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Olga Kurylenko talks “Oblivion,” “To The Wonder,” and “Erased”

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Oblivion is a state of forgetting, the state of having forgotten, but you won’t be able to forget “Oblivion” star Olga Kurylenko anytime soon — and that’s not just because her latest film is number one at the box office and a worldwide hit, courtesy of Tom Cruise star power. (“It’s insane!” she gushed to IFC.)

Kurylenko, who previously made her mark opposite Daniel Craig in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” can also be seen in next month’s “Erased” with Aaron Eckhart and in art house theaters now with Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” with Ben Affleck, which might make you wonder — how does she always end up as the love interest to some of the most attractive men on screen? Is this a contract condition of hers? “No,” she giggled. “Doesn’t this happen to all the others? Am I the only one? Hey, it’s a tough life I have. It could have been worse, right?”

Kurylenko gives what might be the only affecting performance in “To the Wonder” (since Malick cut so many of the other actors out of the film, and gives Affleck virtually no dialogue). And she also gives what might be one of the few truly compellingly human performances in “Oblivion” (but that’s only because — spoilers ahead — some of her cast mates are playing clones). In both, she exists as if a woman out of a dream, quite literally, in the case of Tom Cruise’s character. Jack, a drone mechanic who thinks he’s one of the last people left on Earth, has been having strange dreams about a woman he can’t quite identify. Is this a memory? He tells us that his memory was wiped five years ago for security clearance, which would explain a fragment, but this dream tells him of a woman and of a planet from 60 years before, back when the Empire State Building still looked over a teeming populace. So imagine his surprise when he discovers that a survivor of a spacecraft crash in suspended animation is the very same woman, and even stranger, she remembers him, too.

To prep for these parts, Kurylenko did her homework, devouring Russian novels such as “Anna Karenina,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” and “The Idiot” to fill in the blanks for the script-less “To the Wonder,” because “I had to combine certain qualities and traits of female characters in all three books,” and for “Oblivion,” watching astronaut training videos, sci-fi such as “Solaris” and classic romances such as “Notorious” and “Casablanca.” “‘Solaris’ deals with a similar subject, going into space, confronting a memory,” she said. “And all the romances, because we all agreed, we wanted the romance in the movie to be like the old days, to be pure, to be touching.”

“Oblivion” has gotten a lot of flak from critics for recycling sci-fi tropes, but Kuryleno said that the film actually raises a lot of interesting, thought-provoking questions. “It’s not just sci-fi,” she said. “It’s full of messages, important questions that we can ask ourselves: Why are we here on this earth? What is it to be human? What is the difference between a human and someone who is not human, either an alien or a clone? Does love ever end? Is it an energy that can survive even when the world collapses?”

In other words, is love — or our capacity for love, as encapsulated by our soul — immortal? Does it matter which body a soul is in, if the memory remains intact? Both Jack and Victoria, played by Cruise and Andrea Riseborough, have been subject to these so-called memory wipes, and believe that they are a couple as well as an “effective team,” with her manning the communication controls between their station and a central command, and him out in the field repairing drones which allegedly protect the remaining humans and their dwindling resources from aliens. But (again, spoilers ahead) what Jack and Victoria have been told is a lie — about central command, about the drones, even about themselves. The question is, if you don’t remember yourself, who are you? And if you share a memory of being someone else, does that make you that person?

“That’s the division in the film that I like very much,” Kurylenko said. “Jack and Victoria are in a way brainwashed, but Victoria doesn’t want to know the truth, no matter what happens. She consciously refuses to find out. She closes her eyes. but Jack is curious and eager to discover the truth, no matter how ugly. And in the end, you see how that works out for both of them.”

Jack and Victoria’s reaction to Kurylenko’s character Julia is telling — Jack wants to help her, and Victoria would rather Julia just go away, because it makes her and Jack less of an “effective team” (a phrase oft-repeated in the film to a final chilling effect). To be an effective team, Jack is supposed to follow orders, to not think about whether the orders make sense. Trying to learn the truth — about what happened to humanity on Earth, about the people who survived — can have fatal consequences. “You know how they say everybody dies, but it’s about dying well?” Kurylenko asked. “That’s the truth. We all die. The question is, what kind of life will we have lived? Will we have been brave, or will we live in oblivion? There are all these questions, so it’s not just some sci-fi movie that makes no sense. Hopefully people will see that and understand that.”

Likewise, Kurylenko’s next film “Erased” has a similar undertone, even if the two films couldn’t be more different in look, genre, scope, location, and execution. While “Oblivion” was shot in Iceland to feature landscapes of glaciers, snow, and dry lava all bumping up next to each other, “Erased” takes place in the cities of Belgium, and is an espionage thriller about the CIA’s unofficial participation in providing weapons to warlords. But the key to both is that at the center is a man who doesn’t realize whom he’s working for or what he’s doing for them until it’s too late, and an employer who will execute him if he asks too many questions. “It’s a similar message,” Kurylenko agreed. “And I’m actually quite astonished that you could see the same line goes through both, because visually, they’re not the same.”

The flip side for her on “Erased,” however, is that this time, she could be one of the bad guys, with emphasis on guys. “The way the director spoke to me about my character, which is what attracted me to the project, is that he said, ‘You’re a woman, but you think you’re a man,'” she said. “And I’ve never explored that side of myself before.”

Will you be checking out Olga Kurylenko’s recent/upcoming films? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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