JUNKETRON – Dellamorte’s series of six interviews with the cast and crew of Tron: Legacy starts today. Coming Soon: Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, and more.
Garrett Hedlund has been working toward this moment for a number of films now. Catching his big break in Troy, he’s had a number of high profile supporting turns in films like the great Friday Night Lights and in dreck like Eragon. A heartland-born American boy, Hedlund’s future as a leading man is riding on the light cycle that is Tron: Legacy. But whatever pressures there were for Hedlund were not apparent in our 15 minute skype chat as he made the rounds with a number of junkateers in preparation for Disney’s latest big screen gamble.
Hedlund was unavailable as he was off shooting his latest film, so he had to be beamed in. After some technical snafus, he settled in quite easily to answering questions from the group of journalists who were pressing him on the film. And so we go:
GARRETT HEDLUND: My apologies for not being able to be there in person. I assure you it’s more awkward for me than you guys but I’m sorry if it’s a hassle for you.
Are you shooting On the Road?
Yeah, in Montreal, yeah.
How is it going with Walter (Salles)?
To say a lot in the little, it’s incredible. Walter – I owe the world to him for having me along on this journey. It’s one of the most gratifying, rare, incredible opportunities I’ll have for the rest of my life. We were down there. We were in Argentina and over and Bariloche and Chile and Patagonia.
What you like about his filmmaking?
You know what impresses me the most is his never-ending awareness of internal rhythm. And his control, I think he’s the most in control person I’ve ever met and it’s inspiring as hell to say the least.
Do you remember the first time you were aware of Tron? I think when it was released you weren’t alive.
I was in crossover period (laughs). Because I grew up on a farm, let me put it this way, there’s no Tron on the farm… We watched Roseanne and Cheers. We had four channels there. That was what I grew up with in the world of television and movies. I watched Tron for the first time in 2003 actually. And it was when I was filming in Malta (for Troy), the island of Malta. I watched it on a balcony off of some guy’s laptop. I dug it. I think back then I was just really impressed with the way the creator’s mind worked, I was impressed with Steven Lisberger. When you’re at that age (Hedlund was 19), you’re really inspired about things. When I read Brave New World, I was questioning all this junk about genetic engineering and socialism and totalitarianism. So I was trying to crack Lisberger’s mind. And then of course you got the young energetic, maniacal Jeff Bridges. I remember I wished I could’ve hung out with that guy. That I got to play father and son with such an incredible, wise actor, just a brilliant person that he is today was a gift. But I wouldn’t have minded hanging out with Jeff of 1982 for a few days.
Growing up in the countryside the film industry must’ve seemed incredibly far away from you. How did you get to the cinema? Where was it?
We had one theater in our town. Our town was only 2500 people and we lived 30 miles out on the farm. Nobody went to the movies there, they’re all like “that’s going to cost me 20 bucks in gas! I could’ve bought my tickets with that!” Now they say “it’s going to cost me 40, and it’s a round trip!” But there was only one theater in that played movies Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and it was the same movie. And so when 10 movies come out a weekend we would only get one. So that guy had to pick well. And they don’t even play my films in the town. My dad has to drive to Fargo to go see my films. That’s a three hour drive.
Lots of gasoline.
Yeah, yeah, that’s a six-hour round trip.
You’ve been in a lot of high-profile films since you arrived in Hollywood. How do you think that this role fit into the kind of career trajectory that you’re looking for?
Well, it’s kind of a weird thing. When I was little, I was in a town called Durban, North Dakota with my mother once, and the town population’s around eight. There was a grain elevator and three other houses. We were watching A River Runs Through It and my mom said to me “that one’s you.” And to my older brother, the more responsible one, “that one’s you.” And so she pointed to me as the Brad (Pitt) character. So I had a fear that she knew I was always mischievous so I had a fear I was going to be killed after a bad poker hand in an alley at some point. And then for my first film to be working with Brad was surreal. Nothing unbelievable happened in my life until then. Then for the next film – you know I was driving the tractor on the farm singing Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” – and all of a sudden he’s playing my father in the next film. And then I sang on stage with him in Austin “I Like It, I Love It.” (He wouldn’t let me sing “Don’t Take the Girl.”) After the next film I had a feeling to work with (Mark) Wahlberg and then I was working with Wahlberg. And when I was in high school reading The Glass Menagerie, John Malkovich was inspiring to me. And then when they called me up on Eragon and said “John Malkovich is playing the King,” I was like “I’m in.” I got to keep connecting the dots. And Jeff has always been one that I’ve always had that weird little notion for. It’s weird to talk about it I guess but it was there and I’ve always been so inspired by his work that being able to work with him is just – it fills me with such incredible disbelief but at the same time incredible gratification and curiosity to see what tomorrow is going to bring in this kind of journey.
As you look back it sound like a very smooth ride because you made big movies early on. Were your first years or months here in Hollywood difficult?
Well, for two years or so I was flying from – from the time I was 15 to 18 – I was flying from Arizona to LA to audition for anything, whatever I could. So I was working at a restaurant as a buser and a runner and all my paychecks went to Southwest Airlines. I’d get in a cab, go to the audition, get back in cab, go to the airport and go back. Wake up for school the next day. I went on 25, 30 auditions in that process and then finally I was like – everybody in all these rooms looked the same as me. So what can I do? The whole next year before moving to LA I didn’t have any auditions and I read any book I could get my hands on. And a lot of these other things were inspiring to me because I was doing photojournalism, creative writing and world lit. So I’m reading books like Brave New World and 1984, and your wheels are turning and then you’re reading Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby and anything by Salinger, Fitzgerald et cetera. I knew that when I went to LA that I started forming an opinion on the kind of things I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do films that affected people. And I knew I could get to a dark place and I knew I had a good humor and I knew that – hopefully – if I just focus 200% on the task at hand or the characters at hand that maybe somebody would finally give me a chance.
Jeff and Bruce talk about how brilliant you are – especially during the action scenes. Walk us through the physical preparation.
Well, they scan you into the computer. You’re just in skivvies and they scan you from head to toe and if you’re a shy person you might get a little nervous. But I was all right. So the suit has to fit you completely and precisely so it looks like it’s a part of you. And you have to maintain that state throughout the whole film as well because if you gain an inch or lose an inch the suit’s not going to fit the way it did and it’s going to have people barking.
Was that challenging?
Yeah, the physical preparation for it was hard-core and all the talents that it takes takes time to acquire. A lot of what you’re trying to acquire is strength in certain muscles – you don’t know how much strength it takes in the shoulders and the upper region to pole vault you over things just by your arms or to swing you over things, and then there’s the hand-to-hand combat. You got to get really smooth with that. And – and then the motorcycle – it’s all in preparation of having to do these wire stunts, the wire rigs and just being able to move around in that suit all day every day. Yeah, it takes a lot of strength.
Do you consider Sam to be the hero of the story?
With these you bring Joseph Campbell into it a little bit and the hero’s journey. There’s qualities that are there at the beginning and there’s qualities that aren’t there. By the end you hope that everything’s fulfilled. But it’s not a coming of age tale or anything like that. It’s a coming to terms tale and about having the jugular to deliver, having the heart and soul in you and the drive to deliver. That’s more what it was. He’s forced to do heroic acts with those tools.
We talked about the suit. People will see you as a sex symbol now. Is this awkward for you, or do you embrace it?
I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to find a gruesome character to counterbalance. This was nice. But I think Olivia’s going to have to worry more about that. Have you seen her yet? I won’t have to worry about it. Olivia will. I’ll say that.
Did you get to keep the Ducati?
I wanted to but you know, I think it’s better for me to not own a motorcycle in LA. I think I would be too selfish with my life; the roads aren’t well-maintained and sometimes I’m not well maintained.
And with that we were on to the next interview.
SCHWAG DISCLOSURE: Disney gave everyone gift bags. I got a Tron hat that lights up, A computer lamp, a magazine, a book of Jeff Bridges pictures from the making of the film, a Tron notepad, a light-up coaster, and a miniature light-cycle. I disclose this not to brag, but because I believe I am legally required to. Picture below: