Director Joseph Kosinski has gone to the ends of the Earth for his new film. Peter Mitchell reports
A few years ago, on a holiday in Jordan, film-maker Joseph Kosinski, like most tourists to the Middle Eastern kingdom, took a trip to the ancient city of Petra.
Walking through the city's rock-cut architecture, he was left with the same feeling as on an earlier trip to Rome.
"I think that if you look at history, every empire, every era has a beginning, middle and end," Kosinski, 38, said during an interview on a sound stage near Santa Monica airport.
"Look at Petra, this city carved into the sand that's empty now.
"There's something very profound about thinking there will be a time where our world will be the ruins of the future - our civilisation will be something that people will try to look back and study.
"There's something very emotional about thinking about a time after our lives."
In Kosinski's new sci-fi action film, starring Tom Cruise, this is explored.
The year is 2073 and an alien invasion 60 years earlier has left Earth in ruins.
Cruise plays ex-Marine commander Jack Harper, who lives above the Earth in a floating town and whose daily job is to fly down to the desolate planet and repair drones.
Kosinski built his reputation in Hollywood as a computer graphics whiz, first creating award-winning television commercials and music videos, and in 2007 was hired by Disney to make the visual effects-laden Tron: Legacy, the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 original, Tron.
It took more than three years to get Tron: Legacy into cinemas, but the film also helped Kosinski turn Oblivion into a reality.
He first came up with the idea for Oblivion eight years ago, soon after he arrived in Los Angeles and his career had yet to take off.
"I wasn't having any luck getting any work in commercials or music videos, which is kind of what I came out for and, just to kind of keep myself from going nuts, I started on the side just writing this short story that I thought maybe could be a great first film," he said.
"It was a small, contained, character-driven story about the last man on Earth and what it would be like to be the guy who has to say goodbye."
The plan was to hire a screenwriter to turn his Oblivion treatment into a feature film script, but the 2007-2008 screenwriters' strike made this impossible, so Kosinski's agent came up with the idea of turning the story into a graphic novel.
While this was taking place, and Oblivion's story and imagery was being fleshed out, Kosinski was hired to direct Tron: Legacy.
The completed graphic novel was sent out to Hollywood studios, Cruise found out about it and soon after, Kosinski had a meeting with the movie star.
"I pitched him the story, he jumped on, and then we were off to the races, writing it, putting the movie together," Kosinski said.
Other cast members include Oscar winner Melissa Leo, New Zealand stuntwoman-actress Zoe Bell and Morgan Freeman, who plays a 102-year-old leader of an insurgency on Earth.
With the Walt Disney Company last year announcing it would buy George Lucas' film company, Lucasfilm, for US$4.05 billion ($4.8 billion) and make new Star Wars films, Kosinski's name was on top of the list as a potential director.
He resuscitated Disney's Tron franchise and was working on Oblivion at Lucas' famed Skywalker Ranch, north of San Francisco, allowing him plenty of contact with Lucas and Lucas' lieutenant, Kathleen Kennedy.
Star Trek director J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of the first new Star Wars film, but Kosinski did not hide his desire to be part of future films.
"I was a big Star Wars fan as a kid," he said.
"I'm excited they are going back into that world and maybe down the road it would be an interesting challenge to take up."
Who: Joseph Kosinski, director
What: Oblivion, the last-man-on-Earth movie, starring Tom Cruise
When: Opens Thursday
- TimeOut / AAP