In Universal Pictures’ Oblivion, which opens today, co-stars Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko hold some of the answers to the puzzle Tom Cruise must unravel. The two spoke with Spinoff Online and other reporters last week to offer insight about working with Cruise and the unlikely love story contained in the stylish film.
Directed and co-written by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), Oblivion is set on a future Earth following an invasion by alien Scavengers 60 years earlier, which destroyed the Moon and devastated the planet. One of the last remaining technicians stationed on Earth as part of an operation to extract its remaining resources, the mission of Cruise’s Jack Harper is derailed when he rescues a beautiful stranger named Julia (Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft.
To Freeman, the relationship that emerges between those characters is the key to the film. “It’s a love story that hasn’t been seen before,” said the actor, who plays resistance leader Malcolm Beech. Against the backdrop of “tremendous technology,” the relationship caught the Academy Award winner off guard. On top of a script he found extremely creative, Morgan said he also found the film was “positive about humanity” — a rare trait in many of the sci-fi action projects that come across his desk.
Kurylenko said making the relationship an effective part of the story was an act of teamwork. She, Cruise and Kosinski met several times before shooting to nail down how quickly the two come together and how quickly the true nature of their lives is revealed both to Jack Harper and the audience. As part of her preparation, she watched classic Hollywood romance movies.
While the positivity and romance were appealing traits, Freeman said yes for the opportunity to work with Cruise. “If [the part] was a truck driver hauling supplies, I would’ve taken the job,” he said. Characterizing himself as a “huge fan,” he said the two long considered working together. “It wasn’t an active thing, if that was the case, I would’ve been in Mission: Impossible I, II and III,” Freeman recalled, but schedules and interests finally aligned for Oblivion. Asked what made working with Cruise so appealing, Freeman said his co-star was “born to do this.” Ever since Cruise’s breakout role in Risky Business, Freeman considered him one of the more vibrant screen presences.
On set, however, the two worked like any other pair of actors. “You have to say the words that were on the page,” he said. “You have to make your marks.” While their preparation may differ, Freeman said when actors are in the scene, the task is the same.
“Tom is fascinating,” Kurylenko added. “I don’t know what that man doesn’t know what to do — he flies a plane, a helicopter, everything.” She found his breadth of knowledge and experience inspiring. “But don’t try to outshine him in the action scenes,” she joked. Beyond his acumen in action, she noted he is a “generous partner” who always sticks around to act for her close up. “I’ve never seen him sit in his trailer,” she recalled. “If the camera was [only] on me and he was far away, just for my eye-line, he’d prefer to be there.” Even in cases where she wanted him to take a break, he’d still stick around for her takes. She considered that support to be “wonderful.”
Besides Cruise, the actors also played with some of the high technology on display in the film. Kurylenko rides the Bubble Ship, and Freeman uses some of the heavy artillery mounted to tanks made from scrapped Bubble Ships. For the flight scenes, Kurylenko and Cruise were strapped into a 360-degree flight simulator that performed the flips, spins and crashes seen in Oblivion. “I do not enjoy roller coasters,” she admitted. Consequently the simulator scenes were trying. “I don’t get sick from motion, but I don’t like being thrown around … and that was like being in a roller coaster and a washing machine at the same time.”
Once on the ground, she found explosions much more palatable. “Those scenes are usually very exciting,” she explained. As a veteran of Quantum of Solace, she was far more comfortable being shot at by the drone sentries. Also easier was a scene in which she had to shoot an automatic rifle. Taking to the weapon right away, she impressed the stunt crew. “I went to the Bond school,” she reminded them. “I came prepared.”
“It was fun,” Freeman said of his time with the dual .50-caliber machine guns. Usually away from the action and more likely to deliver exposition, the actor was happy to fire heavy weaponry. “It was in the script,” he explained. On his tendency to portray wise characters, he quipped with a smile, “That’s the way it worked out.” However, he admitted it would be flattering if a role called for him to be something other than “wise.”
Between fun with guns and exposition, days on set could be challenging, but Freeman is happy with his profession. “I enjoy it every single day,” he beamed. “In a year, you can have three, four, five different experiences, which is exciting.”
It’s a sentiment Kurylenko could agree with it, although she added a fairly-tale twist. “At the end of the day, I turn into a gray mouse,” she joked.
Asked what sort of future he’d like to live in, Freeman answered, “We’d live in trees, hunt our own food, we would walk wherever we went; the planet would be rejuvenated.”
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