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Joseph Kosinski, 'Oblivion' Director, On Competing With 'After Earth' And The Future Of 'Tron 3'

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JOSEPH KOSINSKI OBLIVION
Joseph Kosinski directed "Oblivion." | universal

Joseph Kosinski doesn't want you to know anything about "Oblivion." Nothing. Sure, you probably know that it starts with Tom Cruise and that he's on a wasteland of Earth sometime in the future. But, if the director of "Oblivion" (who also directed 2010's "Tron: Legacy") gets his way, that's all you will know before you see it.

He knows that revealing too much could ruin viewers' experience, but also knows the risks of not revealing some of the twists and turns that might whet a movie-going appetite.

Here's what you can find out from the trailers: Tom Cruise stars at Jack Harper, and 60 years after mankind's war with an alien race, Earth is uninhabitable. Harper, who is basically part of an Earth cleanup crew, spends his days repairing unmanned drones that have been damaged by the remaining aliens, while the rest of human society has migrated to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Harper lives on in this gritty world, but (without giving too much away) not everything may be what it seems.

Kosinski spoke about the Catch-22 of marketing a movie like "Oblivion" (wanting people to see it, but not wanting to give away any of the twists and turns) and the lessons he learned from filming "Tron: Legacy." He also discussed whether he'll face any challenges from the movie "After Earth," which will also come out this year, and gave an update on whether we will ever see a "Tron 3."

It's good to see that even in this future wasteland, Tom Cruise's character still has a copy of Duran Duran's "Rio."
Yes, absolutely! And I played that endlessly.

I saw Asia in that stack, too.
Yeah, we had some Asia, some Pink Floyd, the Stones. It was a limited selection out there in the sands of ruined Earth. But he has a decent collection, I thought.

I like that we learn that the aliens destroyed Earth by destroying the moon. Which seems easier to do and would actually make Earth uninhabitable.
That was an idea I had and I assembled a panel of scientists from APL and Cal Tech at the very beginning of the movie -- like a roundtable. And I hammered them with all of these types of questions and one of the questions was, "What's the best way to invade Earth? What would happen if an alien force destroyed our moon?" And I was thrilled to find out that a lot of the things that were depicted in the film are exactly what would happen.

Our moon keeps the Earth's tilt balanced.
Yeah, it keeps everything balanced: the tide, super-volcanos, climate -- it would all go in chaos. It would be a very bad thing.

After "Tron: Legacy," your name was rumored with the remakes of "The Black Hole" and "Logan's Run." Is it nice that "Oblivion" is your own creation and not another sequel or a remake?
Yeah, you know, I had a great experience working on that movie. One of the producers on the movie was Steven Lisberger, who created "Tron."

You and I are the same age, so I was a huge "Tron" fan growing up.
Right there in the sweet spot, yeah! So I remember seeing that movie and I got to be great friends with Steve Lisberger. And, yeah, even though I got to make my movie, it was based on his world that he created. And I had this story I had written in the background and I thought, you know, it's time to take a shot at making a story based on my story -- that was inspired by a lot of those '60s and '70s sci-fi films I remember watching as a kid.

There's a scene in "Oblivion" that, if it was teased at all in a trailer, it might spark a lot more people to see the movie. How tempted were you to give that away?
You know what, that's the tricky thing. I'm sure the marketing department would be thrilled if I threw that idea out there. But I feel there are certain twists and turns in this movie that are such an important part of the movie experience that, knowing it's there, changes things. It's hard because we live in a world with so much media out there, I long for the days of a movie where I can know nothing and be surprised. The message I'm trying to get out there is that it's a movie with a lot of twists and turns, you have to pay attention and it's not what you expect.

We all complain when trailers give away too much.
That's the tricky balance. You need to promise people they're going to see something worth going to the movies for. But, at the same time, preserve enough that they are genuinely surprised. Basically, if your movie relies on one big twist, that doesn't cut it these days. I knew this story would have to have four, five or six twists up its sleeve to survive the inevitable marketing process and people talking about it.

Was there any moment making "Tron: Legacy" that taught you a lesson of what not to do while making "Oblivion"?
Of course. Absolutely. You know, these movies have so many parts and they are very complex films to make. So, the most important thing is that you have a battle plan and you stick to it as close as possible -- but you can't control all of the elements. My favorite saying about being a director is, "You're in charge, but you're never in control." So, for "Oblivion," I wanted to make sure the story and the script were as tight as possible before we ever started rolling a frame.

Do you feel you went away from that plan with "Tron: Legacy"?
Well, "Tron: Legacy" was a movie that had a unique development process. I don't know if you remember, but I did a trailer for the studio to pitch the vision of the film.

Right. The one that played at Comic-Con in 2008.
Yeah, And it was kind of green-lit off of that. And then it was a kind of race to write a script to a film that was going to go into production. And when you're riding a wave like that as a first-time filmmaker, you're never going to say, "Wait, wait, hold on ... now, let's slow this process down. Let's make sure we get the script right before we start shooting." No, you're going to roll with it 100 percent and figure it out on the way. And that was an amazing experience -- I learned a lot on "Tron" and I'm really proud of the film we made, and the experience and the look and the sound of the film and the overall story we told. But, you know, I wish I had some more time to develop the script so it was as tight as the one we did for "Oblivion."

Is "Tron 3" going to happen? From what I'm reading, it sounds optimistic.
Well, I would say we are writing. We have an idea we've been formulating for a few years now. We are very close to being finished with the first draft of the script. The writer, Jesse Wigutow, is working on it as we speak. And I'm excited about the overall idea, but it's very early. I wouldn't say that it's absolutely going to happen, but I would say that the idea we have is the right one to go back to that world. And it would be fun to go back as long as we have the right version.

Tron is the title character, but he's never a main part of either "Tron" movie. Selfishly, I want more of Tron himself.
I've heard people say that! Yeah, there's an affinity for this character. And, yeah, he's the title character, but he's always been more of a secondary -- even in the first "Tron." It's the story of Kevin Flynn, really. And then, in our case, it was him and his son. But, yeah, Tron is a character. But, for me, when people talk about "Tron," they're really talking about the world, I think. Like, when people talk about "Tron," they're not talking about that specific character. It is a world. It is an aesthetic. That being said, it would be hard to imagine how we could make another one without at least addressing the character of Tron.

But for those who grew up on "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," those people might be talking about Tron himself.
That's absolutely true. And Bruce Boxleitner is a great guy, I loved working with him and he will always be Tron to me.

Hopefully Tron won't have to wear the helmet the whole movie next time.
It will be like the KISS album, we'll call it "Tron: Unmasked."

"Oblivion" was moved from July to April. Did that have anything to do with "After Earth"?
I don't know much about the movie -- I haven't read that script. But I like kind of kicking off the summer in a kind of unexpected way with a movie that's a little more heady and a little more philosophical as opposed to straight-forward popcorn. I don't know if I'd want this movie in the middle of summer, when everyone is looking for a summer movie. I like kicking it off with a slightly different spin.

So you look at a movie like "After Earth"and think, I wish that were coming out next year? And I'm sure they're very different movies, but would it be better if they weren't so close to each other?
I don't know if they really will affect each other. You know, I'm a firm believer that good movies -- and I think you can look historically -- if good movies are out and people are seeing good movies in theaters, they get in the mode of going to the movies more. It's not like they say, "Alright, I have room for one sci-fi film this year and I'm going to pick this one." I think if people go out and they see something that inspires them, then there's going to be more excitement for the next one to come down the pipe. So, I'd like to think that the rising tide raises all boats.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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