Tron Legacy and Oblivion Director is an Architect: Joseph Kosinski

When Tron Legacy comes out in theaters, it’ll be one of the most expensive movies ever made. But it isn’t being directed by James Cameron or Michael Bay or Peter Jackson. It’ll actually be a first-time feature for Joseph Kosinski–who didn’t train as a film-maker. Instead, he went to grad-school for architecture at Columbia; after that, he founded a Web-design firm, of all things.

A-birds-eye-view-of-the-end-of-the-line-bar-from-Tron-Legacy

And that background might be what distinguishes the movie and makes it great: Kosinski (pictured above, right) knows how to handle 3-D space, and he’s fluent with animation technology in a way totally different from any mainstream director working today.

Joseph Kosinski (born May 3, 1974) is an American television commercial and feature film director best known for his computer graphics and computer generated imagery work. He made his big-screen directorial debut with the Disney Digital 3-D science fiction film Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 film Tron. His previous work has primarily been with CGI related television commercials including the “Starry Night” commercial for Halo 3[2] and the award-winning “Mad World” commercial for Gears of War.[3]

Tron Interview with Director Joseph Kosinski

Tron Interview with Director Joseph Kosinski

Kosinski has an amazing design background. As an undergrad at Stanford, he took an engineering class with David Kelley–the founder of IDEO–and Kelley urged him to take up design, rather than engineering. That in turn led him to Columbia’s architecture school, which at the time was notable for being on the cutting edge of introducing high-end computer programs into architecture. (One of his professors was Gregg Lynn, a leading proponent of “blobitecture.”)

Garrett-Hedlund-Steve-Lisberger-Joseph-Kosinski-and-Jeff-Bridges-architect-Tron-Legacy

Garrett-Hedlund-Steve-Lisberger-Joseph-Kosinski-and-Jeff-Bridges-architect-Tron-Legacy

That eventually led him to create a Web-design firm while dabbling in short-films made entirely on the computer. At the time, people laughed at him for either wasting his architecture education–or presuming that a trained-architect could ever make a decent movie. After meeting director David Fincher (best-known for Se7enFight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), he started working in production, then directing commercials–such as a trailer for the videogame Gears of War–and now, he’s bootstrapped himself up to directing Tron Legacy.

The star of the new movie, Jeff Bridges, has already spotted the benefits of Kosinski’s background. As he told Hitflix:

“It’s interesting different filmmakers where they come from and what they bring to the film and he’s an architect, and so the film has a very, you know, heightened design feel to it,” Bridges says. “And he hired this wonderful production designer, Darren Gilford. And he is out of car design so it adds another thing. It’s not somebody, you know, who is an interior decorator.”

Universal Pictures’ Oblivion is Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to his first feature Tron: Legacy, but the director always intended the sci-fi film to be his debut.

Joseph Kosinski architect on the set of Oblivion movie

Joseph Kosinski architect on the set of Oblivion movie

“I wrote the first version of this story about eight years ago,” he told Spinoff Online and other journalists last week. At the time, he expected the film to be a much smaller concept with a much smaller budget. The Sky Tower apartment was the primary set, and much of the action took place off screen. “I never imagined that I’d be able to make it on this scale.”

“It’s the same story I wrote, despite the spectacle of the final product,” Kosinski continued. Instead of a small science fiction thought piece, Oblivion became a major feature with major stars Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, location shoots in New York and Iceland, and full-scale props like the Bubble Ship. In the film, Cruise plays Tom Harper, a drone repairman fixing anti-gravity robotic sentries as the remnants of the human race prepare to leave Earth forever. Although the project grew as it developed into a vehicle for Cruise, it remained a story about Jack’s flight toward redemption.