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. To Read Dre’s review, click here.
For over ten years, there’s been talk of some form or another about a sequel to the original Tron. On the laserdisc and eventually DVD special edition, Jeff Bridges talked about wearing his Tron hat and wanting to revisit the world, and Steven Lisberger was known to talk it up at great length, which eventually led to a video game.
And yet here we are in 2010, and there’s a a tentpole release that’s also a sequel to a 1982 film that is described as having a cult following. For fans of the series, screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (best known for their work on Lost) had a difficult road ahead of them, and they talked about that, and what they did to help world build in the interview below, while producer Justin Springer chimes in a little about the development process. Enjoy.
So did you see it for the first time yesterday?
EDWARD KITSIS: We’ve seen it in various stages along the way, but yesterday was the first time we saw a finished version with 3-D and everything all done.
ADAM HOROWITZ: Yeah, only because we finished in less than 24 hours before that.
KITSIS: So, yeah, it’s– it was quite overwhelming and exciting for us.
When you guys went into this there was not maybe that much pressure as there has been in the last two and half years. What sort of freedoms did you have coming in writing it and then as expectations built?
HOROWITZ: Well, when we originally pitched our ideas for this movie there was no pressure.
KITSIS: I’ll be honest with you, Justin and Sean (Bailey) were producers. And we knew that their company wanted to make a Tron movie and Adam and I were coming from Lost. And we thought, “yeah, they’re going to hire two TV writers for Tron, okay.” We were fans of the original and we literally just sat down and said here’s what we’d want to see. Not really thinking they’d give us the job. And as far as pressure – internally you always have pressure because you want to make it good. You know we loved the movie so much that our entire fear was: don’t screw it up. Because if I was a Tron fan you know… I think that there’s always that pressure to make it good. And it doesn’t matter whether from the studio or not, every film maker, every writer, every executive, is just trying to make the best movie they can no matter what the outside pressure inside is. You always have internal pressure.
HOROWITZ: When you first start, the pressure is coming up with the idea. And then coming up with the script. And then as you move toward production, the pressure changes and becomes about you know, the realities of how you’re going to make the movie and how you want to work with your team. And then the pressures reach this point when the movies about to come out which is the worst kind of pressure for a writer because there’s nothing to do.
KITSIS: This is the most terrifying– I have not slept in three weeks because there’s nothing I can do. It’s not like we can sit down and go all right, that scene was not good. Let’s rewrite it. It’s done and now we’re waiting and waiting is not my friend.
How close is what we saw on the screen is what you originally wrote?
HOROWITZ: Well it’s an interesting question to ask because the process was unique. Well, for us it’s unique. It’s our first movie so for us this is the only way you do it. But it was unique in the sense that we worked very closely with Justin, Sean (Bailey) and, and Joe Kosinski developing it as we went in the sense of…
KITSIS:It was a very collaborative environment, we were all in it together, you know. And that was the way we did it. And then of course all of a sudden you get Olivia Wilde and Garrett and Michael Sheen and, of course, Jeff Bridges and Bruce (Boxleitner), obviously, Tron. And you write a character one way and then they come in and they start kind of playing it. They need to make it their own. And you know, one thing you– you have to write to that, because they’re feeling that. And then hopefully what happens is the collaboration becomes this one thing. And that’s the best because you don’t ever want to be so rigid and go “whoa, I did not write your character that way.”
JUSTIN SPRINGER: But I will say that the broad strokes of the movie are really the same as what you guys came in and pitched us three years ago before we even met, which is why we wanted to hire them in the first place. They’d come up with what we thought was a really unique idea for Tron. We wouldn’t have been able to tell that story otherwise. So the fact that they had come in with it being Jeff Bridges and that there would be a younger Jeff Bridges and it would be this father-son story, but like a father and two sons story was something that really excited us about revisiting Tron because we were spending a lot of time talking about like what is a story that feels unique, 28 years after the original film in a post-Matrix, post Terminator world where like technologies have been explored, and people have home computers? What we do with Tron? And it was always about coming up with a story that’s so compelling, that’s the first thing that we have to do. And they had come up with this idea which, and many of the beats of the story are really similar to what you pitched the first time that we met. And then you constantly improved them and I think it is unique in having developed – more than just this movie – that we really spent a lot of time together in a collaborative environment and we brought Joe on as a director at the pitched stage and we really developed the movie scene by scene or set piece by set piece. And visual development was happening sort of simultaneously which I think is a really unique way to do it, particularly in a movie where you’re building a new universe. And so we were able to say “now this is where the disc game sequence will be.” Well, what does that look like? And then Joe could say “it looks like this.” And he would either hand draw stuff and then we started to build that in art department, and that would create artwork that would inspire them. So their writing was sort of inspiring the art department. And the art department was inspiring them. We just iteratively improved the movie over three years all the way up until we you know, we delivered it a few days ago.
KITSIS: I will say my wife saw it last night and she said “do you think Joe would design something for us like a room?” And I’m like “I think he’s busy but maybe.”
Could you have made the movie without Jeff Bridges? Would it have gone forward?
HOROWITZ: Our initial pitch was “we love this film just so much as fans. We want not one Jeff but two Jeff’s.” So if, for us…
KITSIS: I don’t know– I don’t even know how you could and to be honest with you I mean he is so integral to the DNA of this franchise that to me you know, how could you?
HOROWITZ: To get to write two Jeff characters in one movie was– it was just beyond thrilling.
SPRINGER: We– I mean, that’s precisely why we went and sat down with Jeff and took him through our ideas for Tron prior to even having a script for the movie. But when we started doing the visual effects test– that’s why we included him in the visual effects test because we knew that if we were going to make this movie it would have to include Jeff. So that’s why we went off and spend this money to do this visual effects test and do a proof of concept for what the look and feel of the world would be and utilizing the technology that we ultimately used to make the movie. To show the studio “here’s our version of Tron.” Well, our version of Tron included Jeff. So we went to him very early on.
HOROWITZ: So we actually–.
KITSIS: We actually went up to his house and we pitched him the movie, uh, and sitting on the table was the original Tron helmet and I remember like you know we were just sitting there right before this came and we were sitting there and I was like “oh, man, this is terrifying.”
What other movies or concepts did you use as inspiration for the script?
HOROWITZ: Well, I think you know, we — you know we’re movie geeks. So I think we obviously wear our references on our sleeves. We’re big fans of Star Wars and Spielberg but also of Hal Ashby and The Graduate and Woody Allen. And Luis Bunuel – so you pull from everywhere without even realizing it. You know it’s just kind of in the soup of your inspiration.
KITSIS: It becomes almost a subconscious thing. It’s like you know, all the things as real movie geeks that we’ve absorbed over the years have kinda seeped into our DNA of writing. It becomes an unconscious kind of thing where it’s not like we’re consciously think of “this movie is going to be like this” or whatever. It becomes just what’s coming out is informed by everything.
Did you sneak any specific things in to reference other movies?
HOROWITZ: We mostly have shout outs to Tron.
That’s kind of self-involved isn’t it?
HOROWITZ: Yeah, but you know listen as we said we’re fans of it. I mean, if you’ve never seen the original Tron you can come to Legacy. It stands on its own. You’re not going to miss anything. If you have seen Tron, there’s — there’s a few shout outs for you in there because if I went then I would want that.
When did you see Tron for the first time?
HOROWITZ: We were very young. I was a young kid and my parents dropped me off at the mall to see it with my brother. And we saw it and then ran out to play the video games and then I ran out and called Eddie, didn’t know him. Said, we got it to work on this.
KITSIS:Right. And we were like seven at the time. So it was a weird process because I didn’t know him.
HOROWITZ: First draft was in crayon.
KITSIS: It was my first phone call which is weird.
What sort of Bible did you guys create to define the roles of this universe as opposed to the original?
KITSIS: It was even bigger than the Bible! We talked about mythology, you see a certain amount in this movie of the world and there are avenues and streets and sectors that you fly over and you’re like “what’s going on there?” And we literally sat down and had spent three years going, “this is what happens.”
HOROWITZ: We really wanted to kind of map out a really rich mythology and world of rules as much as we could. And you know, we come from the television show Lost which, which really was great training I think for us and kind of thinking about things that way. And then when you’re writing a movie and making it, you want to tell the story you want to tell in the movie and try to be as focused as you can on telling that story. But hopefully having that other stuff kind of informing the edges of the story and making the whole thing feel richer. Working out the mythology was important for the film because I think the more you work these things out – even if it doesn’t impact kind of the A stories through the movie – you just feel like it’s a living breathing world. If you talk about what’s over the distant mountains – even if you don’t ever go there – it somehow makes it a richer movie going experience. But also in doing that it allowed us to create what I think is a really groundbreaking coherency across the entire franchise for things like the video game or the graphic novels or comics or-
KITSIS: The animation series.
HOROWITZ: Yeah, the animation series, all of that stuff is all stuff we’ve had a hand in it, just in terms of making sure that it’s all being drawn from the same mythology which–.
KITSIS: The animation show is literally stories we wanted to tell just from coming up with this mythology. We’re like “oh, what happens in this sector? “ “Well these things” and then we were lucky enough to be able to tell the story in other ways.
Who came up with Castor (Michael Sheen’s character)?
KITSIS: He went through many iterations.
HOROWITZ: Actually before we even had a name for him we called him Kingpin.
HOROWITZ: When we were writing it we didn’t have a good name yet, but we wanted — because we worked so collaboratively we might be handing in 15 pages a week–.
KITSIS: We wanted them to understand who was this guy, here’s a guy who lives in the thing.
HOROWITZ: Yeah, and it was a character that… everything in the universe kind of developed over time and like all the characters in the movie, once you get an actor like Michael Sheen it becomes…
KITSIS: We were walking with him literally 20 minutes ago and I turned to him and said “I’m just going to take credit for all of that” even though so much of it was just his sheer awesomeness. “I’m absolutely going to take credit. There’s nothing you can do.”
HOROWITZ: Yeah, he brought such a vision to it. He really did.
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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: