Olga Kurylenko plays a crash-landing traveler who crosses time and space in search of true love in Joseph Kosinski’s new sci-fi thriller, Oblivion. The action-adventure saga is set in the year 2077 after a massive war has left Earth in ruins and uninhabitable. The Ukrainian actress and former Bond girl who made a scorching impression in Quantum of Solace was game for the tough role of Julia and turns in a compelling performance opposite Tom Cruise. Opening in theaters on April 19th, the film also stars Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Melissa Leo.
At the recent press day, Kurylenko discussed what attracted her to the mysterious role, how Cruise and she collaborated with Kosinski on their characters, why she found Cruise to be a generous acting partner, how she got used to flying in the Bubbleship, how her Bond experience helped with the action sequences, what it’s like to have worked with two of Hollywood’s biggest action actors, what Cruise and Daniel Craig share in common, how making Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder compared to Oblivion, and more. Hit the jump to read the interview.
OLGA KURYLENKO: Well, it’s always team work. If the team is effective, it works. Basically, we spoke a lot, with him and with Tom. Also, the three of us would have meetings to discuss our characters and our characters’ backstory. We rehearsed. I watched videos of astronaut trainings. I watched some old romantic movies as a preparation and inspiration. It’s a work in process. You grow together.
At first, we know so little about your character and then more is revealed later on. Is it hard to play a character like that and what was the biggest acting challenge you encountered with this role?
KURYLENKO: That’s what attracted me to the role. What I found very interesting was the fact that there was this mystery to Julia, that I couldn’t reveal everything right away about her after her very first appearance on screen, and that she had to unravel and uncover her story during the whole film. She’s a completely different thing in the end than what we see her as in the beginning. All that mystery was interesting to work on.
For you, creatively, what was it like working with Tom as a partner in acting?
KURYLENKO: It was very interesting creatively. It was an unexpected thing to see how much he gives, because of course, he’s a big star and he’s a wonderful actor. We know that. But only his partners and other actors know how much he gives to the other. He gives so much. He’s such a generous partner, and that’s not always the case. I’ve never seen him sit in his trailer. He’ll always be there [for you]. If the camera was on me, even if he was far away, just for my eye line, he would prefer to be there. He would never leave the set, even if I told him seriously, “I don’t need you,” he would still be there because he is involved one hundred percent. That’s a wonderful thing. He’s very supportive, of course, in the gimbal. He’s done all these stunts before. When I came on set, and there was this gimbal that was spinning, he talked me through it. He knows how it works. It’s very reassuring to have a partner like that. He’s not just an actor who’s there who has no idea. He technically knows how things work. You feel safe with him.
KURYLENKO: I agree with you.
I saw a video of how you and Tom did a simulation ride, spinning and going upside down. What was that experience like?
KURYLENKO: (laughs) I threw up in the beginning when I came out of the pod, so that was done, but I don’t get sick from motion. Thank God. I don’t care. I can be on a boat and everything. It’s rather that I don’t like it psychologically, being thrown around. I don’t enjoy rollercoasters. That was like being in a rollercoaster and a washing machine at the same time because it was spinning all the time. I usually don’t like to go into washing machines when I have a choice, but here I didn’t have a choice. Tom looked at me and said, “You don’t have a choice.” In a way, it’s all these great memories. Today, they sound very funny, so it’s great to remember. It was funny how I slowly adjusted to that machine, because in the end, I was fine. But, in the beginning, it was tough. In the end, I couldn’t care less. Joe told me, “I can see you smiling.” I said, “No, no. I’m not.” But, I was.
Was Tom laughing at you? Were you cracking up?
KURYLENKO: Everyone was cracking up. We were laughing and screaming at the same time. It’s amazing. It creates such an atmosphere on set. Those scenes are usually very exciting, and they’re also intense because you’re working with machinery, and there are all these buttons that have to be pushed. I mean, there are guys controlling it. It’s fascinating how they built that thing also. It could rotate all kinds of ways. It was insane and amazing.
KURYLENKO: I actually had a different song, Unforgettable, which was replaced. I was surprised. I had it sent by Joe to me and I listened to it. It’s a beautiful song, too. But yes, the music, I find it wonderful. They played it at most, if not all, of the premieres on the red carpets, and that music is so touching. At some point, I think I was in Dublin, and that music was playing so loud that I almost cried. I thought, “I can’t cry on the red carpet. This is just so heartbreaking.” The music is very emotional, and it’s funny how that shows us that music is such an important part of a movie, too, because it can bring you to so many emotions. Music evokes so many feelings in us, memories, nostalgia, things that are connected to our past. It’s so important and this music is quite fabulous. I find it fits the movie perfectly.
Your character shares an interesting history with Tom Cruise’s character in the film. Did you guys do anything to build up your relationship in any kind of substantive way as part of the background of these two characters?
KURYLENKO: Yes. Tom and I met a lot with Joe and we spoke a lot. We had conversations about it and we built the backstory. It was just a question of exchanging ideas and talking. Usually, that is quite often the case.
Were there any big hikes or games of basketball to build bonding?
KURYLENKO: No, not for this part. We didn’t need that.
KURYLENKO: I wouldn’t tell you about that. I’m tough. Of course, I get hurt all the time. (laughs) But it’s okay, I like it. Actually, it’s not the most intense role I’ve ever had. I mean, not the most physically involved, because if you compare Julia to Camille in Quantum of Solace, Julia is much more of a romantic figure or romantic character, while Camille was actually competing with Bond. She tried to kill him, tried to fight him. She was pretty much an equivalent of James Bond in a female character which was also very different, and she didn’t have any romantic story with Bond, which again was different from Bond girls but very different from Julia. So, it’s completely different. For me, physically, the most intense character and the most I’ve ever been involved in action was Bond, but this one is probably the second. But I’m there as a secondary character because I basically don’t manipulate those things. I’m sitting either next to Tom or behind Tom, so I was on the motorcycle or sitting next to him on the Bubbleship, but I’m not the girl who… well, at one point, I do pick up this machine gun and shoot. That’s true. And with that, the Bond Girl school served me well because I did come prepared. They asked me how come I knew how to do it, and I said, “I went to the Bond school.”
You’ve worked with two of the biggest movie stars in the world: Daniel Craig and now Tom Cruise. Could you compare and contrast each of them?
KURYLENKO: A couple of things that they have in common is that they’re both action heroes. They are involved a lot in action films. The other similar thing between both of them is that they both do their stunts by themselves. They train a lot. They physically work a lot. So that’s a main line – they’re both very hard working. In a way, it’s true that Tom is fascinating. I don’t know what that man doesn’t know how to do. He flies a plane, a helicopter, everything. It’s very inspiring to work with people like that, but don’t try to outshine them in their action scenes. It’s just incredible. There’s a stunt guy who tried to compete running with Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise was running faster than him. And, just to tell you, stunt guys are tough. Those guys are the toughest, the strongest, the fastest I’ve ever seen, and Tom Cruise is still stronger and faster. He’s one of a kind. I’ve never seen that before.
KURYLENKO: It was very different. They couldn’t be further apart from each other. In Malick’s film, for example, there was no script and that’s the difference. Here, with Oblivion, the script was very detailed and very precise. The way Malick worked with us, he never rehearsed, and he was actually against any rehearsal. In Oblivion, we rehearsed many scenes, and especially all those technical scenes because you have to. You can’t just step on set and improvise because things are going to go wrong when you’re working with all this machinery and flying Bubbleships and things that could be dangerous. It has to be very well rehearsed and prepared. Malick just throws actors in, but there is a backstory and again lots of conversations. The way I built my character was by talking with Terrence all the time. We just spoke, spoke, spoke. I had a little homework to do before I started the movie. I had to read three Russian novels: Anna Karenina, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. Those are very tiny little novels. (laughs) After that, I didn’t really need to read a screenplay. We just spoke. There were discussions about what I drew from the books, how we can compose the character, what similarities there are between Marina and different female characters in those books, and that’s how the character was born. It was a mixture of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Terrence Malick.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Hollywood in terms of what people think they know about Hollywood versus what it’s really like based on your experience?
KURYLENKO: I don’t know what the misconceptions are, but I approach a small budget, artsy, independent movie in the same way as a big budget, commercial Hollywood movie. I don’t get into those [details]. I have to get into my character and I concentrate on that, on the story, on researching, and on certain training if I have to be prepared physically. I think that’s the most important thing. Hollywood always represents this big dream and fairy tale in people’s minds, but to me, it’s just hard work. Of course, we play fairy tale on the red carpet. It’s all Cinderella. But when the clock strikes midnight, I turn into a gray mouse and I go home, and I take my dress off and it’s over. That’s Hollywood.
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