“Tron: Legacy” is a 3D high-tech adventure set in a digital world that’s unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. When Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance, he finds himself pulled into the digital world of Tron where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey of escape across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.
MoviesOnline sat down with director Joe Kosinski and producers Steven Lisberger (director of the original “Tron”) and Sean Bailey to talk about their new film. They told us what inspired the sequel, how Daft Punk played an pivotal role in the marriage of visuals and soundtrack, and why the film’s viral campaign was designed to tie in strongly with the film’s storyline. They also hinted at the possibility of a “Tron 3.”
Q: What was the inspiration for “Tron: Legacy” and how does it compare to the original “Tron”?
Steven Lisberger: This is a stand alone film.
Sean Bailey: We wanted this to be a stand alone movie that if you know and you’re a fan of the original, you can come and certainly there’s a lot in there for you. But we also felt that people had to be able to come to this movie clean and be able to experience it. Certainly the inspiration for it in many, many ways I think is Steven who is a visionary who’s ahead of his time and who pushed the envelope from both the conceptual perspective and a design perspective and a technical execution perspective and those were things that when Joe and I were lucky enough to come onto this movie, we took very much to heart. How do we push it today like those guys pushed it in ’82.
Q: Can you talk about how Daft Punk was inspired by the first movie?
Steven Lisberger: That’s true. There’s definitely a French Connection there too, because Moebius (Jean Moebius Giraud) who’s actually in town this weekend was very instrumental in the first film. He did a lot of design and costume work and did a lot of storyboarding and he made a big difference, and so now Daft Punk has made a big difference.
Q: With Daft Punk, how much of the actual score was recorded before filming and was it used to help shape certain scenes or sequences? It was a great marriage of the visuals and the soundtrack.
Joe Kosinski: They had done digital demos of all of the tracks. A lot of them came in while we were shooting but I did actually have a lot of the tracks like the End of Line Club, I actually had those tracks on set that day on big speakers blasting as we were shooting those scenes. Basically, by the time I got to editing and cutting the film together, I had the entire score in a digital format and was able to cut the whole film to it and really connect the music and picture in a way that you just can’t do on most films. And then, once we locked, we went and re-recorded everything with a real orchestra in London. I’m really proud of how the score turned out.
Q: How much influence did you have on the viral aspect of the movie?
Joe Kosinski: We were all really involved in the viral because it needed to tie so strongly to the story we were telling in this film so we were involved in all the aspects, particularly the story aspects. We had a great group of people that actually executed a lot of the events and stuff that’s going on online. We wanted to make sure it was cohesive with the story we were telling and hopefully setting up things for people who were interested in it and they’ll come into this movie from a more informed perspective which is pretty exciting.
Sean Bailey: We loved it. For us, it was all…it’s funny, people say it was a marketing thing. Yes, it is, if it helps it, but we also viewed it as a story thing. If you follow the ARG, you know that Kevin Flynn disappeared in 1989. We loved being able to tell little pieces of the story that you don’t need when you come into the movie theater, but if you have them, it’s pretty cool.
Q: Do you think kids who watch this film now will be inspired sometime in the future to make another Tron?
Steven Lisberger: Well it happens now in real time. You go to YouTube and people are already doing their own home versions of these light cycles three days later. I mean, can you imagine from my generation where it took us months to generate 5 seconds of CG and now the stuff that the public does in almost real time comes right back at you?
Sean Bailey: That’s pretty cool. We were at a meeting the other day and I pulled up Daft Punk, this track called “Derezzed” and we have a piece out there to it and in theater and there’s a piece now on YouTube called “Rerezzed,” which somebody just went with all the stuff. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it’s really beautiful. They took pieces of Daft Punk tracks that they had from the score. They took pieces from our early FX tests and the trailers they had and they cut this. It’s a really fascinating back and forth. We’re really lucky with this movie that the fans have been some of our greatest champions. People talk about how there’s been a really big marketing effort for the movie which there has and there will be. But there’s been a multiple on it because the fans have been out evangelizing it, partly for love of the original and partly because of things like the ARG and what they’ve seen and the early looks at Joe’s work.
Steven Lisberger: I think one of the things that has happened that’s a change is that in the past, American audiences really struggled sometimes with pictures that had two dimensions. “Alice in Wonderland” and “Wizard of Oz” really weren’t that successful when they came out and I think now we have a world which clearly we have divided into the real world and the electronic world and you really don’t have a choice anymore. You have to accept living in both worlds. So kids and young people that grow up with that and those that have learned how to do it, it’s changed how we look at some of this entertainment. Frankly, I think one of the reasons besides Johnny Depp and Tim Burton why “Alice in Wonderland” was so successful this time when in the past that story hasn’t been accepted is because we are a generation now that accepts two worlds, dimensional changes, and I think that’s part of the energy behind “Tron.”
Q: With such a futuristic film and so much hype surrounding “Tron,” how do you think Asian audiences will react?
Steven Lisberger: I think the Asian market has had a different mindset. One of my hobbies is bonsai trees and when Asians see a bonsai, what it represents is the spirit of a big tree. They never say “Oh, that’s a cute little tree.” But Americans say “Oh, that’s a cute little tree.” They don’t understand that it’s about the spirit. So, I think there’s something about “Tron” that I hope Asians appreciate because it is really about what I’m saying, another dimension which we’ve introduced into our lives through digital technology and they’ve always been into the spirit of things. So I think that’s a powerful connection I hope.
Sean Bailey: I would like to add I was there about 3 weeks ago. We took over the “Tron” night footage. The first place we showed it was the Tokyo International Film Festival. It was really fun. Joe and I are flying back there a week from tomorrow. I couldn’t be more excited that you can feel the enthusiasm and the lean forward. They really seem genuinely excited and receptive and have been just an incredibly enthusiastic audience. I’m thrilled. I can’t wait. And also, I was in my room in Tokyo, it was the first time I’d ever been there, three weeks ago, and I was looking out my window and thought “It looks like Tron out there.” (laughs)
Q: Joe, what was it like making a 3D movie as your first feature film?
Joe Kosinski: I think any director feels pressure making a movie regardless of what movie it is and what size it is. I think it’s a very natural thing. In terms of 3D, we conceived this as a 3D movie from the beginning but 3D in terms of being an immersive experience. I liked the idea of treating the screen as a window into another world, not something that things are continually flying out of at you. So hopefully, you felt the same way after watching the movie last night. We conceived it as a 3D movie two years before “Avatar” came out. We’ve been working on this movie for a long time. It was always meant to be an opportunity to provide a glimpse into another world, and when things do come out of the screen, it hopefully has more dramatic impact if you’re doing it at the right point where the story motivates it, but also because you’re not doing it during the whole film. When it does happen, it has that kind of visceral quality to it.
Steven Lisberger: There’s a story where Billy Wilder couldn’t figure out the third act of a screenplay and he brought in all his heavy friends that were all great writers and they couldn’t crack it and then the studio brought in some young writer who had never gotten a screenplay made and he figured it out and they said to Billy Wilder “Don’t you feel like a fool?” and Billy Wilder said, “No, of course he figured it out. He didn’t know how hard it was.” And that’s a little bit how I feel about Joe. He didn’t know how difficult this was. He thought all movies were like this and that’s just the way it is. It was crushingly difficult.
Q: But he’s a first time director?
Steven Lisberger: No. His next movie is going to be his third movie because he shot this twice for the 3D. (Laughs)
Q: Why did you choose Joe to direct “Tron: Legacy” and why did you decide to make it in 3D?
Steven Lisberger: Why him? You saw the movie. Sean has great instincts and he found Joe.
Sean Bailey: We wanted a visionary behind the camera and we felt that Joe was going to be an important new visionary. We felt like a revolution is happening in filmmaking and the revolution is going to be led by people like Joe. For us, it was a very natural choice. We recognized there was some risk to it but we felt there was a lot more potential reward which I think we got.
Q: Did you have a more substantial proof of concept piece of work to look at before hiring Joe for the gig?
Sean Bailey: We did. That was part I’m sure from the studio’s perspective they wanted to see. Joe talked a lot about a lot of very aggressive philosophies of how to make this movie and technologies that hadn’t really been done yet. And certainly there was a little bit of “Well let’s see what that looks like,” I think. But another big piece of that was us saying to them “If you’re going to make “Tron,” I don’t know that “Tron” is a movie you can read a hundred page document and decide if you’re going to go forward or not. Part of the assessment of “Tron,” in our opinion, would have to be what’s the world you’re going to build? What’s it going to look like? Is the movie screen going to look unlike anything I’ve ever seen before just like it did in 1982 when Steven did something on screen that no one had done before? So what we said to them was “We’d like to give you a set of deliverables. One will be the script. There will be concept art. And there will be an example of all these bleeding edge technologies.” And they were very supportive of that plan.
Q: Will there be a “Tron 3”?
Sean Bailey: We’ll let the audience decide that.
Q: There are so many great homages that honor the original film, all these different Easter eggs peppered in there such as seeing the son of Ed Dillinger, played by Cillian Murphy. That was a great moment and great casting for him. Is he possibly a nemesis that’s being prepared for Sam in prospective future “Tron” films?
Joe Kosinski: If audiences decide they want to go back into the world of “Tron,” I think we’ve created a universe and created a situation where there’s a lot of places we can latch on and create a new narrative. We’ll have to see.
Sean Bailey: Yeah, we did the Dillinger Easter egg for the folks. That was a good moment.
“Tron: Legacy” opens in theaters on December 17th.