Interview: Bruce Boxleitner, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, and Joseph Kosinski Talk Tron: Legacy

After talking with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde earlier this week about Tron: Legacy, the groundbreaking sequel to the groundbreaking original Tron (1982), I sat down with stars Garret Hedlund (who plays the hero Sam Flynn) and Michael Sheen (who plays a flamboyant club owner in the computer-generated Grid, Bruce Boxleitner who returns to his legendary characters after 28 years away, and director Joseph Kosinski.

Cole Haddon: Bruce, I know you just saw the movie last night for the first time. How did that feel, 28 years after the original was released?

Bruce Boxleitner: This is been a long project so I hadn't seen…I've only seen clips like everybody else has and some ADR things that we did. So it was absolutely, uh…well my jaw just dropped. You know, it's been a long journey. This was 20 years ago and it's something that I know I walked away from going, “Well that didn't do too well, so I'm going right back to television. And Jeff [Bridges] went on, and we all went on and going, “Well you know, we tried.” But [Tron] hung around and hung around.

Michael Sheen: I watched the original film I was twelve years old, and it changed my life, and it's a big part of why I wanted to become an actor. It's a major part of why I feel film is very powerful medium, that you have to take great responsibility and all that because it can really change your life and it can really affect the way you see things. And because that's what it did to me. This was probably the first film, the original Tron was probably the first film I ever saw where I walked in [and] I didn't know what to expect. My uncle took me on a gray rainy day…[and] I went in and came out an hour and a half later, and my life was different from that moment on. And so I'm going to see the film tonight for the first time. I haven't seen it yet. So it's a hugely emotional and spiritual me the idea of going, and, and that 12-year-old boy who then wanted to be an actor and, and understood the power of what cinema can do, you know he'll be there watching it with me tonight.

BB: He will. That 12-year-old will be back again.

MS: And I’ll be watching it as a fan first and foremost, and then I'll be able to go, “Oh, and I'm in it.”

BB: Same thing [with me]. You're suddenly going, “Whoa, I'm in this.”

MS: You know all the people who've made this film are all fans first and foremost.

BB: Absolutely. This film was made for and by Tron fans. I learned that during the process. [Producer] Sean Bailey, very similar story. One of the first movies he went to with his father was a real father-son experience for him. He was eleven or twelve years old as well.

CH: Michael, you said that the original Tron changed your life. How specifically?

MS: Well, it was the first time I'd ever seen a film at twelve years old that was kind of meant for me and that transported me so much that I went into that cinema and, like I said, I didn't know what to expect. I had heard any hype or, you know. My uncle took me to it because he had to deal with me for a day, babysit me. And so he goes, “Oh, there's a film. I'll take him to see that.” Little did he know. And then I went in there I sat there and watched it and the lights went down, and it was the kind of perfect viewing experience. It's what I try to replicate every time I do a play or a film. And that was the first time that really, really happened to me…because I went to such another world onscreen. The equivalent journey you go on in your own head. You know you somehow seem to go into another world inside yourself, and yet there's something very familiar. You don't ever really leave your world. You just see your world differently very, and I literally did that as I came out of the cinema. And it happened, you know, [very] few times since in my life where you walk out of the cinema…and you see your real world now through the prism of the world that the storytellers have just shown you.

CH: Garret, Jeff Bridges and Bruce have both talked about how brilliant you are, especially during the action scenes. Can you walk me through the physical preparation for a movie like this?

Garrett Hedlund: Well, yeah, it was kind of – see they scan you and…they actually scan you into the computer you know. They do a scan. You're just in skivvies, you know, and they scan you from head to toe and, if you're a shy person, you might get a little pinchy. But, I was all right. So the suit has to fit you, you know completely and precisely, so it looks like it's a part of you. And you have to maintain that state you know throughout the whole film as well because, you know, if you gain an inch or lose an inch, the suit is not going to fit the way it did, and it's going to have people sort of, you know, barking.

CH: Was that challenging?

GH: Yeah. I mean, well, it's just the physical preparation for it was, you know, hard-core and all these things. The talents that it takes time to acquire you know. A lot of what you're trying to acquire is the strength in certain muscles. You don't know how much strength it takes, and you know, sort of the shoulders and just the upper region to, you know, pole vault you over things just by your arms. Or swing you over things. And so that takes time to acquire, the weights and the training and the hand-to-hand combat, you know. You got to get really smooth with that. And the motorcycle. It's all in preparation of having to do these wire stunts, the wire rigs and, you know, just being able to move around in that suit all day every day. So yeah, it takes a lot of strength.

CH: Joe, the themes and imagery in the 1982 original were groundbreaking. Since then, a number of other movies have broken similar ground in new ways. I'm thinking of the The Matrix, for example. Do you take that into account when you're deciding how your movie is going to look?

Joe Kosinski: Well, what we've tried to do is we liked the idea of a person that's seen through the context of a father-son relationship, rather than attacking them head on you know. I didn't want this to be a movie about the Internet or about technology specifically. The going through it as seen through the eyes of a very unique relationship between a father and his two sons really, his digital son and his biological son. And to me was what made this film really interesting, and allowed us to tell a story that I don't think has been told before. I mean, that unique relationship could never have been put to film until very recently, at least using the technology we used to bring Clu to life.

Note to reader: Kosinski is referring to effects that allow Jeff Bridges to play himself at his current age, as well as a computer program version of himself called Clu that appears 28 years younger, as he would have in the original movie.

CH: Can you talk about the music in the movie? It’s an outstanding score, and really helps define the whole project. Did you work directly with Daft Punk?

JK: Yeah. I mean, shortly after, you know, starting to work on this project, I found out through kind of mutual friends that they were interested, and I knew I was interested having been a fan of their work since the 1990s. So we met for breakfast, Sean, I, and the guys met for breakfast here in LA. This was 2007, and we just had this long discussion about movies and score – scores and the possibilities of what the score could be. We talked about Bernard Herrmann and Wendy Carlos and, you know, the soundtrack to Blade Runner and all our favorite stuff, and the desire to create a classic score with classic themes that combined orchestral music with electronic music in a way that hadn't been done before. It was apparent very quickly that creatively we were all of the same mind. So we started on the music very early. In fact, a lot of those tracks that you heard [in the] film, I actually had already finished on set and was able to play. So, like the nightclub scene, I had those tracks already done and ready so I can play for the cast, and play it for everyone to kind of start to feel what the world felt like even back then. I'm really proud of how it turned out.

CH: When you’re directing a movie using state-of-the-art technology that, by its very definition, changes constantly, do you have to draw the line somewhere during production? Do you have to finally say, “That’s it. Don’t bring me anymore new ideas”?

JK: Yeah, man, we had enough going on between the, you know, the suits, the 3D cameras and the digital character of Clu. Tose three things working together were I think, as much as you could kind of throw – as much new technology you could throw at shoots, as I'd ever want. We did employ the latest generation 3-D cameras that basically just came online, you know, a couple weeks before we started shooting. The suits we had to invent on our own, basically on the fly. I mean our first prototypes we had a couple days before we started rolling. And Clu himself is a big experiment, as well. I mean, we definitely stand on the shoulders of the technology employed in Benjamin Button, but we took it to another level by actually capturing Jeff's performance on the set rather than him doing it at a different time. Cause I really wanted him to be able to play Clu in a scene on set, with other actors, and all that stuff had never been done before.

CH: How was it finally watching the final cut of the movie with an audience last night?

JK: It was great. You know, you watch when you're making a movie like this, and you've watched, watched it 1000 times and heard every line and, you know, you end up watching it from a very kind of analytical point of view. So it was refreshing to just feel an audience experiencing it for the first time and reacting to lines…you wrote two years ago. So to hear those laughs, and to see that reaction of, you know, the cast who hadn't seen anything come out was really, really gratifying. Really exciting.