Posted on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
On November 19th, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview the screenwriters of Tron Legacy, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Because the interview mentions a couple potential spoilers, and delves into future continuations (the Tron animated series, Tron 3) / other future projects, I’ve decided to run the chat the week following release. You can read the whole interview after the jump.
[begins with conversation already in progress]
Edward Kitsis: You’ve been on this ride with us, Comic-Con…
Peter Sciretta: I was even on set, so it’s like…
Adam Horowitz: We’re old buddies, man…[laughs]
Edward Kitsis: Slashfilm is definitely one of our daily reads.
Adam: You guys are just…We love how fast you are and how on top of everything.
Edward: Obviously you meet with a lot of people, but, like, it’s funny, because we are fans ourselves. So we’re sitting down with sites that we read today, and we’re like, “Oh, so people like to read the comments?” It’s like, well, every day I check four sites. And if there’s a Tron thing and I see “Comments: 20”, how can I not?
Adam: You’re going to click on it!
Edward: You know, I want to go and see the Green Lantern trailers. I’m going to go find it, and then, if underneath it, it says, “Tron Legacy” something, 20 comments…
Question: You probably have to build up that thick skin because the internet film geeks can sometimes be mean?
Adam: Yeah, I know.
Question: But it’s so great to hear that because I am such a fan of your work on Lost and I really enjoyed the film.
Edward: Ah, thank you so much!
Adam: That means a lot. It really does…
Edward: I haven’t slept in three years! And the realization that this was coming out hit me two weeks ago. Like just hit me. Like I started to realize, “Oh, wait, this is actually coming out. This isn’t just something that gets leaked at Comic-Con.” You know…
Adam: We wrote the film as fans. Like, we’re fans first, and that’s how we approached it. So, it’s really sort of humbling thing to have this opportunity to work on this franchise and to be able to take a crack at it. And now to kind of have it now be out there, it’s scary daunting and really just…
Edward: Exciting and humbling at the same time.
Question: It must be crazy to see all these ideas you wrote on the page now on the big screen.
Edward: It’s even crazier when you see a toy of a character you thought of three years ago! And you’re like, “Wow, really? Cool!”
Question: I can’t even imagine. What specifically did Steve contribute, other than his first film, coming into the process and collaborating with you guys?
Edward: We call him Obi-Wan, because he has really been teaching us how to be a Jedi. In a way, he came in… First of all, he created Tron. So when you are pitching him and he says no, there’s no argument. How can you fight with the man who created the world? But he was like, “Come into my sandbox. Here’s some toys. What are you going to do? Cool.”
Adam: Steve has been amazing. His real skill, among many, many others…
Edward: …that we worship him for.
Adam: What he’s done for us is amazing. He translates us…
Edward: He’s a great sounding board.
Adam: When we can talk to him about ideas, he can kinda go, “Guys, guys, guys, this is what you’re really talking about.”
Edward: And we’re like, “Right!”
Adam: “This is what you’re really getting to…”
Edward: Because we’ll have a mess of ideas and he’ll just go, “This is what you mean.” And then we’ll go off and write.
Adam: He was really, really great at that, in like helping us to really hone our thematics and the things that we were talking about in the movie. Whenever we would talk about them with him, he would really be able to, “Guys, you know, you’re telling me this story. What you are really saying beneath it is this.” And we’re like, “You’re right! That is!” And you’re not even fully aware…
Edward: What we realized is, because we were frightened, and the reason is Steven said to us, he’s like, “He’s Flynn, and he has a son Carl, who’s Sam.” And he’s like, “You tapped into what we were doing.” And in a weird way, we were kinda like, “No, we were Sam and you’re…” [laughs] And he has just been such a great mentor to us. We can’t say enough about him.
Adam: For us, the film, on one level, is about a father and a son and what they’re dealing with. On a personal level for us, it’s, we’re the children of that generation. We’re the children of Tron, the first one, and now we’re grown up, and now we’re working in this business, and we’re able to make films. So it’s like the character coming to terms with his father in that film is also us kinda coming to terms with Steve and his generation…
Edward: Well, it’s like we said. It’s like people keep saying to you, “What did you do when you finally got Tron?” And we said, “Well, the first 30 seconds I celebrated and then it was pure terror, because I thought, ‘Don’t screw it up!’” How do you live up to that?
Peter: It was a sequel that no one ever thought would ever get made.
Edward: Yeah! And, you know, that’s part of Sam. We always say Kevin Flynn, he’s Bill Gates, meets Steve Jobs, meets John Lennon. And what if you were his son? How do you live up to that? “Oh hey, your dad created the future! What are you going to do?” “I don’t know. I guess I’ll just jump off a building, because I don’t even want to try.” And I think that just kind of seeped in sub-textually.
Question: Well, that’s one of the things I also loved about the film, is the duality between the Tron world and the grid. Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean I know that some of that’s in the original, but it seems like it’s really to the extreme in this one.
Edward : Well, the design is Joe, Joe Kosinski, who is a complete visionary. And it helps when your director is also an architect. But as far as certain things, like thematically, we always thought of it as, “Who’s going to take us into the grid this time? Who’s going to take a whole new world into us?” And we’re like, “Well, you know, it’s going to be his son, but his son is not only just going to learn about his world, he’s going to learn about his father, because this is his father’s world, in a way.” And that’s kind of how we started to think about it.
Adam: Yeah, and to tell the story…well, an emotional father/son story, but it’s also to tell a story about, thematically, this idea that Joe talks about a lot, which is this idea of finding human connection in a digital world, and finding that connection among technology, where we’re now all overwhelmed with technology in our lives. And to us, it was a story about a father and son who literally are separated by technology!
Edward: Because we say, look at the world today. You have an iPhone, I have an iPhone. I have a kid. I’m out in a park and I’m pushing him on a swing, and I feel I got an email. So, do I check the email or do I push it? Or let me ask you this question. How many times are you mad because someone called you instead of texted you? “Now I’ve got to call them back?” Like, when did that happen? So to us, there’s that larger thing of, like, technology is here… Technology is here to help us and supposedly bring us together, but is it? And Joe says it best: It’s finding the human connection in the digital world. And that’s kind of what we think the comment is.
Question: There’s so many callbacks to the original; so many Easter eggs hidden in this. What are some of your favorites that might not be obvious?
Adam: Well, they’re obvious. My favorite is obvious, and it’s the big door. And it’s like, you know, when he sees the door and says, “Now that’s a big door,” it’s one of those things that we just loved in the first movie, a little kind of grace note in there…
Edward: For me it was the handheld football game in his office.
Adam: Oh, yes!
Edward: Yeah. And the other one that we did that’s very, very subtle, probably shouldn’t even be saying this, is, if you remember when Alan and Laura come to visit. What’s the very first thing he does when he gets up into his office? He takes his shirt off, puts on a new shirt. And that’s what Garrett does. Alan comes to do it! And it’s so subtle, and most people don’t get it, but we…
Adam: We purposely designed that scene so that the first time we meet Alan and Sam, he’s taking off his shirt and changing.
Edward : Because we knew we were going to write a movie that was going to be a standalone. We were going to write a movie so that you never had to see Tron to enjoy this film. That being said, as fans of Tron, I would be…I mean, come on, give me a shout-out! So we were going to put Easter eggs in. We loved to do them on Lost…
Adam: And there’s more in there, and there’s plenty that are also put in there in the…hopefully you’ll freeze-frame your Blu-Ray and find all them later.
Peter: I was really surprised early on…I don’t think this is a spoiler because it was first 20 minutes. But there was somebody in the boardroom scene that I did not expect to be there.
Edward: Oh, Brent Taylor, the Disney executive?
Adam: Yeah, no, we know who you’re talking about.
Peter: I’m not sure if I want to ruin it or not, but…
Adam: We hope not to ruin it, but that is…
Peter: Can you talk a little bit about that without ruining the actor/character or whatever?
Adam: That was an Easter egg that we put in because, for many reasons, not the least of which is we felt the need to make an acknowledgement to that part of the Tron world. Yeah, wonder what happened…
Question: Is that something…It felt like it was a setup that didn’t get paid off because it was cut out, or is that possible sequel material?
Edward: I could tell you this. If we are lucky enough to have people want a sequel, we’ve got some ideas.
Adam: Yeah. Yes, we do.
Question: That’s great. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is, what else is in the works? I mean you guys are all around town. There’s variety stories every other week.
Edward: I know! Right now, we’ve been working on the Tron animated show.
Peter: Oh, how involved are you guys in that?
Edward: Oh yeah, very involved. We’ve written the micro series. We’ve done the story for the first one hour, and we wrote the episode after that. We continue to work with the staff. And that has been a dream project for us because…
Adam: We’ve been trying to very much kind of keep a consistency to the mythology of the Tron universe as best we can. And the Tron animated series, without getting into the specifics of what it is yet, which we’ll get into probably not too long from now, is something that we want to really kind of play with this movie and the original.
Edward: You know, because as you said, we’re storytellers. So when that Recognizer is flying over the many different sectors to get to the one it wants, you’re always like, “What’s going on down there?” And things like the animated let you tell those. The other thing we’re working on is Ouija.
Adam: For Universal, Hasbro, Bay, Platinum Dunes…
Edward: Yes. You know, we’re excited about it because we feel like we’ve got a really interesting idea on how to do it that hopefully people aren’t expecting. Everyone thinks it’s going to be…
Peter: When this first announced, I was expecting a horror movie, but then…
Adam: It’s not.
Peter: …everybody’s saying it’s something like Pirates of the Caribbean…
Edward: Jumanji…and we were like, we didn’t want to do any of that. The things we like, as you know from our background in Lost, is we take a title that people like, “Huh. What are they going to do with that?” And hopefully you come in with such a different way they didn’t expect. And Pirates was the greatest example of that. It was a theme park ride, and Rossio and Elliott, we think, are two of the best writers that ever lived. Like, we worshipped them. We saw that movie and we watched it over and over again, and were so depressed because we were like, “That is so good!”
Peter: That first movie is awesome.
Adam: Oh, the first movie is unbelievable.
Edward: It is so smart. And so we…
Adam: For us, Ouija is a very big canvas adventure movie.
Edward: For us, you know, we wanted to tell Indiana Jones with spirits. Now, whether we succeed on that, we’ll find out. [laughs] But it’s something we’re excited about.
Question: There was just a TV show announced. It sounds a lot like Fable. How is it different than Fable?
Edward: It’s different than Fables because it has nothing to do with Fables.
Adam: Fables is awesome…No, Fables is awesome…
Peter: And that wasn’t meant to be a criticism…
Adam: No, no, no, no, no.
Adam: Here’s the hard thing. The hard thing is this, is like when things get announced at a very early stage and a very kind of nutshell idea is out there, it’s very hard for anyone to really understand what it is.
Edward: I can tell you, this is an idea we literally had seven years ago. We were coming off of Felicity. So no one wanted to buy a fairytale idea from two Felicity writers who were really lower level and had no business running a show. Now, years later, we always loved that idea, and we understand that it is dealing in the world of fairytales. But to be honest with you, our show isn’t just fairytales. It’s actually a lot bigger than that.
Adam: Yeah, there’s something more to it, and it’s something that we hope to kind of keep under wraps for as long as we can.
Edward: And I think when you see that, you’ll go, “Oh, that’s how it’s not Fables!”
Adam: When you see it, hopefully, if you see it, you’ll understand, “Oh…”
Edward: To be fair, ABC has to like it first before you see it! There’s a lot of steps…just because it was announced doesn’t mean anything. But yeah, it’s something we’re also really excited about. And, you know, I mean we keep saying this, but it’s true. Somehow we’ve been lucky enough to make a living being 12 year old boys, going, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And we just want to…as long as they’ll have us, let us write cool stuff, we want to keep going. And Tron is a dream. We could spend all day doing Tron and be happy.
Question: We’ll I’m excited to see whatever evolves from this…
Adam: We’re very excited.
Edward: It’s important to us that everything feels a part of one story. We would hate for people to think the animated has nothing to do with the movie. You know, that’s not fun.
Adam: We’ve all worked very hard to kind of try and create a really rich mythology that we can mine in all the different platforms, but that will be consistent.
Edward: And I will say that Disney has been so supportive of that, that it’s been just incredible. I mean they’ve been just so supportive of the whole Tron machine and the way that everybody wants to tell the stories and do it that it’s really…it’s just fantastic.
Peter: Well thank you guys. I really appreciate it!