JUNKETRON – Dellamorte’s series of six interviews with the cast and crew of Tron: Legacy end today. 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 nearly forty years of his career, Jeff Bridges was the secret weapon. He was the guy everyone said should have won an Oscar. Be it his appearances in The Last Picture Show or Fat City, him saving (in a lot of ways) the remake of King Kong, from Cutter’s Way to Fearless to American Heart to The Fisher King to The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges? He’s the man. A couple months ago he won an Oscar, and now December is the month of Jeff Bridges (hopefully brother Beau is okay). And it was a pleasure to sit with Bridges talking about revisiting this film twenty eight years later.
Was this character always written as a Silicon Valley hippie or did you introduce the Lebowski-ness of him?
JEFF BRIDGES: That was Lisberger. What was it, like, 28 years ago? Is that when it was? Gosh, man, it was the script basically from the original one. And that’s before Lebowski still. So that I guess you could blame Stephen for that.
What were your thoughts when you first saw Clu?
Amazing. And for one thing what that means for me as an actor that I can play myself at any age now. I love going to movies but if there’s a movie where he character ages or another actor plays the guy as a younger person always takes me a while to get up to speed on it. But now, any age. It’s quite remarkable. And they’ll be able to combine actors. I don’t know quite how I feel about this, but that’s coming up, “let’s get Boxleitner and Bridges and put a little Brando in there and see what happens.” That they can write that, they can hire some other actor to drive that image that had been created. I mean it’s getting pretty crazy.
Did you have any hesitation about revisiting Tron?
I did, I have a lot of hesitation making any kind of decision really in my life. I mean, I’m really slow at it. It’s like a mental disorder I guess, having difficulty making a decision. I really resist. And with this one I thought “oh God, are they going to pull it off?” I could see all the technology and everything but are they going to be able to pull it off right? And Disney did a beautiful job of that. Casting is so important – not only the actors but the director. And they got Joe (Kosinski), never directed a movie before.. can you imagine the pressure of that? And he was — his personality is so calm and sure and that he brings all his architectural knowledge to the party. So that adds to the whole set design. They got the right person and he loved the original and all that. That’s wonderful. They also brought Steve Lisberger onboard, which I thought was essential because while the movie can be seen alone and you can still appreciate it, this is going to flow between this one and that one. And he was the godfather of the whole thing, the source. So we would always go back to him and ask him is this consistent with the myth that you started? And that was another thing that brought me to want to do this because I thought we could use a modern-day myth about the challenge of technology, of how we’re going to you know surf that particular wave. Those are tough waters we’re coming into now. We could do some amazing things, but we can also head off in the wrong direction very quickly. And this is kind of cautionary tale is a way to look ahead and make sure this is what the direction you want to go.
Does it feel like a time machine talking today of the movie you did in the past that is about the future?
Yeah, it’s just bizarre. I mean it’s just so bizarre. But at the same time it just seems like, especially having Lisberger on the set, it’s like we had a long weekend and were just back here doing the same work. It’s crazy.
What are the differences between working in 1982 and now? Did you have as much green screen work then?
Well, that one was shot in 70 millimeter black-and-white, and animated by some ladies in Korea. And we were in white leotards and there was black duvetyn like this tablecloth. This is basically the set with white adhesive tape for the gridlines and that was basically it. And then there’s some CGI, all that kind of stuff. But this one, wow, man, making movies without cameras? What an idea. And when they said that I said “what are you talking about?” They said “yeah you work in the volume.” “What’s that?” “Well, it’s a room, it can be any size painted green and there’s no cameras but there’s hundreds of sensors pointed at you. Before each take you assume the T. You stand up like this.” And now you’re in the computer. And you’re in a white leotard with these dots all over your body, all of your face, might have a helmet on with cameras going. And then everything from makeup, costume, the set and – this is the one that kills me – camera angles are done in post. So if you are in the volume right now and in our leotards with our dots on, they could say “let’s start the scene behind… way in the back of the room under the chairs and we’re going to come up under the chairs” and then they’ll be ”let’s not. Let’s start here.” It’s all done in post now. It’s just crazy. Amazing. One of the wild moments in this movie was when I was scanned initially to get my body into the computer, and it was just like out of the first Tron. I stood there and there’s light going – it was just bizarre. For real it was like, for real.
Have you warned any of your costars that you’re competing with them now? With this technology?
No. I hadn’t thought about that. That’s funny.
Are there any roles that you would like to revisit – like The Fabulous Baker Boys or something like that?
Maybe. I hadn’t thought about that. But it’s wild to be able to go back there and play it at different ages. It’s crazy. It opens up a whole world.
You don’t have to think about the lens in the volume now. But does that change your performance?
Yeah, it was a challenge, because I like relating to the lens and I like having a costume and a set. Those are grounding to you. You know it helps you, so much of making movies is creating an illusion and the first person you have to create the illusion for is yourself right? So when I have a costume and the person I’m working with is in a costume and there’s a set, that helps me be in those times and be in that character. So when you don’t have that stuff, you have to kind of go back, almost like more like child-like. When you were a kid and you didn’t have all the cool gear to put you there. You had to use your imagination. So it was a challenge that way. And at first it kind of rubbed against my acting – it felt odd, I didn’t like it. But in making movies and acting you can’t spend too much time bitching about the way it is. You’ve got to get with the program as soon as you can, especially when you’re making a movie. So that was challenging, but it was a good exercise. And that’s the way it’s going. This is the way it’s going to be.
Did it change your life at all winning the Oscar?
I think it has but I haven’t really figured that out entirely because right after – a day after the Oscars I went right to work on True Grit. So I got right back into work mode and I’ve been working ever since. So I don’t really, haven’t noticed a big flood of scripts coming it or anything like that.
Where do you keep your Oscar?
I thought it would be fun… I was going to ask my wife, or my kids or you know, whoever, I said “I want you to take this and hide it in different spots in the house. And we’ll discover it like where’s Waldo.” I didn’t do that. I have him sitting on a little shelf between the kitchen and the dining room.
How did you talk to Clu? Did you talk to stand in?
Tried it a couple of different ways. I worked with a lot of kids and you know when you’re working with kids they have certain hours that they have to you know work. With a kid you can’t work as many hours as an adult. So often you will shoot the kids close up and then when it comes time to your close-up he’s gone or gone to school. So you’ll work to a little mark on a C-stand or whatever and do it that way. So I got used to that. We do that. I tried doing it to a monitor, where I would say that, tried that a little bit.
What were your thoughts on the message of the film.
Yes, well, one of my concerns about getting into this movie that it would just be a special effect movie but it would have some helpful mythology to it. And I am good friends with this Zen master, guy named Bernie Glassman. And I guess you put that in there somewhere. I’m not sure if you put it before or after. If you go to his website zenpeacemaker.com or just google Bernie Glassman you’ll find out what he’s into. We were just at a wonderful symposium he had, the first symposium of the socially engaged Buddhism. And it was wonderful, uh. Anyway he came on as an advisor and, uh, I wanted him to add some of these mythology and stories and those thoughts. I figured Flynn’s path, what he encounters on the grid coming in, being quite full of himself and that sort of thing thinking that he can beat Clu and as he says in the movie, the more he goes against him them stronger Clu becomes. So he’s decided “I just have to stop and see the universe and all, everything’s that’s involved, just like weather will change by itself” so he’s applying some of that knowledge. And his problem and the way he gets trapped in the absolute, he goes there so far that he’s maybe stopped being able to engage. Now his son comes and shakes that all up.
What is the caution to this tale?
How do you mean?
There’s a danger to freedom and there’s a danger to control.
You know, that’s from a wonderful book and I think it might even be in Flynn’s bookcase in there and I asked him to put it in there. It’s a Tibetan Buddhist and he wrote a book called the myth of freedom – this idea of freedom. I’ve got to be free, I got to do what I want to do. You can be a prisoner to your preferences. That can be anything that can just trap you and you’re a slave to it. Perfect to who? Whose perfection? If you’re thinking “I want it the way I want it” it can lead you a dark deep place. You’ve got to really think about “what do I really want?” Like these plastic bottles, I asked them not to have them and they don’t have them… good, great. But they’re single use plastic bottles. Where did that come from? It’s like those things in the magazine that when you open things fall out. Who decided to do that? They’ve got these bottles now, but billions of tons of plastic are in the ocean. They say it biodegrades but it doesn’t really. The fish eat it. The birds eat it. We eat the fish. And I could feel my own hooked-ness on immediate gratification. I want what I want. I want it now and I can get it now so I’m going to do it dammit, and you gotta watch that, you know what I’m saying?
END OF LINE
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: