Jeff Bridges, Steven Lisberger, Oren Aviv Interview Tron Legacy

Posted by: Michael

At Comic Con we got a chance to catch up with  Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Sean Bailey, Joe Kosinski, Steven Lisberger and Oren Aviv and talk aobut the TRON Sequel which was recently renamed TRON : Legacy.

Question: Steve, you guys did ‘Tron’ almost 30 years ago.  It was known for special effects.

Lisberger:  Well, the zeitgeist and roll of ‘TRON’ has changed.  The first film had to cross the line and get to the new frontier.  We did that but we were free to imagine any way that we wanted.  We didn’t have to think of the implications too much.  We could bring down the time sharing main frame, get a PC into the hands of everyone, and everything was going to be peachy keen.  The next wave is to move into cyberspace and really integrate it, like I said, into modern life.  To make it into all it can be and there are no more excuses.  We’ve got to make it civilized, make it represent all the best that we are, and try to avoid the worst that we are.  It’s a challenge of making it real.  Joe has done a phenomenal job of picking up that challenge and making it real on many levels. 

Question:  This is the longest span between two films.  What did you want the movie to be before you said ‘Yes, lets do it.’

Bridges:  What got me to say ‘yes’ to the first one was all that new innovation.  Also, Steve’s enthusiasm and how clearly he saw his vision.  His enthusiasm was kind of contagious, I got it, and we went with it.  It was a wonderful experience.  It was similar on this one.  I was so happy to know that Steve, the source of the material, was still involved.  That was a big plus.  Having met Joe and seeing all his talent, and how he could really pull this thing off.  I knew that it would have to be more than the first ‘Tron’. 

I saw that Joe had the goods to do that.  The challenge was kind of the story.  That was the big special effect, as far as I was concerned, getting that story right.  We worked on it and I think we came up with it.  It’s interesting with these huge budget movies.  You would think that the script would be all in order.  My experience is that it’s not that way.  It’s almost like a very expensive student film in a way.  ‘Let’s figure it out!  Come on!  How do we do this?  I got to do this tomorrow!’  and so you figure it out.  On the happy days, and I can’t think of any unhappy days actually on this one, where you pull it off.  It’s exhilarating the way it works.  It can be kind of maddening but it’s a very exciting way to work.  It’s very fresh, almost like making an independent film in a funny sort of way.

Question:  Oren, since you are the head of production why is it important for Disney to reinvent some of these classic films from the Disney library?

Aviv:  Well, it’s actually not been a specific strategy of ours.  I look at it as is there an idea that excites me?  Is there a great story and great storyteller, that we can combine to come up with something that is fresh and unique, that would get me passionate about seeing that movie.  Frankly, seeing dailies everyday for 50 to 100 days.  As Jeff said, it comes down to vision.  I think when Joe presented his vision of what the world of Tron was going to look like, and put together this amazing cast, and it was the perfect combination in this case.  The combination of someone like Jeff, who is a screen icon for decades, and having him connected to this movie, was essential.  I think it was essential to all of us on the filmmaking side.  Combining that with new technology.  It was important that all of us set the bar really high for that new technology.  New actors on screen.  The combination of all of that was going to add one and one to equal three.  It was never a goal of mine to look through the Disney library and say ‘Let’s do that, and that, and that.’  Of course we’re just coming out of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ screening. so that doesn’t sound genuine, but it’s the truth.  With a movie like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’, or ‘Tron’ to me it depends on the unique vision.  If Joe Kosinski didn’t have the vision that he had for this project then we wouldn’t be here today talking about it.  It has to be that perfect marriage. 

Question:  Jeff, I imagine you never thought you would be making a ‘Tron’ where you are fighting your young self in it?

Bridges:  I don’t know.  Over the years I would do something like this and someone would say ‘So, I hear they are making a new ‘Tron’?’  I would say ‘What are you talking about?’  ‘Yeah, you’re kind of lost in the world, like ‘Apocalypse Now’ you’re Kurtz or something?’  I said ‘What are you talking about?’  Here it is 30 years later.  It’s quite amazing. 

Question:  What is that technology that allows you to interact with your younger self?  What do you see of that?  We see you from ‘Tron’ one also, right?

Bridges:  Yeah.  It’s kind of bizarre.  Talking about this stuff I’m kind of reticent because it’s a bit like a magician showing ‘This is how I’m going to do the trick.’ And he shows you how to do it then he says ‘Now, I’ll show you the trick.’  You lose some of the excitement of seeing the trick.  I don’t want to talk too much about all the techniques that went in, but it was a challenge.

Question:  Can you talk about story wise what it means to have both versions of you there?

Bridges:  Story wise.  Sometimes I will look at a movie often as if it’s a dream.  You know how they say about a dream that all the characters are you in your dream. They are different aspects of you.  This movie I would go into that zone occasionally and think of it as a dream.  All of these characters are aspects of myself, or Kevin Flynn in this case.

Question:  I heard downstairs you showed a picture of Tron City.   I would love to hear about this new world that people are going to be going to?

Like I said downstairs, the world of ‘Tron’ has evolved on its world.  It’s like an aquarium disconnected from the outside world for 20 or 25 years.  As it’s continued to evolve and grow the simulation has gotten more perfect and more realistic.  The scale of the world is much bigger than it was before.  The realism, the physics, the visceral quality of it.  I want the film to feel like we went in and shot everything with motion picture cameras.  The line between what is real and now should be blurred so you can’t tell the difference.

Question:  What did you mean but a cyber-Western?

Lisberger:  I meant that in the sense that in a way the cyberspace has a connection to what westerns represent.  It’s the frontier that will now never change.  The original cyberspace of Tron has its place in time when all of this just happened for the first time.  It’s pretty amazing to me that after 27 years Joe can do and imagine and we can put it on the screen.  People just say ‘Wow, that’s Tron.’  You know its ‘Tron’.   So I mean it in the sense in a perpetual frontier now, like westerns are.

Question:  The movie was considered innovative, even though CGI was in baby steps.  Now so many years later what makes this movie new and fresh?  In which ways were you able to push the envelope?

Lisberger: Well, people say to me ‘What’s it like doing ‘Tron’ after all these years, and now that computers can do everything.  We love to believe that, but the fact of the matter is, no matter how much they can do Joe is going to do 105 percent.  We’re going to end up five percent short in computer power.  Civilization always pushes the tools to the limit.  It’s a misnomer to think we can do anything.  Whatever we can do, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to try and do something that might be a step too far.  It’s always a challenge.

Bridges:  Looking back at that first one it was such an adavanced thing.  I remember, correct me if I’m wrong, but it was shot in 70 mm, black and white, and we had black and white adhesive tape.  That was basically our set.  It was all hand tinted by Korean ladies.  We were in Korea and it was hand tinted.  Wasn’t it all?  I don’t know how much CGI there was. 

Lisberger:  A lot of it was done by hand tinting traditional techniques.   We sort of degraded the live action so it would line up with CG could do at the time.  We didn’t get hung up on trying to make CG just look real.  It’s still struggling with looking real.  One of the things that was interesting back then is some of the old timers that helped us make the film, were around in the days of Walt [Disney].  They would say ‘The fact that we’re not sure how this is all going to come out?  That feels like the old days around here.’ 

They said that people have a mistaken idea that all the classic Disney films were predictable, they knew exactly how they were going to come out, and what it was going to be like to make them.  It really apparently wasn’t that way.  They always felt that they were running as fast as they could.  They might be on the brink of having bitten off too much.  That was really satisfying to hear that we were doing that.  We always used to joke that every night we would wait for Bambi and Thumper to come out and help us.  I can’t say whether they did or not.

Question:  This whole frontier thing leads me to this question.  Disney is investing a lot in 3D, so should we expect the high investments in 3D to become a burden?  ‘Tron’ was the ground breaking CGI.

Lisberger:  I really am excited about 3D but I’m most excited about these three D’s right here.  The Garret, Olivia, and Bridges.  3D to me is what we’re doing now in America.  We’re being pretty good about manipulating information and getting it to do what we want.  We’re more interested in how we move data than we are in building cars apparently.  I think 3D is going to be here to stay and I think it’s going to get into everything.  If there is another dimension or two that we find I think we’ll get into that too.  As long as we can turn it into data and good story telling.  The better a story is the more data it gives you that is good data.  The better an actor is, the more information you get from that actor, so it’s all about gathering the best data all across the board.  I think 3D is going to be the way to go.

Question:  Did you shoot in 3D?

Lisberger:  Yeah, we did shoot in 3D.  Joe worked his but off to do that.

Bridges:  Aren’t they going to have 3D without glasses pretty soon?  Is that in the works?

Lisberger:  They do have some screens.

Bridges:  Wow, 3D TV.

Question:  The game that was released a couple of years ago, the first person shooter, kind of reinvented the interest in ‘Tron’.  Did that effect this being made again?  Is there any chance of a game being tied into this?

Lisberger:  Obviously, we’re big players of the game and fans of the movie back in 82.  There was a game a few years ago.  It didn’t really impact our proceeding or not with this movie.  I think we kind of looked at that movie on its own merits.  That said, once we were getting under way with the movie, there were certainly pretty active conversations across the whole Disney Company.   We are talking about a man who goes into a digital universe.  How else can that idea be applied and what else are we going to do with that?  I think there will be some news.

Question:  How important is Comic-Con these days to promote ‘Tron 2’?  I heard that ‘Tron 1’ was never at Comic-Con.

Lisberger:  Comic-Con is very important for certain movies, in my opinion.  ‘Tron’ seems like the perfect marriage of the movie and location to debut things.  If you were here last year then you saw a test piece that we showed last year.  We showed that again today in 3D.  Last year it was just in 2D.  That piece of footage we showed unannounced to this convention and it created a firestorm of excitement and interest.  We thought it made sense to come back and we have every plan to come back next year.  Next year we’ll actually have some real footage from the ‘Tron’ world, which we unfortunately didn’t have.  As Joe mentioned, he just finished last week.

Kosinski:  Last Monday.

We also felt a certain obligation to come here because we kind of got launched last year here.

Question:  Was it important for the director to show something so early, so big, and not the same together?

Lisberger:  I don’t know if anyone has ever shown footage they shot the week before at a venue like this.  It was kind of crazy to cut it all together last week but we wanted to give the fans something exclusive here.  This seemed like the place to do it.

Question:  You guys shot the live action series, which is great, but did you use a particular system?

Lisberger:  We did, we used a brand new iteration of the Pace Cameron system developed by Vince Pace and James Cameron, and I think we’re the first film to use full 35mm sensor cameras in a 3D rig.  The new Sony F35.  It’s a full aperture motion picture digital camera, which gives a stunning image.  In 3D it’s even more spectacular.  We built the cameras weeks before the film started shooting.  We were really happy with how the film looked.

Question:  For Garrett and Olivia, what was your entry point to ‘Tron’?  Was it something that you liked growing up or was this the introduction for you?

Hedlund:  I actually was kind of unique.  I was working on my first film and I had ended up watching ‘Tron’ for the first time in Malta on a balcony in an ally way.  There were bottles clanging and cats.  You sort of have some sort of instinct or intonation at some point.  There is something really kind of odd about watching it, and more odd about working with all the guys from it.  It was really exciting that way and I was really moved by it.  Somebody introduced me to it as a great time and its even more sort of surreal to be working with all these guys.  It’s crazy for me.

Wilde:  Well, Garrett and I were both released after ‘Tron’ was released.  I was aware of it because it became sort of a phenomenon in the culture obviously.  I think I was first aware of it when it was referenced in different music videos, games, TV shows, T-shirts.  I probably saw a ‘Tron’ T-shirt before I saw the movie.  The first time I really watched it carefully was before the meeting with Joe, I admit.  I’m glad I did.  It holds up.  Right now that retro funky look that it has is just as cool to watch, I think.  It was revolutionary for its time, and we’re revolutionary for our time, so it’s very, very exciting for us. 

Question:  Garrett, what was the most demanding of you physically or emotionally for your character?

Hedlund:  Maybe next year you’ll get a better glimpse but once in the ‘Tron’ world we wear this very technical suit.  That’s fantastic and it looks amazing every time it’s on screen, especially in 3D, but for two months straight.  All day, every day, and being in this you start to forget what it was like to film a film with just jeans and a T-shirt.  Physically just grueling day after day, either the cable works, or certain stunts we had to do.  The most minimal of stuff can be very tedious in just taking one knee and holding your arms out straight.  It’s tough.  It just looks great.

Question:  Any light cycle work?

Hedlund:  Um.  [Laughs].

Question:  Will we see this world of ‘Tron’ beyond this movie or will it have to wait for another 30 years and see what happens?

 Well, hopefully not 30.  It’s a little too long.  I think it’s a generational thing.  I think that part of the reason that ‘Tron’ is happening now is that it feels like the generational wheel has aligned and the planets are aligned now for it.  I think that cyberspace and that technology will continue to evolve.  I certainly hope so.

Question:  I saw ‘Tron’ for the first time here in San Diego so it’s really great to be rediscovering the new ‘Tron’ here.  Since the original is coming back so much into full swing, are there any nods to the original ‘Tron’, or winks to the audience if you know what we’re referencing?

Kosinski:  Yeah, I think fans of the original film there’s going to be a lot in there for them to discover.  It’s a movie that even if you haven’t seen the original ‘Tron’ you’ll be able to sit down, watch this, and get totally wrapped up in the world.  But, if you are a hard core fan, there are a lot of things hidden in the film that you’ll enjoy.  Our crew worked very hard to make sure that everything kind of lined up perfectly with the ‘Tron’ legacy.

Question:  Are you doing some music for this special?

Kosinski:  Yeah, we mentioned downstairs that the music was a very important part of the original.  So for this one we looked for a music collaborator that we thought was just as cutting edge today.  We settled on a pair of Frenchmen named Daft Punk.  They are electronic musicians.  They are known mostly for dance music, pop music, being the top of their game.  They are both extremely bright musicians whose taste goes much broader than their kind of pop stuff.  We’ve been working with them for about six months now on doing the score for the entire film.

Bridges:   They are ‘Tron’ heads aren’t they?  They dress like ‘Tron’ people.

Kosinski:  Yes, it was the perfect marriage.  They dress in suits and helmets, their aesthetic, and it’s a perfect match.

Bridges:  They were inspired I guess by the original?

Kosinski:  They were.  They were huge fans.

Question:  Did you have some of the team from the original?

Kosinski:  Yeah, we’ve taken bits and pieces and were able to track down some of the original sound stamps from the original film.  I’ve handed that over to the guys so they are using those.  They are incorporating those into the new score.

Question:  Someone mentioned the game a few years ago based on ‘Tron’, which seems to me to say that ‘Tron’ has always been in the back of someone’s mind to make a sequel.  If that’s the case then how many attempts were there to make the sequel?  If that is the case then what is it about this attempt that made you fold?

Aviv:  Like so many movies, it could be 10 years or 15 years in development.  We’ve had so many different incarnations of this but, as Steve said, this seemed to be the right time for it, the right story for it, and the right vision for it.  Any one of those elements not being at the highest level and we weren’t going to do it.

Question:  I have a question about this story being a remake or sequel or spin off but what’s the story going to be?


Lisberger:  As Joe mentioned earlier if you come to this movie you don’t have to have any prior knowledge of the ‘Tron’ universe or the ‘Tron’ mythology.  This movie is a stand alone entertaining movie.  What we did do is look very closely at the 82 movie, obviously, and we talked a lot.  We tried to build the mythology between 1982 and 2010.  This movie takes place in 2010 but accepts the history of what happened between 1982 and 2010 really happened.  I guess it heavily considers the original and accepts the events of the original as true fact and back-story, for our story, but our story is a stand alone story.

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