JUNKETRON – Dellamorte’s series of six interviews with the cast and crew of Tron: Legacy continues. Coming Soon: Jeff Bridges. 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. Olivia Wilde got her big break when Fox decided to make her character on The O.C. swing both ways. Fox sold the big on screen girl on girl kiss, and in that moment Olivia Wilde could have ended her career. Instead she moved from small role to role, and showed chops, though mostly was called on to be eye candy. But the stars have aligned for her, and now she’s the lead in Tron: Legacy, and will be following that with a turn in Cowboys Vs. Aliens. We got a chance to talk with her about the film, and she was open and on point.
Was that the first time you saw that last night?
OLIVIA WILDE: Yes it was.
What was the reaction as you are watching?
It surpassed all my expectations. What happens often as an actor is you retain the information about the scene that you shot and you obsess over certain scenes that you found the most challenging or interesting. And the rest of the film falls away in your memory or it fades a little bit. So it’s been so long since I actually read the script in its entirety. A year or more. So being able to watch everyone’s performance, watch all elements of the story come together was just extraordinary. And I was blown away by everyone’s work and that was my reaction was just “oh my God everyone pulled it together.” Being able to watch Michael Sheen’s performance, much of which I was not there for, was a treat for me. And to see a lot of Jeff’s work as Clu, that was really exciting, because that involved a lot of special effects in order to create the finished product. And so I think what was probably the most astounding thing was being able to see the entire picture together and realize how much hard work paid off.
Using the 1982 Jeff as a template, do you think about that as an actress like things you’re doing now may be repurposed later on?
I think it’s such an interesting concept. I think my dream moving forward is to take Clint Eastwood, Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep and put them in like a teen comedy. Because now we can do that. It would be the most expensive teen comedy ever made but [totally worth it. I want to see that movie. What I realized last night while watching Jeff’s performance as Clu was no matter what effect they come up with to make actors seem younger, older, it’s still driven by the actor. The effects are extraordinary and Eric Barba’s team is incredible, but Jeff was driving that rig and adjusts the performance to what makes that character so compelling. And it was a relief to know actors will still be needed no matter what they come up with. Even if we’re stuck in a booth somewhere hidden away they’ll still need actors to drive these things and make them interesting. And I thought that’s an incredibly difficult thing to edit – such an artform in itself and one that’s new and unprecedented. So the fact that Jeff just brought an incredible amount of Jeff to that character is even more extraordinary knowing all the effects and all the extra work that went into it.
Do actors of your generation think about keeping versions of yourself on a hard drive?
I don’t think I could escape that images of myself will be kept on a hard drive now. I think that it’s inevitable. It’s you know, there’s permanence to everything you do now, whether you like it or not. And so it can be utilized in the future – hopefully for good reason. But it isn’t it just a concept and you know we’re still cresting. It’s still completely new and I think there’s only a few actors in this business who have gone through the process that Jeff went through. He and Brad Pitt can really discuss the benefits or the challenges of working with a head rig like that face replacement. So it’s exciting for all of us to be a part of that new technology and be able to share that experience and be part of something so revolutionary.
And how did you come up with your look?
The look was a true collaboration. When we originally started putting together ideas for it was really kind of up for grabs because Quorra, of course was not in the original film. And Joe Kosinski was very interested in making her a unique and unusual femme– not even femme fatale, a female heroine, if this type of film that was unlike any other. And so we worked very hard to make her intelligent and powerful but at the same time childlike and nuanced so that she would not just be there as a kind of foil for the men, not just the eye candy. She could have very easily – with a different team – that character could have easily turned into the temptress of the Tron world. She could’ve just been this sexy femme fatale. With a suit like that it’s easy to fall into that. But because Joe was adamant that she not be that, I worked very, very hard to create someone who is not that and we were able to work together to create Cora. We were very inspired by Joan of Arc. I brought up the concept of Joan of Arc very early on, six months before we started shooting. I said “Joe, I found her, I figured her out. She’s Joan of Arc. Because of Joan of arc was this unlikely warrior, this child who could lead an army.” She was unnaturally powerful and seemed to have this connection to another world, to a higher power, to be guided by something greater than her and by selflessness. And that was Quorra. And that combination of innocence and strength is unusual in characters. Once we found this historical reference it was really fun to flesh her out. But Joe was completely on board with that from the beginning and you’ve hit the jackpot with directors when they can be as excited about that stuff as you are. I remember emailing Joe at 3 AM six months before we started shooting anything, “I think I figured it out.” I was looking at ancient Korean Buddhist warriors and I think that Quorra’s one of them. And they fight with swords so she needs a sword.” And the next day, she has a sword. We can work on that. That’s part of the reason I feel so proud of the finished product of Quorra is because so much hard work went into it, so much collaboration, so much love and I feel very proud of the way she’s come out. She’s quirky and odd and I like that and another reason I was so adamant about making her so intelligent as well as being a warrior, is because I really want her to appeal to the female audience and particularly young females. I wanted her to be a role model for a young audience. I want girls to feel inspired by her strength and her wit and her intelligence and her compassion. I think that it’s rare these days to have a female character in these types of movies that isn’t just there to look really sexy in a suit. Too often that’s what happens and you wonder why little girls dress up like that for Halloween. When I was little we dressed as wonder woman. And she represented social justice and honesty. And now I’m not sure who they dress up as. Although this year before the movie came out, I saw a lot of Quorra’s walking around, so that was pretty exciting. But I really want to her to be appealing to both men and women and I feel very proud of how she’s turned out.
Talk about the makeup look.
The hair was very much inspired by Joan. We wanted something a little androgynous. She’s a fighter; that’s her purpose. She’s there to protect Flynn, and she needs to be able to move fast. If she had long flowing little mermaid hair it wouldn’t be very practical. We wanted her hair to have the slick non-organic look of the Tron world but at the same time be really practical and also good-looking. It was a process of going through several different wigs and designs and Joe and I worked together very closely on that. As for makeup, we wanted her to look different from the rest of the programs. She has a little bit more of a human look, a little bit more texture, little bit more skin tone but she still has that very white, very pale look. Rosalina Da Silva is a makeup artist who designed that look and it made sense for her. The sirens are the other females in the film and they have these long incredible lashes and they’re more unbelievably sexy and rocker-chic in their makeup. We wanted Quorra to kind of be an alternative to that. So it was a fun process to figure all that stuff out.
Last night when watching the film I got some political undertones. She thinks she’s doing the right things.
Yes, absolutely, and I saw it more than ever last night. I knew it was there in the script but I was excited to see we have a little bit of a political slant. Maybe no one will notice but you and me. But I think that the message is that imperfection is beautiful. The idea of accepting flaws. The story is one of a dictator who has ethnically cleansed this universe. And what’s left is this desperate and miserable world. So the message is that compassion, humanity, and humility are important in our own lives as well as in politics. But, gosh, again that makes me think of how incredible Jeff’s performance was because to create a character like Clu as this merciless dictator sends chills up your spine as you think of who he resembles in actual history. But it does have a message, I mean a political message as well as one just about humanity in general.
Your career has taken an upward swing recently. Talk about what you’ve been able to do.
I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. Tron was such a departure for me. Quorra was unlike anyone I have ever played before. After that I was really excited about doing that again, about departing from myself again and transforming because beyond the physical transformation of Tron it was really a transformation on many levels. And so my interest was in action as well as adventure films and sci-fi and everything like that. It’s something that I never thought I would do. I never saw myself quite in the genre of such an exciting thing to be part of it, particularly because the people who follow those types of movies. My experiences at Comic-con have been so incredible and so exciting. So after Tron I was excited to do Cowboys and Aliens, which was something that’s a different film but again a huge departure for myself and a total transformation And I feel very blessed to be a part of that and everything in between. It’s been a really, really incredible year and every single thing I’ve done has been very different from last and now it seems to all be kind of bubbling to the surface and I’m very proud.
How do you like being turned into merchandise? This is your first experience with that?
This is my first experiments with that. I don’t think there’s a little House doll unless I’m missing something. There should be. It’s odd. I like Carrie Fisher’s take on it. Carrie Fisher is such an incredible writer and actress and person and I don’t know if any of you have read or seen her one-woman show Wishful Drinking but she talks a lot about the merchandise they came from Star Wars including the blow up doll. Which I haven’t heard of any of those being created for me. But it’s a funny out of body experience to see some miniature version of yourself on the shelf. Again I feel so proud to have created this character so whenever I see a little me or I see a Quorra costume I– I just feel that this was something you know, that we created together and it’s a different experience when you feel like you designed the character every part of her look and being is something that comes from the research that went into creating her personality and her history. And so I’ve enjoyed the experience so far. But the second I see a Quorra blow up doll I won’t.
Talk about your physical training for this.
Um, it was– it was challenging. I was shooting House while I was training for Tron so I would wake up way earlier than anyone should and go and do a few hours of training a day, which included cross-training, cardio training, martial arts training, A lot of what Quorra does in the movie is mixed martial arts. That was something that I worked very hard on. We had an incredible stunt team called 8711. They’ve done a lot of the big films of the last 10 years and they are extraordinary. I really appreciated that they gave me the confidence to do a lot of my own stunts. But they said you’re going to have to train for it and I was completely open to that. And I transformed my body. I have never looked like that before and I will never look like that again. It was important in creating Quorra to transfer myself physically because once I understood what it was like to be able to fight and to have those kind of muscles and to have that strength, it changed the way I walked. It changed the way I stood. And I suddenly understood what it felt like to be able to protect myself, which I had never felt before. So it was the first time I realized how important that physical training is to creating the character beyond just the aesthetic.
Did you stop training after?
Yes, oh, it was such a relief. I couldn’t wait. The entire time we were shooting Tron I was planning my meal of the wrap day. I was like oh, well, you know, I’m married to an Italian so it was all about the pasta and wine. I couldn’t wait. I would just dream of my giant plate of pasta while we were on set. But on these big films you’re so lucky to have the best trainers in the world teaching you how to fight and everyone in their department is the best of the best. So it’s such an honor to have them focused on creating something for you, to maximize the impact of your character. So you have to bring your focus and your energy and never complain because this is an honor to have these people working on you to turn you into a little warrior.
The costume is so sculpted to you. Does that pose problems while you’re training and your body is changing?
Well these costumes don’t stretch. So once we had our last fitting that’s the size of the costume. It can’t change. It’s not like we can do a little adjustment, each suit was a sculpture. It was such an intricate piece of craftsmanship. You couldn’t say “oh, well, they’ll give me another one” or “oh, maybe I could let this out a little at the seams.” And so there was a certain dedication to the suit – a relationship we had to have with our suits, good and bad. Luckily I survived and was able to stay in that suit just enough, just until the last second.
When you were a teenager did you prefer the science-fiction fantasy stories or romantic?
Um, I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My family used to watch Star Trek together. Sort of a nerdy family activity. But I, as far as you know reading science fiction, I think Jules Verne was probably like the extent of my science-fiction literature in my library. I was much more into romance as a teenager and it’s been a kind of new discovery for me to learn about sci-fi adventure. It’s an honor to be a part of it. I think the really interesting genre and it’s all about imagination. You know it’s boundless what you can do in these stories. And so when you have a creative team like we did for Tron you can exceed all expectations and all boundaries of the imagination and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of.
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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: