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SYFY WIRE Joseph Kosinski

They Literally Built Oblivion's Awesome Bubble Ship, with a Little Help from Tom Cruise

Science fiction has no shortage of iconic vessels, but somehow Oblivion's bubble ship always gets left by the wayside.

By Josh Weiss

Science fiction has no shortage of iconic ships: the USS Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters, U.S.C.S.S. Nostromo, the Ornithopters of Arakkis, UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, The Milano, Serenity, Event Horizon, Planet Express... the list really does go on and on. One vessel that doesn't get enough love, however, is that awesome — and ever so phallic — bubble ship piloted by Tom Cruise's Jack Harper in the 2013 sci-fi action-thriller, Oblivion (now streaming on Peacock).

What makes the agile craft so notable is the fact that the production actually built two practical versions for principal photography: a full-scale model and a cockpit mounted atop a gimbal. "The whole philosophy for the movie was to try and shoot everything in-camera," director Joseph Kosinski explains in the behind-the-scenes featurette below. Cruise, who is a fully-licensed pilot, offered up some input for the ship's interior controls "to make sure it felt as realistic as possible," Kosinski adds.

RELATED: Tom Cruises's Oblivion Remains a High-Concept Sci-Fi Hidden Gem a Decade Later

"There are actors who don't really have a relationship to the art department," echos concept designer Daniel Simon in an interview with Ace Magazine. "They come to set and expect everything to be there. Tom saw the first drawings and was a part of it right from the beginning. Plus, he helped design the cockpit because of his expertise in flying. I can't fly an airplane or helicopter, he can. So he told us what would look best on-camera, what would make him comfortable acting. The biggest challenge was to make the seat comfortable. There's no secret about it, if you sit eight years in a chair, you suffer. It's not the healthiest position. So to make him, as an actor, very comfortable, this is specifically designed to his ergonomics."

See How They Built the Bubble Ship from Oblivion

While Cruise was giddy as a schoolboy to strap in for the gimbal sequences, co-star Olga Kurylenko, who plays Julia Harper, wasn't as enthusiastic to go through the NASA-like endurance test. So when you go back and watch the film, pay close attention to Julia's look of discomfort when Jack takes evasive maneuvers during the drone pursuit — those emotions are completely genuine. "The bubble ship is a beautiful creation when it's standing on the ground, but you don't want to be in there when it's flipping around," the actress admits in the featurette.

RELATED: Oblivion Director Joseph Kosinski Reflects on Humble Sci-Fi Origins of 2013 Tom Cruise Flick

But, as the old saying goes, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." Once filming had wrapped and she was on the red carpet for the movie's premiere, far away from the nauseating twists and turns, Kurylenko had kinder words for the craft. 

“I really liked the bubble ship and the way it moved," she told Entertainment Weekly. "Can you imagine if there were a couple of those flying around the sky? If we could all have one and fly those instead of driving cars — well actually we’d probably have tons of accidents, but it would look cool. And if I had one, I would pilot it. In the movie, Tom does all the driving and flying, so if I had my own, I would never get out of the driver’s seat."

Oblivion is now streaming on Peacock.