Olivia Wilde has starred in a wide array of roles and has been equally successful in film and television. In her new movie, “Tron: Legacy,” a high-tech adventure set in a digital world, she plays Quorra, a unique program that’s like a surrogate daughter to Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Flynn, who was once the world’s leading tech visionary and has been trapped for 20 years on the grid of his own creation, teaches Quorra about the outside world, and in return, she acts as his loyal confidante and fearless warrior who helps him survive his life in exile.
As a result of her education, Quorra adopts Flynn’s yearning for knowledge and now longs to experience the ‘user’ world that lies far beyond the realm of possibility. So, when she crosses paths with Sam Flynn (Hedlund), he seems to be the person both she, and Kevin Flynn, have been waiting for. When the surrogate family’s peaceful home life explodes, they find themselves battling their way across the treacherous cyber landscape of the elder Flynn’s own making.
MoviesOnline sat down with Olivia to talk about her new movie. She told us how she was blown away the first time she saw “Tron: Legacy,” why she’s convinced that actors will still be needed no matter how much the technology of filmmaking advances, and how she came up with the unique look for Quorra. She also discussed the film’s political undertones and updated us on her upcoming film “Cowboys and Aliens.”
Q: What was your reaction the first time you saw “Tron: Legacy”?
OW: It surpassed all my expectations. You know what happens so often as an actor is you retain the information about the scene that you yourself shot and you obsess over certain scenes that you found the most challenging or interesting and the rest of the film kind of falls away in your memory or it fades a little bit. It’s been so long since I actually read the script in its entirety — you know, a good year or more. So being able to watch everyone’s performance and watch all the elements of the story come together was just extraordinary. I was blown away by everyone’s work and that was my reaction — just “Oh my God everyone pulled it together.” Everyone did things they’d never done before and it was for so many different departments on the film, so revolutionary. And being able to watch Michael Sheen’s performance, much of which I was not there for, so that was really a treat for me. And to see a lot of Jeff’s work as Clu, that was really exciting because that involves a lot of special effects in order to create the finished product. So I think that was probably the most astounding thing, just being able to see the entire picture together and realize how much hard work paid off.
Q: Using the 1982 Jeff as a template, do you think as an actress that things you’re doing now may be repurposed later on?
OW: I think it’s such an interesting concept. I think you know my dream moving out is to take Clint Eastwood, Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep and take them all and put them in a team comedy because now we can do that. It would be the most expensive team comedy ever made but totally worth it. I want to see that movie. But what I really realized last night while watching Jeff’s performance as Clu was no matter what effect they come up with to be able to make actors seem younger, older, it’s still driven by the actor. The effects are extraordinary and Eric Barba’s team is incredible but Jeff was driving that rig and Jeff’s performance is still what makes that character so compelling. It was a relief to know that actors will still be needed no matter what they come up with. Even if we’re stuck in a booth somewhere hidden away, they’ll still need actors to drive these things and make them interesting. I just thought that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do and it’s such an art form in itself and one that’s new and unprecedented. So the fact that Jeff just brought an incredible amount of Jeff to that character is even more extraordinary knowing all the effects and all the extra work that went into it.
Q: Do actors of your generation think about keeping versions of yourself on a hard drive?
OW: I don’t think I could escape that images of myself will be kept on a hard drive now. I think that it’s inevitable. There’s permanence to everything you do now whether you like it or not. And so it can be utilized in the future, hopefully for good reason. But it is an interesting concept and we’re still kind of cresting that way. It’s still completely new and I think there’s only a few actors in this business who have gone through the process that Jeff went through. I think he and Brad Pitt can really discuss the benefits or the challenges of working with a head rig like that face replacement. So it’s really exciting for all of us to be a part of that new technology and be able to share that experience and be part of something so revolutionary.
Q: How did you come up with your look?
OW: The look– yes, it was a true collaboration to create Quorra. When we originally started putting together ideas for her, it was really up for grabs because Quorra, of course, was not in the original film. And Joe Kosinski was very interested in making her a unique and unusual femme– not even femme fatale, a female heroine, in this type of film that was unlike any other. And so we worked very hard to make her very intelligent and powerful but at the same time childlike and nuanced so that she would not just be there as a kind of foil for the men, not just the eye candy. She could have very easily I think with a different team, that character could have easily turned into the temptress of the Tron world. She could’ve just been this sexy femme fatale. With a suit like that it’s easy to fall into that I think. But Joe was adamant that she not be that. I worked very, very hard to create someone who was not that. We were able to work together to create Quorra. We were very inspired by Joan of Arc. I brought the concept of Joan of Arc very early on, six months before we start shooting. And I said, “Joe, I found Quorra. I figure her out. She’s Joan of Arc.” Because of Joan of Arc was this unlikely warrior, this child who could lead an army. She was kind of unnaturally powerful and seemed to have this connection to another world, to a higher power, to be guided by something greater than her and by selflessness. And that was Quorra. And that combination of innocence and strength is unusual in characters. So once we found this historical reference, it was really fun to flesh her out. But Joe was completely on board with that from the beginning. When you’ve hit the jackpot with directors is when they can be as excited about that stuff as you are. You know I remember calling or emailing Joe at 3 AM, six months before we started shooting anything, I think I figured it out. I was looking at ancient Korean Buddhist warriors and I think that Quorra’s one of them. And they fight with swords so Quorra needs a sword. And the next day, great Quorra has a sword. We can work on that. So that’s part of the reason I feel so proud of the finished product of Quorra is because so much hard work went into it, so much collaboration, so much love and I feel very proud of the way she’s come out. She’s quirky and odd and I like that and another reason I was so adamant about making her so intelligent as well as being a warrior is because I really want her to appeal to the female audience and particularly young females. I wanted her to be a role model for a young audience. I want girls to feel inspired by her strength and her wit and her intelligence and her compassion. You know, I think that it’s rare these days to have a female character in these types of movies that isn’t just there to look really sexy in a suit. Too often that’s what happens and you wonder, who did these little girls dress up as for Halloween? You know when I was little we dressed as Wonder Woman. And Wonder Woman represented social justice and honesty. Now I’m not sure who they dress up as. Although this year was pretty cool before the movie came out. I saw a lot of Quorras walking around. So that was pretty exciting. But I really wanted Quorra to be appealing to both men and women and I feel very proud of how she’s turned out.
Q: Can you talk about the hair and makeup?
OW: Yes, the hair was very much inspired by Joan. We wanted something a little androgynous. You know she’s a fighter. That’s her purpose, Quorra. She’s there to protect Flynn, and she needs to be able to move fast. And so, if she had long flowing little mermaid hair, it would be very practical for her. So we wanted her hair to have the kind of slick non-organic look of the Tron world, but at the same time be really practical and also good-looking you know. We wanted it to be something flattering, of course, but it was a process of going through several different wigs and designs and again Joe and I worked together very closely on that. And as for makeup, we wanted her to look different from the rest of the programs. She is a little bit more of a human look, a little bit more texture, a little bit more skin tone, but she still has that very white, very pale look. And the eye makeup, yeah, I mean we had an amazing team. Rosalina Da Silva is a makeup artist who designed that look and it seemed to make sense for her. You know, as you notice the Sirens are the other females in the film and they have these long and credible lashes and they’re more kind of like just unbelievably sexy and rocker chic in their makeup. And we want to Quorra to kind of be an alternative to that — still quite intense but not quite as glamorous. So it was a fun process to figure all that stuff out.
Q: You have such a strong gay following. What do you think they will connect with on the film?
OW: I think they’ll connect with much of the same things everybody else will connect with it is just a great story about humanity and about compassion. The message of the film is really that we need to remind ourselves of the beauty of human connection and of nature and pull ourselves out of our devices for a moment and appreciate what it is just to be human beings. So I think that message is the same for everyone of all lifestyles. But it is also a true love story and also a family story and anyone who has a relationship, strained or not, with their father will really connect to this story because in the end that’s what it’s about. It’s about a son and a father finding each other again and I find that incredibly moving and powerful. I think beyond all the special effects and all the beauty of this film that’s really what is at its heart and core.
Q: The film definitely has some political undertones and Quorra believes she’s doing the right thing. Can you comment on that?
OW: Yes, absolutely, and I saw it more than ever last night. I knew it was there in the script but I was really excited to see, oh good, we have a little bit of a political slant. Maybe no one will notice but you and me. But I think that the message again is that imperfection is beautiful and the idea of accepting flaws. I mean the story is one of a dictator who has ethnically cleansed this universe and what’s left is this desperate and miserable world. And so the message I think of course is that compassion, humanity, and humility are important in our own lives as well as in politics. But, gosh, again that makes me think of how incredible Jeff’s performance was, because to create a character like Clu, it was this just merciless dictator who really kind of sends chills up your spine as you think of who he resembles in actual history. But I think it does have a message as well, I mean a political message as well as one just about humanity in general.
Q: Can you talk about the last year or two and how your career has really taken off?
OW: I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. Tron was such a departure for me. It was. Quorra was unlike anyone I have ever played before. And I got to create someone who was just unlike anything anyone had ever seen me do before, anything I had ever done before. And so after that I was really excited about doing that again, about departing from myself again and transforming again because beyond the physical transformation of Tron it was really just quite a transformation on many levels. It also peeked my interest in action as well as adventure films and sci-fi and everything like that. It’s something that I never thought I would do. I never saw myself quite in the genre of such an exciting thing to be part of it, particularly because of the people who follow those types of movies. You know my experiences at Comic-Con have been so incredible and so exciting. So after Tron I was excited to do Cowboys and Aliens which was something that, it’s a very different film but again a huge departure for myself and a total transformation and I feel very blessed to be a part of that and everything in between. It’s been a really, really incredible year and every single thing I’ve done has been very different from the last and now it seems to all be kind of bubbling to the surface and I’m very proud.
Q: How do you like being turned into merchandise? Is this your first experience with that?
OW: This is my first experience with that. I don’t think there’s a little House Thirteen doll unless I’m missing something. There should be. You know, it’s really quite odd. I like Carrie Fisher’s take on it. Carrie Fisher is such an incredible writer and actress and person and I don’t know if any of you have read or seen her one-woman show Wishful Drinking but she talks a lot about the merchandise that came from Star Wars including the blow up doll. I haven’t heard of any of those being created for Quorra. But it’s a funny out of body experience to see some miniature version of yourself on the shelf. Again, I feel so proud to have created this character so whenever I see a little Quorra or I see a Quorra costume, I just feel that this was something that we created together and it’s just a very different experience when you feel like you designed the character and every part of her look and being is something that comes from the research that went into creating her personality and her history. I’ve enjoyed the experience so far, but the second I see a Quorra blow up doll, I won’t.
Q: What was your physical training like for this?
OW: It was challenging. I was shooting House while I was training for Tron so I would wake up way earlier than anyone should ever wake up and go and do a few hours of training a day, included cross training, cardio training, martial arts training. A lot of what Quorra does in the movie is mixed martial arts and so that was something that I worked very hard on. We had an incredible stunt team called 8711. They’ve done a lot of the big films of the last 10 years and they are just extraordinary. And I really appreciated that they gave me the confidence to do a lot of my own stunts. But they said you’re going to have to train for it and I was completely open to that. And I completely physically transformed my body. I have never looked like that before and I will never look like that again. It was important in creating Quorra to transfer myself physically because once I understood what it was like to be able to fight and to have those kind of muscles and to have that strength, it changed the way I walked. It changed the way I stood. And I suddenly understood what it felt like to be able to protect myself, which I had never really felt before. So it was the first time I really realized how important that physical training is to creating the character beyond just the aesthetic.
Q: Did you stop training after the movie?
OW: Yes, oh, it was such a relief. I couldn’t wait. The entire time we were shooting Tron I was planning my meal of the wrap day. I was like oh, well, you know, I’m married to an Italian so it was all about the pasta and the wine. I couldn’t wait. I would just dream of my giant plate of pasta while we were on set. But no, on these big films you’re so lucky to have the best trainers in the world teaching you how to fight and everyone in their department is the best of the best. It’s such an honor to have them focused on creating something for you, to maximize the impact of your character. So you have to bring your focus and your energy and never complain because this is such an honor to have these people working on you to turn you into a little warrior. I mean it was quite an honor.
Q: The costume is so sculpted to you. Does that pose problems as the filming goes on while you’re training and your body is changing?
OW: Well the thing about these costumes is they don’t stretch. So once we had our last fitting it was like okay this is the size of the costume now. It can’t change. It’s not like we can do a little adjustment on this one. Each suit was a sculpture. It was such an intricate piece of craftsmanship. So you couldn’t say oh well, they’ll give me another one, or oh, maybe I could let this out a little at the seams. There was a certain dedication to the suit, a relationship we had to have with our suits, good and bad. But, of course, after over four months of working and you fluctuate physically, and of course you train and train and train for the movie and once you start doing a movie you don’t have time to train. But luckily I survived and was able to stay in that suit just enough, just until the last second.
Q: When you were a teenager, did you prefer science-fiction fantasy stories or romantic tales?
OW: I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. You know my family, we used to all watch Star Trek together — sort of a nerdy family activity. But as far as reading science fiction, I think Jules Verne was probably the extent of my science-fiction literature, in my library. I was much more into romance as a teenager and it’s been a kind of new discovery for me to learn about sci-fi adventure. And it’s an honor to be a part of it. I think it’s a really interesting genre and it’s all about imagination. You know it’s boundless what you can do in these stories. And so when you have a creative team like we did for Tron, you can just exceed all expectations and all boundaries of the imagination, and it’s just a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of.
Tron: Legacy opens in theaters on December 17th.