It is amazing whenever a favorite director releases a new project but it is virtually unheard of to have two feature films released less than a month apart. With Top Gun: Maverick still raking in the cash on the big screen, director Joseph Kosinski is now seeing his follow-up premiere on Netflix. Spiderhead (read our review), based on the short story by George Saunders, is a psychological thriller with elements of sci-fi and dystopian drama mixed in. Starring Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth, and Jurnee Smollett, Spiderhead is definitely not what you would expect from the director of big budget studio movies.
I recently sat down for a conversation with Joseph Kosinski and we discussed his two current projects as well as reuniting with Miles Teller for the third time. We also touched on his next project, the recently announced Formula One movie with Brad Pitt at AppleTV+. Check out our conversation below.
Alex Maidy: So, this must be an unusual situation for you to have two movies coming out in such proximity to each other. Obviously, that wasn’t expected with everything that went on, but how is it with the biggest movie in theaters and now this coming out on streaming?
Joseph Kosinski: It is a little weird, obviously unique situation because of the pandemic. For me, it’s five years of work spread across essentially three weeks. They are such different films and distributed in completely different ways. The only consistent thing being me and Miles [Teller} It’s funny. I think they’re a great compliment to each other.
Alex: Of the films that you’ve done, the scale has been substantially bigger. There are big stakes in Spiderhead, but scale-wise…from Tron and Oblivion and Top Gun, Only the Brave as well, they’re so big, and this is a more contained story. It’s geographically isolated. The characters are isolated. There’s more of that psychological element to it. Did you feel from a directorial standpoint, you had to approach telling the story differently than you would have with a bigger scale visual feel?
JK: I mean, it’s obviously a completely different budget in different, you know, timeframe. Top Gun was a 133-day shoot. Spiderhead was a 40-day shoot. From a creative point of view, I approach it in the exact same way. I put as much effort in, I put as much thought into as much creativity. Obviously, this is an ensemble piece with three characters. The focus is on performance because that’s, that’s what the film lives on is, is the performance of these three characters.
Alex: And Spiderhead is unlike anything else in your filmography.
JK: it is something different. I love, I love mixing it up and doing different scales and doing different genres and flexing different muscles as a director. And this was a wonderful opportunity to do something with a very unique tone and really unique performances that you normally wouldn’t get to do in any other type of film. This is such a unique story, you know? I had so much fun making it. It was a wonderful experience to make this and work with Chris [Hemsworth] for the first time and shoot it in Australia in the darkest part of the pandemic when everything was unlocked. And be able to just tell a really special, original story.
Alex: Were you familiar at all with George Saunders as an author before joining this project?
JK: I was familiar obviously with his name and I think I had read “Escape from Spiderhead” in 2010 when it was originally published which is why I was kind of drawn to the script in the first place. The script is what grabbed me initially. I just thought Rhett [Reese} and Paul [Wernick} did an incredible job capturing the tone of what George did by taking a short story and expanding it into a film. When you read that short story it’s really hard to imagine how you could do that. These guys figured out how to do it. I was just drawn to the character of Steve Arnesti. He’s just a fascinating kind of sociopathic person who’s got these idealistic intentions, but you know, obviously, his methods are very questionable. At the same time, he’s very charming and very funny. I just thought it would be a wonderful challenge for the right actor to want to tackle. And we lucked out with getting Chris Hemsworth.
Alex: Now this makes three very distinct performances that you’ve gotten from Miles Teller in films that you’ve directed him. Is he somebody that you could foresee in future projects?
JK: I mean, is there anything that he can’t do at this point? I don’t think so. Miles is a huge talent of his generation. There are very few people that are taking the swings that he has done and built the career that he has by his age. I mean, it’s a pretty amazing career. He’s such a huge talent. I had my first opportunity with him on Only the Brave where he carried kind of the emotional weight of that whole film on his shoulders, which was a very difficult role. Then, Top Gun: Maverick. Totally different scale film, with a totally different character, a different movie. And, you know, he was able to deliver everything he needed to, including the comedy, which is so important to the back half of the movie and really makes it feel like a Top Gun film. And being able to share the screen with Tom Cruise, which is a hard thing to do. And he more than did his share. And then for Spiderhead again, something totally different. A much more impressionable character…a guy who’s being manipulated by this extremely charismatic character. And only once he realizes what’s going on is able to kind of turn the tables on him. And that was something very different than what Miles has done before. And again, the reason why I wanted him to do it, because I thought it would be a really good challenge for him. But his range is astonishing and I can’t wait to see where he goes next, but I would love to find something else to do with him. Cause he’s, you know, he’s just a huge talent and he’s, it’s going to be exciting to see where you know, where, what the next couple of years of his life are like.
Alex: You’ve taken two huge films with gigantic, dedicated fan bases in Tron and Top Gun and delivered sequels decades after the originals Those fan bases have embraced your films. And then Oblivion, which I’m a huge fan of. This is such a different film than what I was expecting when I saw your name attached to it. You’ve done big screen, you’ve done sci-fi, you’ve done psychological thriller. Now you’ve done streaming. What are we going to see next?
JK: Well, nothing is certain, in the film business, but I think the plan is for me to tackle a story in the world of Formula One which is a fascinating sport. People are over the last couple of years have really learned a lot more about it with Drive To Survive which has kind of done a good job of getting people behind the scenes of how the sport works. So, I think that’s what I’m going to be doing next with Brad Pitt. That’s what I’m aiming at right now.
Alex: I can’t wait for people to check Spiderhead out when it hits Netflix and congratulations on having two awesome movies in a row.
JK: Awesome. Thanks, Alex. I really appreciate it.
With so much going on in the world, not only is Joseph Kosinski dominating multiplexes but also your streaming services. Spiderhead is definitely a different movie from what he has done before, but you can check it out for yourself and find a solid thriller unlike anything else out there. Plus, you get great performances from Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth, and Jurnee Smollett.
Spiderhead premieres on June 17th on Netflix.