Had he not gone into moviemaking, Joseph Kosinski imagined a future for himself as a musician. "My grandfather was a jazz trumpeter. My mother's a pianist and had me playing piano at three years old," he says. "I thought I was going to be a jazz saxophonist until I went to college."
Instead, he ended up behind the camera, making his feature debut with 2010's Tron: Legacy and going on to direct Tom Cruise in the 2012 sci-fi thriller, Oblivion. A decade later, Kosinski and Cruise have a new movie out — Top Gun: Maverick — which the filmmaker follows with Spiderhead, a sci-fi thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Both of which, it must be said, boast formidable soundtracks. "Music was always a huge part of my life and continues to be, certainly in all my films." (The jazz saxophone less so, unfortunately.)
Below, Kosinski shares with A.frame five movies that have informed his filmmaking. "Obviously, there's more than five," he adds. "But I'm going to give you a wide range."
Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Screenplay by: Lawrence Kasdan
I'll start with the first film I remember seeing in a theater, which was Raiders Of The Lost Ark when I was six. The thing I remember about that film that blew my mind was that Indiana Jones was also a professor at a university, and that cut from him escaping the airplane with his buddy and the snake to teaching — you know, writing on the chalkboard in his archeology class — was the first time that I realized your leading man could also be an academic and be a smart guy too. That was the first film that I became obsessed with.
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick | Screenplay by: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson
The Shining definitely informed Spiderhead in that architecture is character. The Overlook is a character in that film. Obviously, Kubrick is the best at creating this kind of hermetically sealed world for his stories to exist within, and The Shining, I think, is one of the best examples of that. He started as a photographer, so for him, his framing and the way that he moves the camera through space was a huge influence, as it is on many directors. But for me, he's one of the greatest of all time for that reason.
Directed by: Ridley Scott | Screenplay by: Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples
The visuals, the photography, and interestingly, another Harrison Ford film, so you can tell who one of my favorite movie stars was growing up. But when I think about Blade Runner, I think about the score. The Vangelis electronic, jazz blues-inspired soundtrack set against Los Angeles in 2019 is, to me, the purest form of cinema. It's just music and visuals. I saw it on the big screen in 1992 when they did a 10-year reissue — that was the first time I saw it on-screen — and I distinctly remember that experience. I think that's one of the greatest scores ever.
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni | Screenplay by: Elio Bartolini and Tonino Guerra
L'Avventura is a movie that's very hard to explain why it is I go back and watch it, other than I think I'm fascinated by how modern it feels even though it's 60 years old. Antonioni was also obsessed with composition and architecture and sound, and he combined them in a way that no one else does. They're such distinct films. I was always drawn to architects who, when you see a scene of their film, you know it's done by them. I think he's one of those filmmakers, and I would say in my five, that would be my artsy choice. But I love his films.
Directed by: Alan J. Pakula | Screenplay by: William Goldman
Pakula, with [director of photography] Gordon Willis, is also a master of composition and framing, which I love. But with that film, the idea of making a spectacularly involving, engaging, and exciting film about two reporters in a newsroom is, I think for any director, it's mind-blowing how they were able to do that. That's one of those films I can watch anytime and get totally enthralled. I also just love the time period because it's around when I was born, and I think there's just a fascination with kind of seeing the world, what it was like when you were created and to see how distant it feels now to the world we live in.