Joseph Kosinski, the director behind upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi epic Oblivion and Tron, talks us through the people and films who’ve shaped his career.

Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Oblivion‘s one of the more interesting sci-fi movies to emerge in the past few years – far from the dark underworld of films like Prometheus and Alien, Oblivion takes its cues from the lofty, airy architecture of Mies van der Rohe and the expansive vistas of Kubrick and Lawrence of Arabia. Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper one of the last men stationed on a post-apocalyptic Earth, eking out a humdrum existence fixing drones – that is, until he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a wrecked spacecraft.

Its director, Joseph Kosinski, studied architecture before making the leap across to filmmaking – so if there was ever a sci-fi epic tailormade for the discerning design crowd, it’s Oblivion. Now in the process of making the third Tron film and promoting Oblivion, he tells us more about the ideas that drove the film to the screen.

No word on whether the Grimes song features in the movie, though.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I grew up in the late 70s and 80s, so Blade Runner, Star Wars, Back to the Future are all huge movies of my childhood. But Kubrick’s 2001 was one of the most influential movies of all, because it’s science fiction based on big ideas, which is kind of what I wanted Oblivion to be. Some of the biggest questions you can ask are: what makes us who we are? What will remain when we’re gone?”

2. Alfred Hitchcock

“Oblivion roots itself a bit more in true love than most sci-fi. The main character, Jack (Tom Cruise) is dreaming of a woman he’s never met and one day she arrives in his life. Hitchcock was always able to intertwine these incredibly romantic stories within his mysteries and thrillers, in everything from Vertigo – a favourite of mine – to Rear Window.”

Mies van der Rohe with model

3. Mies van der Rohe

“I went to architecture school in the late 90s, where I studied his work – his approach was very much form follows function, which is the way I approached this film. Whether it’s a vehicle or a piece of architecture, I don’t believe in excessive decoration or ornamentation. I worked for a few summers as an architect, but I saw a long, hard career spanning years before I’d ever get a commission. At school, they gave us all the powerful digital tools Hollywood uses to make visual sets, so I came out fluent in digital design and the tools of filmmaking. So I started making short films in New York.”

4. Michaelangelo Antonioni

“Antonioni’s whole trilogy – La Notte, L’Avventura, L’Eclipse – are some of my favourite films. He was trained as an architect as well, and Red Desert, which I think is his first colour film, is very interesting from an architectural point of view. I’ve always loved the way he framed actors within spaces.”

5. Lawrence of Arabia

“Oblivion isn’t in the darkness of space – it’s filmed in the exterior landscapes of Iceland and in a kind of hole perched up in the clouds. It’s a bright, airy post-apocalyptic future where Earth has been destroyed and humankind has left. But there’s a beauty to it that was kind of inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, with those giant vistas of the desert and a lone man travelling in it. In Oblivion, you’ll see Jack on his motorcycle riding across a black desert. This move was my version of Lawrence of Arabia, set in the future.”

Oblivion is out on 10th April. www.oblivionmovie.com

Words: Zing Tsjeng


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