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. In the next roundtable, we were given producer Sean Bailey, director Joe Kosinski, and original Tron creator Steven Lisberger. Kosinski came across as a young David Lynch, in his own head, stylish and on a slightly different plane. It was an interesting discussion.

Steven, what is your sense of going back to the well, as it were? 

STEVEN LISBERGER    : It was a unique adventure to make the first film and the uniqueness of Tron has continued. This doesn’t happen to people 28 years later. I’m still running through it my head.  I will probably continue to do that you know, for a long time but I’m happy to say that the uniqueness has continued straight through to the film that is Tron Legacy.  And in a way it seems to 28 years although they are there, they sort of fade away and the one film connects and leads to this film.

I was fascinated by the feast they were having in Flynn’s enclave.  Where does food come from in the grid?

JOE KOSINSKI: Well, Kevin Flynn is the creator, so – in my mind – having just reunited with his son, Kevin wanted to create a Thanksgiving dinner in an effort to try to connect and it’s meant to be a slightly awkward scene as Thanksgiving dinners often are. But the idea is that he tried to create, in his mind, what he remembered a kind of family dinner to be about.  So the creation of all that food is something he did.

SEAN BAILEY: We also talked about in the years of solitude he had tried to figure out how to approximate some of the pieces of a normal life to keep himself together.  He had been in isolation for a long time.

LISBERGER: If you look at what we’re doing as users we have been working very hard since 1980 to simulate or create everything in this world, in that world.  We seem to be determined to do that.  We aren’t going to stop until every one of us is represented in there and every address, every phone number, every you know– who knows where this is going to end.  When I can’t find the phone at home I wonder why I can’t google it and it’ll tell me where things are in my house.  So it’s not just the food.  It’s where cyberspace is going as a complete rendering of this reality.  Why we want to do that is really the question, why we want to have a copy of this world in there.  I like to think it’s because if we have one then we can use it to help figure out problems that seem impossible to solve in this world.

Joe, the themes and imagery in the original 1982 work were groundbreaking.  Since then we’ve had a number of other films that have broken new ground.  I’m thinking of The Matrix dealing with similar scenes.  Do you take that into account when you’re deciding how they’re going to look?

KOSINSKI: We liked the idea of a person that’s seen through the context of a father-son relationship rather than attacking them head on.  I didn’t want this to be a movie about the Internet or about technology specifically.  To me what made this film really interesting and allowed us to tell a story that I don’t think has been told before, 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.

Steven, the original Tron enjoyed a slow burn– build when it comes to popularity. 

LISBERGER: Slow burn is also a good way to put it.

Was there a specific moment for you where you could say “I told you so!”

LISBERGER: Actually there were several of those but I was alone in the room when it happened. I mean it’s called Encom but there was no dot com yet so how I ended up with com in there, that’s a surprise.  And then the funniest one of course is that we had to get Jeff into the computer world and we did know how to do it so I came up with this harebrained idea that we’d scan him with a laser. And then to do this film we scanned Jeff with a laser and he goes under the game grid only now it’s in real time. So, yeah, there’s been more of that than I ever thought what actually happened, but the thing that I think is the most interesting is that we really all became users.  You know, when the first film came out, if people came out of the theater and said “well, what is a user?  I’m not sure I want to be a user or I’m not sure I want Disney films to tell me that I’m going to be a user.” So, um, that actually happened. We’re all users and we’re all in there now.

Talk about the music in the film. Did you technically work with Daft Punk?

KOSINSKI: Yeah, shortly after 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.  We met for breakfast here in LA.  This was a full 2007 and we just had this long discussion about movies and scores and the possibilities of what the score could be. We talked about Bernard Herrmann and Wendy Carlos and 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.  And we just – it was pretty – 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 in the film I actually had already finished on set and was able to play.  The nightclub scene? I had those tracks already done and ready so I can play for the cast and play it for everyone to start to feel what the world felt like.  I’m really proud of how it turned out. There aren’t many composers or musical acts that you can put in a world of Tron and fit in, but it’s not a giant leap to put those guys in the nightclub. So it was fun to get them in there, and I’m really happy with how the music turned out.  It’s a real step forward for them as musicians and I think it’s unexpected and I hope people love it as much as I do.

Joe, what was it like directing the real world scenes with the stunt and the base jump and the motorcycle chase?

KOSINSKI: It was fun.  The real world stuff was free of a lot of the technology that I had to employ in the world of Tron.  So shooting the real world stuff was more like old-fashioned moviemaking, with 2-D cameras and camera cars and night shoots and all that stuff.  So I had a blast because that felt like making a real movie.  Once we went into the grid they got a lot more complicated.  It slowed things down. But, um, so for me that real world stuff was a lot of fun.

Do you give up a little bit of control when you’re not on the stage with all your technology?

KOSINSKI: I don’t think so.  I put as much effort into those real world scenes as they did in the Tron world.  I mean all the sets…

BAILEY: Joe never gives up any control.

KOSINSKI: We found great locations in Vancouver.  We built some really great stuff: the house on the water, stuff like that.  I had a blast working on that stuff and it was a nice balance to the look and feel of Tron.  I love that kind of yin-yang approach visually of balancing the two worlds against each other.

When you’re directing a film using the technology where there really is a state-of-the-art, it changes constantly, do you have to draw the line somewhere and say don’t bring me any more new ideas?

KOSINSKI: Yeah, we had enough going on between the suits, the 3-D cameras and the digital character of Clu, those three things working together were I think, as much new technology you could throw at shoots as I’d ever want to. We did employ the latest generation 3-D cameras that have just basically come online a couple weeks before we started shooting. The suits we had to invent on our own basically on the fly. mean our first prototypes we had a couple days before we started rolling. And Clu himself is a big experiment as well.  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 and on set with other actors and all that stuff had never been done before.  So when you combine them together, uh, it creates a, you know, you said it felt more like national launch controls some days on set.

LISBERGER: Yeah, there was definitely a feeling that Joe was in cyberville when he was shooting the live-action.  I needed to watch this film be shot to see the monitors and how interactive it was. It was the exact opposite of the first film where we would just shoot this stuff and we wouldn’t see anything for a long, long time.  And the CG we wouldn’t see for months.  So it was the next-generation.  And to see Joe work with it that way was quite an education for me.

BAILEY: I would add one little thing to that which is a credit to Steve and the team that whatever Joe and our team was confronted with…do we go forward it or not, do we go for a digital head or do we go for the in camera 3-D, do we go for actually trying to build suits, we thought how those (Steven’s) guys did it.  We thought “we have to go for it.  It’s part of what Tron is.” We had to be out there trying things that no one’s tried before because that’s what they did.

Sean, put on your presidential production hat.  Why are there so many remakes?  Why do studios keep making old films again?  Is it an economic issue?

BAILEY: I think — I think there’s a combination of factors.  I certainly think there’s a little bit, from a marketing perspective, of some built in awareness or brand equity in the title.  But I also think of something Steven was saying earlier, I think people underestimate this franchise. I saw Tron as a 12-year-old boy with my dad. I have a romantic, wonderfulness, nostalgic feeling about it.  And to think that was really interesting in ’82 and it represented something to me, the cutting edge technology, ambitious thinking, and deep thematic ideas to get you excited.  But I think it’s just sometimes as simple as a human being in the room, or when I think about 20,000 Leagues and what David Fincher will do with Captain Nemo, that gets me excited because I have a certain emotional connection to Nemo.  And to think about what some of today’s technologies could do with those fundamental emotions is an exciting thing.

How was the screening last night and the experience of watching it with an audience?

KOSINSKI: It was great. When you’re making a movie like this and you’ve watched it 1000 times and heard every line, you end up watching it from a very kind of analytical point of view. It was refreshing to just feel an audience experiencing it for the first time and reacting to those lines that was a funny line when we wrote it two years ago that we’d almost forgotten.  So to hear those laughs and to see the reaction of  the cast – who hadn’t seen anything – was really gratifying, really exciting.

Did you expect a great reaction to the digital opening?

KOSINSKI: Yeah, that was an interesting surprise.  The logo got some good oohs and ahhs.

Are you still surprised 28 years later that we’re still talking about this?

LISBERGER : Yes and no.  This technology has become prevalent and it seems to make sense to get into it and one thing I’ll say is that I’m very happy that cutting edge technology is in the hands of talented creative people and not just in the hands of  geeks and scientist.  So I think that’s part of the power of the first film that artists got their hands on these tools so early on.


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: