Joseph Kosinski and Claudio Miranda didn't like the extensive use of blue screen mattes in Tron Legacy, that for this film, they wanted to use real glass, mirrors and shiny surfaces for the glass tower set. The sky footage was projected on a 500 by 45 feet screen consisting of 21 monitors taken from three weeks of footage of a volcano in Hawaii. The monitors took 10 technician weeks to install and fine tuning with floor-level rig support. In the end it had the actors complimenting the production team for that set design that as such Tom Cruise declared that the glass tower was one of his favorite film sets.
The Tower 49 set was built with giant screens on which video previously recorded by the director and his crew of the view from the summit of Haleakala volcano in Maui was projected. The rooms with windows were lit by the light from those projections to make the scenes look like they really were from a place perched above the clouds.
Initially, Disney had acquired the rights to Joseph Kosinski's script in a heated auction. However, they later realized that making a PG-rated film based on the script would require a lot of story changes. The rights were subsequently acquired by Universal Pictures.
The scene where Jack Harper is sitting on a precipice watering a small plant was filmed on Earl's Peak in Iceland, 2,000 feet high. The crew had to use helicopters to get people and equipment to the filming location.
Tom Cruise celebrated his 50th birthday on the set. To celebrate the milestone, director Joseph Kosinski presented the star with one of the futuristic motorbikes from the film. Tom also gave the director a present of his own: a die-cast model of the bubble ship in a glass case.
The Oblivion project originated as an 8-page treatment written by Joseph Kosinski which was pitched in 2007 to Barry Levine and Jesse Berger at Radical Publishing as a graphic novel. The project was subsequently developed into an illustrated novella and is being held for release to coincide with the film release.
The sample "ash can" chapter of the novella was first distributed at San Diego Comic Con 2008 for free. The sample eventually ended up at the hands of Tom Cruise who approached Joseph Kosinski to develop the film and story. Development continued in background while Kosinski was working on Tron Legacy, with the film and the novella written at the same time to prevent spoilers.
Director Joseph Kosinski wanted a 4K version release, but budgetary constraints coupled with an additional six week post-production work prompted the idea to be abandoned, and the film was finished and released in 2K instead.
This is the second movie in a row in which Tom Cruise plays a character named "Jack". He previously played the title character in Jack Reacher (2012). This is also Cruise's third "Jack"-portraying movie overall, as he also plays a character with that name in Legend (1985).
While Disney was holding the rights, the first draft of the script was written by William Monahan before it was ditched following the acquisition of the property by Universal. Michael Arndt also did additional uncredited rewrites to the Gadjusek-Nelson draft. However, Monahan was not credited.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Julia is first found, she is in her sleep pod with her maiden name listed "J. Rusakova", someone with no known relationship with anyone else. Later, when Julia awakens by the cabin, she's in Jack's sleep pod with "J. Harper" inscribed on the front, her married name and the one she introduces herself with once the relationship is revealed.
Jack is Tech 49, which is the same number as Tom Cruise's age during filming. The tech who finds Julia at the end of the film is Tech 52, which happens three years later when Cruise would be 52 years old.