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Jeff Bridges came into the Tron Legacy war room to talk to the assembled press and he did something that seems so Dude-like that I wonder where his Big Lebowski character ends and the real guy begins: Bridges walked around the table and gave everybody high fives.

Now Jeff Bridges is Oscar Winner Jeff Bridges, but when I was on the set of Tron Legacy last
year he was just Living Legend Jeff Bridges. One of the great actors of
his generation, Bridges also occupies a really unique spot in the geek
psyche, thanks to his role of Flynn/Clu in the original Tron.
A video game designer who gets sucked into the world of computers,
Flynn was the human protagonist of Disney’s incredibly strange film.

And now he’s back. In Tron Legacy Flynn
has been long gone from the real world and his son, played by Garrett
Hedlund, is looking for him. The trail leads to Flynn’s old arcade,
still packed with Space Paranoids machines,
and then right into the digital world. But when the son enters that
universe, he discovers much has changed in the past few decades.

It’s amazing to see you back in this role.

Isn’t it amazing? It’s been 28 years.

How has Flynn changed?

Well,
this is kind of a challenge for me because I don’t want to
deprive anybody of the enjoyment of seeing the film with any kind of
twists and turns. So I’m probably not gonna answer too many
of your questions about that because I want to make it fun for people
without telling the whole plot.


But it’s certainly a different deal. We made Tron,
there was no internet, man. No cell phones. No laptops or any of that
stuff. So it’s completely different world that
we’re showing up in here and the look of the film it
certainly, you know, benefits from that.


Is your character in charge?

Well,
see I don’t want to get too much. I don’t want to
say too much of the story. We got to get a good thing to tell these
folks. Something that we can present that addresses a little bit of
what’s this about.


Clu is back.

The return of Clu. You already got clues in there. That’s probably enough. I don’t know.

Are you the focus in this one?

Am I the focus? I’m one of the focuses. Garrett Hedlund is the protagonist in the story.

Which world do we meet you in?

I can’t say.

What’s it like coming back to this character?

It
seems like we had a long weekend basically because Lisberger who
directed the first one is involved, very involved in this one which is
great. You know, having the source of the material still engaged. I
think it gave us all a lot of pressures because he’s such a
wild cat, but it’s also kind of grounded in that first movie
that was so unique and everything.


I heard that years before it came out I heard oh, they’re gonna do a Tron 2
and I couldn’t believe. I said you’re kidding me?
Nothing happened and finally this came about and I was so pleased and
we did kind of a [trailer test]. The first time I heard about this the
Coen Brothers did this where they shoot the trailer for a movie first
without ever having made the movie in hopes to entice the financiers.
That’s what they did with this one, to really entice Disney
to say ‘Oh, yeah we own this thing, we might as well do one of these.’
So the trailer came off well. We played it at Comic-Con and went over
well.


Were you surprised at the reaction?

Yeah,
a little bit. I haven’t been to Comic-Con. I’m going to this
one coming up but I hear it’s kind of a crazy thing.


Do you take photos on this set?

You
know I took a few but I’ve kind of lost the impetus to do
that for some reason. I think when I put a book out a few years ago –
kind of a compilation book of these smaller books that I made as gifts
for the cast and crew of these movies – and once I put that book out I
kind of felt like I hatched my egg. I made a few smaller books after
that but I’ve noticed that my interest in documenting what
it’s like making movies [decreased]. This would have been a
great one to do it. I did a few but the light is so low that our
wonderful director, photographer, Claudio Moranda, that I
can’t get the right exposure on my camera, this wide lens
camera.


Have you seen the 3D footage?

It’s
just great. I mean it’s, you know, better, more
sophisticated, more refined. Joe, our director was an architect.
That’s where he’s coming from. It’s
interesting different filmmakers where they come from and what they
bring to the film and he’s an architect and so the film has a
very, you know, heightened design feel to it. And he hired this
wonderful production designer, Darren Gilford. And this is I think his
first major movie. I think he did one smaller, independent film.


And
he is out of car design so it adds another thing. It’s not
somebody, you know, who is an interior decorator. It’s car so
the world has a really wonderful feel to it.


What was your reason for wanting to come back?

Well
I got a pitch from Joe who by the way this is his first film. Can you
imagine? I don’t know if it’s the most expensive
ever made but it’s right up there. To have a first time guy.
Got to give Disney credit for taking that risk. They were smart because
he’s such a calm, can do guy. He’s gonna pull this
off.


He
made this wonderful pitch on the story, where it was going and that was
intriguing to me and he showed me his commercial reel. He’s
out of commercials and I saw some of the technology that he had
available to him that he could use. And then it was basically the same
reason that I did the first one.


The
first one was cutting edge technology at that time and this one
certainly is for this time. And it’s a whole different way of
making movies I hadn’t experienced. A little bit in Iron Man but nothing like this.


Why does Tron continue to resonate with people?

I don’t know.

When was the last time you saw it?



I
didn’t see the whole thing in entirety. It must be I
don’t know 20 years. I didn’t look at it before
this. I saw little bits of scenes. Not all the way through. I remember
the music of Tron was quite, you know, Wendy Carlos did a great score
and that kind of — remember that opening shot of coming in.


There
are certain things like the light cycle race, those were so kind of fun
to watch. I don’t know if you guys have seen the cardboard
Tron? Have you seen that? If you go to under my site on the stuff page
I think you’ll see it. And it’s a little drawing of
a guy in a Tron outfit in a cardboard box. And what he did was
reconstructed every shot of the race using little cardboard figures and
stuff. I mean he really got into it. That kind of thing has kept it
alive and I suppose the video games have too.


You
said once the thing you remember most about making the first one was
this really uncomfortable dance belt, so is the same thing happening in
this one?


No
dance belt, thank god. Here we have these wonderful suits that light up
so they have their own kind of problems, you know, heating up and stuff
like that but the suits are quite a bit different.


What do they use?

Yeah,
they’ve got all kinds. I don’t know all the
technical stuff but these suits are amazing. You know, I was talking
about the lighting being so low that they’re using. One of
the reasons for that is so you can really see the suits and the suits
can even light the other actors off your suits.


Tell me about Lisberger.

Well
it is a little bit strange. I’m excited because I think
he’s gonna be in it somewhere in the movie. It will be fun to
play with him. Just him being involved in it was a big plus for me. I
think you asked what made me gave involved again. Another chance to
work with Steve and do that. And Bruce too. Bruce is in it. Boxleitner.


What about the discs? Anything change?

How
do I throw this disc? No, I think we just used Frisbees in the old one.
We were more sophisticated. It was pretty funky back then.


Why does your makeup take three hours?

You’ll see.

Compare the directors.

You
know, it’s kind of a shame in a way but the more seasoned
directors a lot of times have more difficult getting a job than first
time guys. New kid on the block kind of thing. I’ve had great
luck with first time directors. I love working with them because
it’s like you know, Orson Wells directing Citizen Kane. He doesn’t know what he can’t do. He’s just so open, you know.


And
Steven was like that. I remember I couldn’t believe it we
showed up the first day at work and around the walls of the studio —
this is the first Tron are video games that you have to put quarters in
just all over. I said god, Steve you don’t think this is
gonna raise a little hell with the work, you know. I mean guys are
gonna be — he said I don’t know I figured you might want to
prepare before you go on the grid. I said okay.


So
actually both things did happen. It did hold up the work every once in
a while but it was great fun. I remember I got locked into this game,
Battle Zone. You familiar with that game? The tanks. God, hours and
they would come and try to yank me away. I’d say
I’m preparing, I’m preparing.


Do you still play?

No, I haven’t gotten into the new stuff too much either.

Did you have flashbacks while on the Flynn’s Arcade set?

Yeah, that was wonderful. They did a great job in recreating that.

Is it similar to the original?

It’s
as close as they could come. I mean I think that was a practical
location in the original and it’s torn down.


How different is it working with special effects this time?

Wow,
it’s so different. I mean the original you’re
basically working with the duvetyne, that black stuff and white
adhesive tape. Those were the design basically and so they wanted to
make something they would kind of do that. Shot in 70 millimeter black
and white and then all hand tinted by Korean ladies.


That
was the extend of the technology and there was no internet or anything
like that. And now it’s just whole other realm. And one of
the reasons I wanted to do it because I felt this is where movies are
starting to go now, you know, where they’re taking the actors
and putting them inside a computer very much like Tron.
I mean they can do whatever they want with them. They can say
let’s put Al Pacino in there. Let’s put in Joey
Pants, what the heck. Let’s see what kind of guy we can come
up with, you know, and that’s happened. They can do that.
It’s right around the corner.


Do you get the feedback immediately? Can you see what you’re doing?

Well
this is shot in 3D. The first movie I’ve done in 3D. Kind of
interesting and the video playback is in 3D so you can see what
that’s like but all of the effects they’re not.
They have a thing called pre-viz which is a preview but in a very low
res. So the whole movie is basically pre-vis already and that helps a
lot when you’re doing things where you can’t see
what’s actually gonna be in a movie that the director can
actually talk you through.


What kind of physical preparation did you have to do?

Physical
stuff? Mainly just keeping my back in shape. I have some back problem
so I have to do my back exercises and stuff like that and
that’s about it. Nothing too much.


It seems like the film has some homages to the first movie. Do things stick out in your mind from the first one?

Well
they’ve done the light cycles and the disc game. People I
think are fans of that so they wanted to keep that. That’s
still in there but it’s taken to the next level but
it’s quite remarkable what they’ve done on that.


Is there a new vehicle?

There’s
another little vehicle. There’s all kinds of new twists on
it. Have you seen the demo or the trailer? So you can get an idea of
how the guys flip on their — run and jump on their baton that has
light cycles and all kinds of different things.


What set was most impressive to you?

This
set that you guys are gonna see I think today is, God, amazing. I was
there the other day and it’s this big bar, The End
of  Line Club.  I was hoping that we would get that
Sark back, David Warner back. I had this funny scenario that
didn’t fly that he was sort of my butler.


Were there any references that you wanted to get in there that were meaningful to you from the first movie?

One
of the challenges of the movie was, you know, the script and working
with the whole slew of writers and tying to come up with what the story
is and what I’m gonna say tomorrow. But the good news was
that everybody was up to the task both with their talent but also they
were good folks. Because it could it have been a real train wreck if we
had some guys that didn’t get along or couldn’t
come up with the goods that fast.


But they seemed to do that with these big — they did it with Iron Man
too. I don’t know what that’s like that. I
don’t understand why they do that. I think maybe they have a
release date that they have to get and they think oh, we can get this
done and then they don’t.


What special effects movies do you like?

One that popped in my mind when you said it was another one that I did a remake of that was terrible special effects, King Kong.
I thought this last one was great but ours, oh god, what a joke. You
had a Rick Baker in that suit just opposed to this giant 80 foot
ceramic thing. Oh, God but I though the ape in that was really
wonderful.


How accurate is this movie trying to be when it comes to computers and computer programming, as opposed to the first one?

It’s probably a little more sophisticated but it’s still in the fantasy realm.

Are you doing motion capture?

Yeah,
there’s some of that. The fact that it’s kind of
the wave of the future and there’s, you know, things that are
challenging for actors who like to dress up and play pretend. You know,
I don’t get to wear any cool outfits or you don’t
need a set. I mean I can shoot a scene for the movie right here with
you guys. I can just put this hat on and go to town. And everything is
done in post. The camera angle. That’s like a new thing
that’s happening that you’re gonna have to figure
out different skills for how you do it. Bizarre.