A chat with Olga Kurylenko (“Oblivion”)

Olga Kurylenko has starred alongside “Seven Psychopaths” and nearly taken out superspy James Bond in “Quantum of Solace.” It seems only obvious that her latest role would be fighting side-by-side with Tom Cruise in the new sci-fi film “Oblivion.” As Julia, she helps Cruise determine his role as he fights to save the Earth. The beautiful Ukrainian actress recently sat down with us to discuss her latest role, as well as how being a Bond girl prepared her for it.

Bullz-Eye: Did the director give you a lot of leeway in expanding your character?

Olga Kurylenko: It’s always teamwork. I spoke with him a lot. He, Tom and I would have meetings and discuss our characters, the backstory and we rehearsed. I watched videos of astronaut trainings. I watched some old romantic movies as preparation and inspiration. It’s a working process and you grow together.

BE: Was it hard to play a character that’s so mysterious early on?

Olga Kurylenko: That’s what I found initially very interesting. There’s this mystery to Julia and that I couldn’t reveal everything right away with the first appearance of her. The fact that she had to unravel and uncover her story during the whole film, she’s a completely different thing in the end from what we see in the beginning. All that mystery was interesting to work on.

BE: You’ve recently worked with two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. How is it different working with Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig?

Olga Kurylenko: A couple of things that they both have in common is that they’re both action heroes. I think another similar thing is that they both do their stunts by themselves. They train a lot and physically work a lot. They’re very hard-working. 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 them, but don’t try to outshine them in action scenes. It’s just incredible. I think a stunt guy tried to compete in running with Tom Cruise and Tom ran faster. And stunt guys are tough. They’re the strongest, the fastest, and Tom Cruise is still stronger and faster. He’s one of a kind.

BE: Creatively, what was it like working with Tom?

Olga Kurylenko: Very interesting, creatively. It was unexpected to see how much he gives. He’s a big star and a wonderful actor, 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. Even if he’s far away or in my eyeline, he would prefer to be there. He would never leave the set, even if I told him, “Seriously, I don’t need you.” (laughs) He would still be there. He is involved a hundred percent and that’s a wonderful thing. He is very supportive, of course. He’s done all these stunts. 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 and it’s very reassuring to have a partner like that. He’s not just an actor who is there who has no idea. He actually, technically, knows how things work. You feel safe with him.

BE: How was it being in the bubble ship? Did it ever make you nauseous?

Olga Kurylenko: I threw up in the beginning of the film, when I came out of the pod. (laughs) I don’t get sick from motion. I don’t care. I can be on a boat and everything. I don’t like it psychologically, being thrown around. I don’t enjoy roller coasters. That was like being on a roller coaster and a washing machine, because it was spinning all the same time. I usually don’t like going into washing machines, when I have a choice. But here, I didn’t have a choice. Tom told me, “You don’t have a choice.” In a way, there’s all these great memories. Here, today, they all sound very funny. It was funny how I slowly adjusted to that machine, because in the end, I was fine. In the beginning, it was tough. In the end, I couldn’t care less. Joe was telling me, “I can see you smiling.” I said, “No, I’m not.” But I kind of was. (laughs)

BE: Was Tom or Joe laughing at you?

Olga Kurylenko: Everybody was cracking up. We were laughing and screaming at the same time. It’s amazing. It creates such an atmosphere on the set. Those scenes are usually very exciting and they’re also intense, because you’re working with machinery. There are all these buttons that have to be pushed. There were guys controlling it. It’s fascinating how they built that thing also. It can rotate all kinds of ways.

BE: Do you treat big budget and independent films the same way as an actress, in regards to preparation?

Olga Kurylenko: I approach them the same way — a small budget, artsy, independent, or whatever you want to call it, as a big commercial movie. I have to get in my character and I concentrate on the story, researching on certain training and if I have to be prepared physically. I think that’s the most important thing. We play fairy tales on the red carpet and it’s all Cinderella, but when the clock strikes midnight, I turn into a grey mouse and go home. (laughs)

BE: What was your reaction when you saw the finished movie, and did you know the song “Whiter Shade of Pale” was going to be in the movie?

Olga Kurylenko: We actually had a different song and it was replaced. I was surprised.

BE: Which song?

Olga Kurylenko: “Unforgettable.” I had it sent by Joe. It’s a beautiful song. The music is wonderful. They played the music at all or most of the premieres on the red carpets. The music is so touching. I think I was in Dublin, and at some point, I almost cried. I was thinking, “I can’t cry on the red carpet.” (laughs) It’s just so heartbreaking. It’s so emotional. It shows us that music is such an important part of a movie, too. It can just bring you to so many emotions. It can evoke so many feelings and memories, nostalgia, things that are connected to our past. It’s so important. I find it fits perfectly in the movie.

BE: How does “Oblivion” compare to your upcoming project with Terrence Malick?

Olga Kurylenko: It’s very different. They couldn’t be further apart from each other. In Malick’s film, there was no script. Here, the script is very detailed and very precise. The way Malick worked with us, he never rehearsed and he was actually against every rehearsal. In “Oblivion,” we rehearsed many scenes, especially the technical scenes, because you can’t just step on set and improvise when you’re working with all this machinery and flying bubble ships that can be very dangerous. It has to be very well rehearsed and prepared. Malick just throws actors in, but there is a backstory. Once again, lots of conversations. The way I built my character was by talking to Terrence. 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,” “Ilyiad” and “The Brothers Karamazov.” Those are very little novels. (laughs) After that, I didn’t need to read a script. We just spoke and it was just discussions about what I drew from the books, how we can compose the character, what similarities there are between Marina and other female characters in those books. That’s where the character was kind of born.

BE: Did you do any special training for “Oblivion” and were you hurt at all?

Olga Kurylenko: I wouldn’t tell you about that. (laughs) I’m tough. Of course, I get hurt all the time, but I like it. It’s not the most physically involved role I’ve had. If you compare Julia to Camille in “Quantum of Solace,” Julia’s a much more romantic character, while Camille is actually competing with Bond, trying to kill him, trying to fight him. She was pretty much an equivalent to James Bond in a female character, which was very different. And she didn’t have any romantic story with Bond, which was very different from Bond girls and very different from Julia. For me, physically, the most intense character and the most I’ve been involved in with action was Bond, but this one was probably the second. I’m kind of a secondary character, because I don’t manipulate those things. I’m either sitting next to Tom or behind Tom. So, I was sitting next to him or behind him on the motorcycle and the bubbleship. At one point, I pick up a machine gun and shoot. In that, the Bond girl school served me, because I did come prepared. They asked me how I knew how to do it and I said, “I went to Bond school.” (laughs)