft Punk. For "Oblivion," Kosinski brought on French electronica band M83 to do the music, which made for a dream come true.
"I was listening to M83 when I first wrote the story eight years ago," said Kosinski, who also named Boards of Canada, Bernard Herrmann's score for "Vertigo" and, of course, Led Zeppelin as musical influences while working on the script.
"It was so ambitious to want M83 for the score -- they had never done a score before," added Cruise. "The thing is, this is only his second film, so Joe deosn't always know just how ambitious it all is," he laughed.
Finally, a fan asked what Cruise's secret is in that he looks as young today as he did back when he was in "Top Gun." Cruise laughed and humbly thanked the fan, admitting that he "has no idea" how he maintains his youthful looks. "Maybe because making movies is such a joy, I don't consider it work. It can't be the sleepless nights and working for 48 hours straight."
Cruise was also asked whether we might see him in a Marvel or DC superhero role some day. The star, who was allegedly attached to "Iron Man" early in its development, admitted that "I dig those movies, though none have interested me yet." However, he did say that his ideal superhero character would have "fun human elements ... and I want to be able to fly. And have force fields."
"And not need sleep," added Kosinski, to which Cruise agreed.
"Oblivion" opens April 19.
See the trailer for 'Oblivion':
- Arts & Entertainment
- Tom Cruise
- Joseph Kosinski