The movie is based on a graphic novel that Joseph Kosinski concocted during the writers' strike of the late 00s. Here, he tells how it all came together.
"I started writing this small character-driven science fiction story that was in the vein of those science fiction films of the 1970s that involved this lone survivor among the ruins of civilization, like The Omega Man or Silent Running...It was kind of in that vein. I thought if it was going to be my first movie it would have to be something very small and contained in order to even get a chance at pulling it off. So it's the story of a drill repair man, Jack Harper, who is one of the last human beings left on earth after a massive war, which was the result of an alien invasion. Even though humankind won the war, Earth was left in such a state that we had to look for another place to settle, and Jack is left behind to monitor and secure the resource gathering operation that's happening where we're gathering the last bit of energy out of the earth's seawater in order to move onto the next step.
[The graphic novel] was the original treatment, the story. At the time I was ready to turn it into a screenplay, WGA went on strike and we couldn't actually hire a screenwriter to work on a screenplay at that point. So in order to keep the process moving forward I teamed up with Radical Comics to develop and illustrate a novel in parallel based on this story. And we did that over a couple years, and then I got pulled into Tron: Legacy which was a couple years, and as Tron: Legacy was in post [production] I had enough between the story and the illustrations I had done with Andre, the artist, I had enough of a package to go out and set the project up at a studio which is what I did. And then I went into feature mode so, we never actually finished the graphic novel because once it got picked up I realized that the way I wanted this story to be experienced was on the big screen and not out of the book."
The director also talked about getting Tom Cruise to sign on as Jack Harper.
"It was our final Comic-Con for Tron: Legacy, and while I was showing the big Comic-Con trailer and we were doing our big song and dance for Tron: Legacy, I was also launching an ashcan for Oblivion, which was just kind of like an introductory chapter with eight images at the Radical [Comics] booth. And the day after I got back from Comic-Con, I got a call from Tom's agent saying that Tom had seen the ashcan and wanted to meet me and talk to me about it. I went over and met him at his hanger and I pitched him the full story 'cause he had just read that introductory beat, there wasn't a script at that point it was a story in my head. And I pitched him the whole story over about two hours and at the end of the meeting he said, 'Let's do this. I want to do this. I want to do this movie with you.' ... The role fits him like a glove. I just can't imagine anyone else playing this character."
He also hinted at what is not in the trailer.
"I think the trailer does a good job at hinting that the film does have a number or twists and turns and there are hard questions being asked and there is a character who is under pressure. But I don't really want to say much more than that as to what the plot of the movie is."
To read more from Joseph Kosinski about his original sci-fi epic Oblivion: You can also watch the Oblivion trailer again, or maybe you missed it because you had better things to do last Saturday. It's quite amazing.
Oblivion was released April 19th, 2013 and stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell, Abigail Lowe. The film is directed by Joseph Kosinski.