“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 ‘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.”
He also spoke about the graphic novel that the film is based on.
“That 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,’ which was a couple years, and as ‘Tron’ 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.”
And how did he get Tom Cruise to sign on for the film?
“It was our final Comic-Con for ‘Tron,’ 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.”