Interview: Screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and Producer Justin Springer Talk ‘Tron Legacy’
Posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
On November 19th, I had the opportunity to participate in a day of roundtable interviews with the cast and crew of Tron Legacy. I also conducted a couple of one-on-one discussions with the filmmakers and screenwriters (but that will come later).The plan is to post one of the interviews every day up until release. We’ve previously posted interviews with Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund.Today we bring you a grouped interview with screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and producer Justin Springer. You’ll notice that Horowitz and Kitsis are the type of writing team that complete each others sentences and are constantly improvising new angles and ways to pitch their material. After the jump you can read the transcript of that roundtable interview.
Question: 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.
Edward Kitsis: It was quite overwhelming and exciting for us.
Question: 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?
Adam Horowitz: Well, when we originally pitched our ideas for this movie there was no pressure.
Edward Kitsis: We literally, I’ll be honest with you, Justin and Sean 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, well yeah they’re going to hire two TV writers for Tron, okay. So 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 a good. We loved the movie so much that our entire fear was, don’t screw it up. Because if I was a Tron fan and I think that there’s always that pressure to make it good. And it doesn’t matter whether from the studio or not, you’re always, every film maker, every rider, 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.
Adam Horowitz: Like anything, when we’re writing anything it’s that when you first start the pressure is coming up with the idea. And then coming up with the script I started to write it. And then as you move toward production, the pressure changes and becomes about 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.
Edward 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.
Question: How close is what we saw on the screen is what you originally wrote?
Adam Horowitz: Well it’s an interesting question to ask because the — the process was very unique. Well, for us it’s unique. It’s our first movie so I guess 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 and, and Joe Kosinski I really developing it as we went in the sense of–.
Edward Kitsis: It was a very collaborative environment that we were all in it together. And that was — that was the way we did it. And then of cours then all of a sudden, you get Olivia Wilde and Garrett and Michael Sheen and, of course, Jeff Bridges and you write a character–and Bruce, 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. You have to write to that, because they’re feeling that. And then hopefully what happens is this — this 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, well two things, one is 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 and a story that without new technology. Technology that we didn’t even know it was possible that had been invented yet.
We wouldn’t have been able to tell that story otherwise. So the fact that they had come in with the fact that it would be Jeff Bridges and that there would be a younger Jeff Bridges and it would be this father-son story but almost kind of like a father and two sons story was something that guys really excited about revisiting Tron because we were spending a lot of time talking about like what is a story that feels unique 20, 28 years after the original film in a post-Matrix, post Terminator world where you’ve kind of like technologies been explored, people have home computers? Like what we do with Tron. And it was always about, we have to come 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 beat of the story are — are really similar to what you pitched the first time that we met. And then you constantly improve 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 like you guys can say, now this is where the disc game sequence will be. Well, what does that look like? And then Joe could say well, it looks like this. And he would either hand draw stuff and then we started to build that in art department that would kind of create artwork that would inspire them. So their writing was sort of inspiring in art department. And our department was sort of inspiring. We just iteratively improved the movie over three years all the way up until we delivered it a few days ago.
Edward Kitsis: I will say my wife saw it last night and she goes, do you think Joe would design something for us like a room? And I’m like I think he’s busy but maybe.
Question: Could you have made the movie without Jeff Bridges? Would it have gone forward?
Adam Horowitz: Our pitch, our initial pitch was we love just so much as fans but it was not one Jeff but two Jeff’s.
Edward Kitsis: 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, how could you?
Adam Horowitz: To get to write two Jeff characters in one movie was– it was just beyond thrilling.
Justin Springer: 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 why go 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 use, ultimately use to make the movie, to kind of show the studio here’s our version of Tron. Well, we knew our version of Tron included Jeff. So we went to him very early on with our vision for the franchise and used them in the visual effects test.
Adam Horowitz: So we actually–.
Edward Kitsis: We actually went up to his house and we pitched him the movie and sitting on the table was the original Tron helmet and I remember we were just sitting there right before this came and we were sitting there and I was like oh, man, this is terrifying.
Question: What other movies or concepts did you use as inspiration for the script?
Adam Horowitz: We’re movie geeks. So we obviously we wear our references on our sleeves. We’re big fans of Star Wars and Spielberg but also of Hal Ashby and we love The Graduate and Woody Allen. So you pull from everywhere without even realizing it. It’s just kind of in the soup of your inspiration.
Edward Kitsis: It becomes almost a subconscious thing. It’s like all the things as like– like 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.
Question: Did you sneak any specific things in to reference other movies?
Adam Horowitz: Definitely. We mostly have shout outs to Tron.
Question: That’s kind of self-involved isn’t it?
Adam Horowitz: Yeah, but listen as we said we’re fans of it, man. Listen 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 a few shout outs for you in there and because if I went then I would want that.
Question: When did you see Tron for the first time?
Adam Horowitz: We were very young. Eddy and I. 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 Eddy, didn’t know him. Said, we got it to work on this.
Edward Kitsis: Right. And we were like seven at the time. So it was a weird process because I didn’t know him.
Adam Horowitz: First draft was in crayon.
Edward Kitsis: It was my first phone call which is weird. So.
Question: What sort of Bible did you guys create to define the roles of this universe as opposed to the original?
Edward Kitsis: We talked about mythology. We literally see a certain amount in this movie of the world and there are avenues and streets and sectors that you — that you fly over and you’re like what’s going on there. And we literally sat down and had spent three years going, well, this is what happens.
Adam Horowitz: We really wanted to map out a really rich mythology and world of rules as much as we could. And Eddy and I 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.
Adam Horowitz: Yeah. I was going to say I mean, in working out the mythology was most importantly 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 with 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’s allowed us to create what I think is a really kind of groundbreaking, kind of coherency across the entire franchise for things like the video game or the graphic novels or comics or–
Edward Kitsis: The animated series.
Adam 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–.
Edward Kitsis: The animation show is literally like stories we wanted to tell like 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.
Question: Who came up with Castor?
Edward Kitsis: He went through many iterations. He kind of–.
Adam Horowitz: Yeah, actually before we even had a name for him we call him King pin.
Edward Kitsis: Right.
Adam Horowitz: Just because we were like, when we were writing it we didn’t have a good name yet and we were like, but we wanted — because we worked so collaboratively we might be handing and 15 pages a week–.
Edward Kitsis: We wanted them to understand who was this guy, here’s a guy who lives in the thing. In fact we were walking with him like literally like 20 minutes ago and it was so good with him, I turned to him as I’m just going to take credit for all of that even though so much of it was just his sheer awesomeness. I was like I’m absolutely going to take credit. There’s nothing you can do.
Adam Horowitz: Yeah, he brought such a vision to it. He really did. He came in with a really–.
Edward Kitsis: I mean, that’s the best–
Adam Horowitz: which is great.
Edward Kitsis: When they do that.
Adam Horowitz: I breathe such a nice breath of kind of fresh air into the movie at that moment.