In June 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the Vancouver set of Tron Legacy (you can watch our set visit preview video blog here). Over the course of the next few days I’ll be posting a few of the transcripts of the roundtable interviews that we conducted on the set with the cast and crew, with a lot more to come in a few months. After the jump you can read our roundtable interview with Jeff Bridges, who reprises his role as Kevin Flynn in the Tron sequel.
It’s amazing to see you back in this role.
Jeff Bridges: Isn’t it amazing? It’s been 28 years.
How has Flynn changed?
Jeff Bridges: Well, this is kind of a challenge for me because I don’t want to give too much of the — I don’t want to deprive anybody of the enjoyment of seeing the film with any kind of twists and turns. So I’m probably not gonna answer too many of the plot — too many of your questions about that because I want to make it fun for people without telling the whole plot. But it’s certainly a different deal. We made Tron, there was no internet, man. No cell phones. No laptops or any of that stuff. So it’s completely different world that we’re showing up in here and the look of the film it certainly, you know, benefits from that.
Is your character in charge of Encom?
Jeff Bridges: Well, see I don’t want to get too much. I don’t want to say too much of the story. We got to get a good thing to tell this folks. Something that we can present that addresses a little bit of what’s this about.
Are you the focus of the film?
Jeff Bridges: Am I the focus? I’m one of the focuses. I’ve been here the entire shoot. Garrett Hedlund is the protagonist in the story.
Which world do we meet you in?
Jeff Bridges: I can’t say. Isn’t that terrible?
What’s it like coming back to this character 28 years later? Is it hard getting back into his shoes?
Jeff Bridges: It’s not really, it seems like we had a long weekend basically because Lisberger who directed the first one is involved, very involved in this one which is great. You know, having the source of the material still engaged. I think it gave us all a lot of pleasure because he’s such a wild cat but it’s also kind of grounded in that first movie that was so unique and everything.
I heard that years before it came out I heard oh, they’re gonna do a Tron 2 and I couldn’t believe. I said you’re kidding me? Nothing happened and finally this came about and I was so pleased and we did kind of a hey, this is not that strange. The first time I heard about this the Coen Brothers did this where they shoot the trailer for a movie first without ever having made the movie in hopes to entice the financers. That’s what they did with this one, to really entice Disney to say oh, yeah we own this thing, we might as well do one of these. So the trailer came off well. We played it at Comic-Con and went over well.
Were you surprised at the reaction?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, a little bit. I haven’t been to Comic-Con. I got to this one coming up but I hear it’s kind of a crazy thing.
Did you take photos on this set?
Jeff Bridges: You know I took a few but I’ve kind of lost the desire to do that for some reason. I think when I put a book out a few years ago, kind of a compilation book of these smaller books that I made as gifts for the cast and crew of these movies and once I put that book out I kind of felt like I hatched my egg. I made a few smaller books after that but I’ve noticed that my interest in documenting what it’s like making movies this would have been a great one to do it. I did a few but the light is so low that our wonderful director of photography Claudio Miranda, that I can’t get the right exposure on my camera, this wide luxe camera.
Have you seen the 3D footage of the light cycle stuff and what’s your reaction?
Jeff Bridges: It’s just great. I mean it’s, you know, better, more sophisticated, more refined. Joe, our director, was an architect. That’s where he’s coming from. It’s interesting different filmmakers where they come from and what they bring to the film and he’s an architect and so the film has a very, you know, heightened design feel to it. And he hired this wonderful production designer, Darren Gilford. And this is I think his first major movie. I think he did one smaller, independent film. And he is out of car design so it adds another thing. It’s not somebody, you know, who is an interior decorator. It’s car so the world has a really wonderful feel to it.
What was your reason for wanting to come back? Did it take persuading?
Jeff Bridges: Well, I got a pitch from Joe who by the way this is his first film. Can you imagine? I don’t know if it’s the most expensive ever made but it’s right up there. To have a first time guy. Got to give Disney credit for taking that risk. They were smart because he’s such a calm, can do guy. He’s gonna pull this off. He made this wonderful pitch on the story, where it was going and that was intriguing to me and he showed me his commercial reel. He’s out of commercials and I saw some of the technology that he had available to him, that he could use. And then it was basically the same reason that I did the first one. The first one was cutting edge technology at that time and this one certainly is for this time. And it’s a whole different way of making movies I hadn’t experienced. A little bit in Iron Man but nothing like this.
Why does Tron continue to resonate with people?
Jeff Bridges: I don’t know.
When was the last time you saw it?
Jeff Bridges: I didn’t see the whole thing in entirety. It must be I don’t know 20 years. I didn’t look at it before this. I saw little bits of scenes. Not all the way through. I remember the music of Tron was quite, you know, Wendy Carlos did a great score and that kind of — remember that opening shot of coming in. There are certain things like the light cycle ratio those were so kind of fun to watch. I don’t know if you guys have seen the cardboard Tron? Have you seen that? If you go onto my site on the stuff page I think you’ll see it. And it’s a little drawing of a guy in a Tron outfit in a cardboard box. And what he did was reconstructed every shot of the race using little cardboard figures and stuff. I mean he really got into it. That kind of thing has kept it alive and I suppose the video games have too.
You said once the thing you remember most about making the first one was this really uncomfortable dance belt, so is the same thing happening in this one?
Jeff Bridges: No dance belt, thank god. Here we have these wonderful suits that light up so they have their own kind of problems, you know, heating up and stuff like that but the suits are quite a bit different.
Are they using an LED light?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, they’ve got all kinds. I don’t know all the technical stuff but these suits are amazing. You know, I was talking about the lighting being so low that they’re using. One of the reasons for that is so you can really see the suits and the suits can even light the other actors off your suits.
Tell me about Lisberger.
Jeff Bridges: Well it is a little bit strange. I’m excited because I think he’s gonna be in it somewhere in the movie. It will be fun to play with him. Just him being involved in it was a big plus for me. I think you asked what made me gave involved again. Another chance to work with Steve and do that. And Bruce too. Bruce is in it. Boxleitner.
Are some of the younger cast coming to you asking for advice, like, “How do I throw this disc?”
Jeff Bridges: No, I think we just used Frisbees in the old one. We were more sophisticated. It was pretty funky back then.
Do you have a lot of scenes with Bruce?
Jeff Bridges: Not really, no I don’t.
What is it about your makeup that takes three hours?
Jeff Bridges: You’ll see.
Can you compare the directors, as wasn’t it Steven’s first film as well?
Jeff Bridges: You know, it’s kind of a shame in a way but the more seasoned directors a lot of times have more difficult getting a job than first time guys. New kid on the block kind of thing. I’ve had great luck with first time directors. I love working with them because it’s like you know, Orson Wells directing Citizen Kane. He doesn’t know what he can’t do. He’s just so open, you know. And Steven was like that. I remember I couldn’t believe it we showed up the first day at work and around the walls of the studio — this is the first Tron — are video games that you have to put quarters in just all over. I said god, Steve you don’t think this is gonna raise a little hell with the work, you know. I mean guys are gonna be — he said I don’t know I figured you might want to prepare before you go on the grid. I said okay. So actually both things did happen. It did hold up the work every once in a while but it was great fun. I remember I got locked into this game, Battle Zone. You familiar with that game? The tanks. God, hours and they would come and try to yank me away. I’d say I’m preparing, I’m preparing.
Do you still play?
Jeff Bridges: No, I haven’t gotten into the new stuff too much either.
Speaking of video games, I saw on the walls video games covered up. Were you able to go to that set? Did you have flashbacks?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, that was wonderful. They did a great job in recreating that.
Is it similar to the original?
Jeff Bridges: It’s as closely as they could come. I mean I think that was a practical location in the original and it’s torn down.
What’s it like shooting in Vancouver?
Jeff Bridges: Oh, wow what a great city. Just loving it. You know, tooling around Stanley Park a lot on my bike. And getting up to Grouse Mountain.
Do you do the grind?
Jeff Bridges: No, I don’t do the grind but I took my girls up there. My three daughters visited me for Father’s Day. We had a great time up there.
How different is it working with special effects this time?
Jeff Bridges: Wow, it’s so different. I mean the original you’re basically working with the duvetyne, that black stuff and white adhesive tape. Those were the design basically and so they wanted to make something they would kind of do that. Shot in 70 millimeter black and white and then all hand tinted by Korean ladies. That was the extend of the technology and there was no internet or anything like that. And now it’s just this whole other realm. And one of the reasons I wanted to do it because I felt this is where movies are starting to go now, you know, where they’re taking the actors and putting them inside a computer very much like Tron. I mean they can do whatever they want with them. They can say let’s put Bridges, but I want a little Al Pacino in there, and let’s throw in a little Joey Pants, what the heck. Let’s see what kind of guy we can come up with, you know, and that’s happening. They can do that. It’s right around the corner.
Do you get the feedback immediately? Can you see what you’re doing?
Jeff Bridges: Well this is shot in 3D. The first movie I’ve done in 3D. Kind of interesting and the video playback is in 3D so you can see what that’s like but all of the effects they’re not. They have a thing called “previz” which is a preview but in a very low res. Oh, here these are shots off of previz. These things up here. So the whole movie is basically previz’d already and that helps a lot when you’re doing things where you can’t see what’s actually gonna be in a movie that the director can actually talk you through.
What kind of physical preparation did you have to do? Is you performance in this as action oriented as the first one?
Jeff Bridges: Physical stuff? Mainly just keeping my back in shape. I have some back problems so I have to do my back exercises and stuff like that and that’s about it. Nothing too much.
It seems like there are little homages to the first one… Are there things that stick out in your mind? Are there things that they’ve recreated?
Jeff Bridges: Well they’ve done the light cycles and the disc game. People I think are fans of that so they wanted to keep that. That’s still in there but it’s taken to the next level but it’s quite remarkable what they’ve done on that.
Is there a new vehicle?
Jeff Bridges: There’s another little vehicle. There’s all kinds of new twists on it. Have you seen the demo or the trailer? So you can get an idea of how the guys flip on their — run and jump on their baton that has light cycles and all kinds of different things.
It seems like there are a lot of practical sets. What set was most impressive to you?
Jeff Bridges: This set that you guys are gonna see I think today is an amazing set. I was there the other day and it’s this big bar, The End of the Line Club. Isn’t that a computer term?
It’s from the first movie.
Jeff Bridges: Tell me about that again.
Every time the computer would talk to Sark, he would say “end of line.”
Jeff Bridges: I was hoping that we would get that Sark back, David Warner back. I had this funny scenario that didn’t fly that he was sort of my butler.
Were there any references that you wanted to get in there that were meaningful to you from the first movie?
Jeff Bridges: One of the challenges of the movie was, you know, the script and working with the whole slew of writers and tying to come up with what the story is and what I’m gonna say tomorrow. But the good news was that everybody was up to the task both with their talent but also they were good folks. Because it could it have been a real train wreck if we had some guys that didn’t get along or couldn’t come up with the goods that fast.
But they seemed to do that with these big — they did it with Iron Man too. I don’t know what that’s like that. I don’t understand why they do that. I think maybe they have a release date that they have to get and they think oh, we can get this done and then they don’t.
What special effects movies do you like?
Jeff Bridges: One that popped in my mind when you said it was another one that I did a remake of that was terrible special effects, King Kong. I thought this last one was great but ours, oh god, what a joke. You had a Rick Baker in that suit juxtaposed to this giant 80 foot ceramic thing. Oh, god but I though the ape in that was really wonderful.
How accurate is this movie trying to be in terms of computers and programming in comparison with the first film?
Jeff Bridges: It’s probably a little more sophisticated but it’s still in the fantasy realm.
Are you doing motion capture?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, there’s some of that.
Can you talk about it a little?
Jeff Bridges: The fact that it’s kind of the wave of the future and there’s, you know, things that are challenging for actors who like to dress up and play pretend. You know, I don’t get to wear any cool outfits or you don’t need a set. I mean I can shoot a scene for the movie right here with you guys. I can just put this hat on and go to town. And everything is done in post. The camera angle. That’s like a new thing that’s happening that you’re gonna have to figure out different skills for how you do it. Bizarre.