Hitting theaters today, “Oblivion” brings a rarity to the multiplex: an ambitious, idea drive sci-fi blockbuster that also aims to be popcorn entertainment. The film tells the story of Jack Harper — played by Tom Cruise — a drone repairman, working on a battle scarred Earth that has mostly been abandoned, sometime in the distant future. He’s only got a couple of weeks left on the job before he too will leave the planet for the moons of Saturn, but when a spaceship crash lands, and a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko) appears, everything he knows gets turned upside down.
In part one of our interview with the actress, she discussed her role as conduit to Terrence Malick, and described her experience working on “To The Wonder.” Kurylenko faced a complete about-face when it came to her next project though, Joseph Kosinksi’s sci-fi thriller “Oblivion,” and after a rigorous research period with Malick that included reading “The Idiot,” “Brothers Karamazov,” and “Anna Karenina,” we started by asking her what material the “Tron Legacy” director recommended for her part in the film.
Kurylenko: As opposed to working with Malick, on “Oblivion” there was an actual script, and one with such precise themes, so Joseph advised me to watch old romantic movies – Hitchcock was a big influence, so I watched “Notorious.”
There’s definitely that aspect with your character, Julia, completely taking over the memories of Jack (Cruise). “Solaris” was another film that immediately came to mind as well.
See, what’s funny is I actually watched that; Joseph never brought it up. I come from Tarkovsky-land [laughs], and at that point I hadn’t watched it for many years. I thought there were themes in there though that I should pick out for “Oblivion.”
I watched the new one [Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 remake] as well, with George Clooney and Natasha McElhone. The story – both in “Solaris” and “Oblivion” — deals with space and memory. Why does Jack remember certain things but not others? Why does he remember love? I like to believe, and it’s very naïve, but perhaps it’s because love never dies. You know, you can wipe someone’s memory, but you can’t wipe love away.
What aspects in those old films did Joseph want you to remember?
What we wanted to do with this movie was to make the love story in an innocent, non-sexual way; that is actually so much more touching to me. Imagine if there tons of love scenes in the film — it wouldn’t be the same.
We spoke a lot about how, in old movies, lips barely touched. People didn’t really have to kiss. Which means you don’t need to go in and show all this lovemaking. Joseph’s film is very classical, while still keeping some more modern aspects of the sci-fi genre.
Last, I wanted to ask about [$ 100-million, Chinese-funded 3D production] “Empires of the Deep,” and what your experiences on the film were like?You know what, I have to be honest. That was my second time in China — I was in Shenzhen before, and then Beijing for the film — and I loved working there. What I really would like to do is learn Chinese. I know how to say, [in Chinese] “Hello… I’m going… I love you.” And hey, I was only there for 10 days. I don’t know how the movie’s going to turn out, because by now it’s such an unknown thing. The production was absolutely crazy. It was like someone decided to have a fun game for several months, but hey, it’s supposed to be a movie, no?
Do you know if there’s a release planned?
I’m hearing is they actually said it’s coming out, but now there’s nothing again. I think it’s going to come out, at least in China.
“Oblivion” is in theaters now. Read our review here.