Tron Legacy Set Interview: Garrett Hedlund

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 couple 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. On Tuesday, we posted our interview with Jeff Bridges, who reprises his role as Kevin Flynn in the Tron sequel. On Wednesday, we posted an interview with Steven Lisberger, the writer/director/creator of the original Tron, who is on board for Tron Legacy as a producer, writer, and actor.

Today we bring you an interview with Garrett Hedlund, the star of Tron Legacy, who plays Kevin Flynn's son Sean, who goes into the world of Tron in search of his long lost father.

Question:  Can you talk about the character that you're playing here?  You're Flynn's son and we don't really know that much more about it.

Garrett Hedlund: Well it's pretty much, you know, film sort of takes place 20 years, after Flynn has sort of mysteriously disappeared.  And starts off kind of with me.  Sort of see this kid, I mean he's the biggest shareholder in the company, you know, really at this point.  And he grew up without his father.  Lived with the grandparents, and Alan Bradley kind of always looked after him.  You know, got him out of trouble, things like that.  And then, Allen pays a visit and sort of ushers me to kind of go to Flynn's...go to the office and check things out.  And I go there.  Me as Sam as a character is kind of a kid with a lot but sort of does a little with it, you know?  Very reclusive and sort of, you know, kind of in his own, introverted and things like that I guess.  And sort of does all these kind of extreme things just because he can.  You know, he's very interested in base jumping and motorcycles and the container home by the water with the wonderful view.  And he grew up without his father and is now kind of going to search or find his father.  And once he gets into this world it's, he was right all this time.  And then there's the light bikes and the discs and the game grid and all this sort of stuff comes to play.

Tron LegacyYou get to do a lot of physical stuff too in the film?

Hedlund: Yeah, initially when we started this, I started the first week in January.  Started with motorcycle training and getting my license and after the hour and a half of motorcycle training, I'd drive over to 8711 where the stunt coordinator David Leach, that's his compound.  And so we'd do the fight training there; we'd do, you know, sort of exercises and jumps.  And do that for an hour and a half and a lot of hand-to-hand combat.  And then trained with the trainer Logan Hood who, you know, sort of trained all the 300 guys for Jeff Silver.  And trained with him for an hour, intensive training so.  The two months of that felt like I'd already filmed the film.  And now we come on to this and we got to continue and keep it up.  But everything is great sort of abilities to acquire.

Did you get to, I know the light cycles are CG but are you actually riding a motorcycle at some point in this?

Hedlund: Motorcycle yeah.  The beginning sequence in the film is kind of a pseudo chase and also, yeah a big old sort of chase sequence with the motorcycle there.  And then we get onto the light bikes and I think that we'll be doing in September back in L.A. or something, motion capture or something.

Tron Legacy Behind the ScenesDid you do any father-son bonding with Jeff Bridges?

Hedlund: Yeah, somewhat.  I mean, you know, very long days here and a lot of the times it can be distracting.  I mean, usually you had time between camera setups but most of us are always being fiddled with getting lights glued back on or battery packs changed and or this and that and, you know, it's always kind of something and-

Was that part of rehearsals though?  To get a good vibe going?

Hedlund: Within the, yeah with I've always been such a fan of him and his kind of self character and his charisma and everything.  And I knew I'd really get along with him and we did.  It's kind of...he's got a very big portion of him that's still just a kid.  So it's very easy for us.  I mean we just kind of play games.  I was saying yesterday, you know, he had the game, Pigs, the old fashioned one, where it's the snout or the leading jowl or how they land.  And, you know, so it's always funny going back and forth like that, like woo man yeah!  So but yeah I mean such long hours the weekends you're really just trying to restore, regain, what you've lost over the week.  So most of us sort of flee our own ways and cocoon and then we come back to set, hopefully refreshed.

Did you pick up any of his, maybe his mannerisms at all since you're his spawn?

Hedlund: I think...naturally for father and son and stuff like that if he was doing something I would, you know, almost kind of mirror it a little bit.  Gestures and leaning up against something kind of had that, cause I know I have that with my dad.  I'd come back in from the field, he'd be like did you finish cultivating?  I'd be like well I went up and down, I still got to go kitty-corner and then I'd lean and then, you know, so it's like you lean just like your father.  So it was those little things, you know?  Or hands and what you're doing with your gestures, how you annunciate things and so it's nice, yeah.

Tron Legacy Billboard #3 TeaseI don't know the end of the movie but your character is sort of the protagonist in the same way that Jeff's character was in the first Tron.

Hedlund: Yeah I mean-

So, did you guys compare notes?

Hedlund: You know, it's funny chatting to him about it.  I mean I won't say how he referred to what he felt of his performance within that but.  Definitely, you know, trying to still have a sense of life and freedom and all of this kind of energy.  And also the wits and the smarts and always trying to sort of achieve something or always putting something together.  And figuring things out, you know?  That's what a lot of this is, is I'm always just trying to figure something out.  And, you know, that's, there's a lot of tricks that kind of go on throughout this film and a lot of revealing, you know, so it's.

Is it difficult as an actor, I mean, my assumption is that the way it sounds at least in how it's been described is that your character sort of stumbles into this world that you've never really experience before.  Is it difficult as an actor shooting a movie out of sequence and to sort of track that sense of sort of wonder and amazement at everything you're seeing, your character is seeing presumably for the first time?

Hedlund: Mmm hmm, yeah, definitely.  Just kind of within that, you know, very sort of once you get into the world and once me and Flynn come to being together it's sort of very impressed with everything that this man has kind of accomplished.  And at the same time, it's all blue screen, you know, at this point.  So yeah, you got to look out.  I mean, um, I'm constantly ask what you're seeing here, how bright is that, you know, how loud is that, how many of them are there?  And...

And how do you get the answer?  Do you have pre-viz that you look at or...

Hedlund: Yeah they do have their, they do have a rough assembly of pre-viz of what they're going to sort of, it's going to kind of track to look like.  Other than that, then you also don't want to do the same, you know, steal from your pre-viz character what he's how he stepped there.  You know, or I like how, or that was a really good reaction just seeing that [LAUGHTER].  You know, the pre-viz doesn't even look like me, it looks like some sort of six foot four Italian guy. So, it's like is that what they really wanted?

Tron LegacyDo you feel some kind of, you know, you are the protagonist and this kind of restarts a continuation of what is currently going to be a major franchise, a budding franchise for Disney.  Day to day does that feel like a big load on your shoulders? How does that manifest?

Hedlund: Not really, I mean, I've always kind of felt that, you know, if you think about things that way it can only take away from you.  I mean I sort of approached this film like, you know, the last film I did was a smaller budget film.  You had the ability to be yourself; there wasn't so much pressure on you.  It's only what you put out there is, you know, sometimes you're not asked for certain things.  And so it's always trying to, I mean, within that yeah, I just try and alleviate all of the possibilities of stress whatsoever from my mind.  Because I don't feel an extreme amount of pressure in this position.  Maybe that's good or maybe somebody wouldn't feel as much but, you know, each day is such a new sort of thing.  I mean a new, a new part of the story where, you know, from the solar sailor, you know, on the game grids or every day is so different to where you're mostly just trying to focus on that day in particular.  What you're going to do, how you're going to make it believable.  And not about, you know, the grand sort of spectrum of things to what could be or, you know, all that.  It's more of a fear than, you know, anything else, you know?  I have an extreme amount of curiosity to see what this is all going to look like because for now when you look at playbacks in the monitor it's just, you know, your mug and a blue screen.  You can become critical, you're like oh I flinched there, or I blinked there.  Man I shouldn't blink so much and then it's like [LAUGH] but there's going to be all this glorious stuff back there that's going to be taking a lot of focus off yourself as well.  So I can.

I don't know how much of a fan you were of the original film but have you had that moment where you say to yourself oh my god I'm in Tron?

Hedlund: Yeah from the, I mean, when we were doing the disc stuff for me because we haven't really tackled the the light bike stuff yet or anything but, you know, a couple weeks ago we had to do the disc game platform.  And I remember watching the first one and, you know, when I must have watched, I probably watched it in 2003.  So when you're watching that you just say you're kind of giggling to yourself like man there's a story around, you know, being within a sort of computer.  And all this and they're wearing hockey helmets, and throwing, you know, a Frisbee is the weapon.  Or like, you know, and then it actually was the Frisbee and so now, you know, how many years, you know, after that point when I just watched it out of pure amusement, you know?  Now you're throwing, I can't even say it.  But no, you're throwing the discs and doing the spin and, you know, saying your lines and it's all very surreal within that, yeah.

Tron LegacyHow many discs can you hit?

Hedlund: I hit them in the head.  Take 37 apples.

40 feet away, it was a great shot.

Hedlund: It was funny because these guys are sitting at a monitor which, I mean, you know, where their video village was like that.  It's so hard, if you would've seen the target that I had to throw at it was basi- it was literally the size of a barn.  And it stuck to my hand and flings off this way and sort of does a curve back this way and they're all watching the monitors with the glasses on them.  And like oh I wonder where that one's going to go.  But I'm like Claudio!  And like they all, you know, Claudio ducks out of the way, the DP.  And he ducks down and because I got this visor on it's like wearing prescription glasses when you don't have a prescription.  You know, so I can't see so by the time he ducked down I thought I had killed him. [LAUGHTER] And then like Claudio, are you alright?  And then all I see is, you know, Claudio is still ducking and I see Justin come up like this. [LAUGHTER]

That's real 3D.

Hedlund: Yeah, yeah.

With regard to the costumes, was, what was your reaction when you saw kind of what you were going to be in and then like how do you get comfortable in it?

Hedlund: It was actually interesting.  Back in Los Angeles we went to a structure in Burbank called the MPCC.  And trying the suit on, I mean, you had to go through every stage of it.  You know, first maybe it just started with a rough form of the pants, you know.  None of these gravings were even in there, no lights, no cords whatsoever, just the pants.  You know, those are naturally uncomfortable.  I mean just wearing, you know, this kind of under armor form, cause we got it under here too, that's always uncomfortable.  You can feel every single hair on your body movement, you know?  And then you try the top on and then, you know, just kept going in stages.  Then you got to come back and try it on when they got the cords going through.  Then you got to come back and try it on when they got lights to put on it.  Then you got to come back when they got boots ready.  And then you got to come back when they got a helmet they want to try on you.  And then you got to come back when they want to light you up.  And it was all these, I must have went back 29 times.  Even once I got out here, we were filming and all my weekends went to flying back because we had a month shooting real world stuff.  And so I've constantly have to take my weekends and fly back and go try the suit on and fly back, get back filming.  You know, so but with the suit it was always funny because for the two hours you're in it while trying it on you're always like, jokishly, we got to do this for how long?  You know, and then the next one you're like, two months?  And then, you know, and so it's and then once you have to put it on for the first day it's just, it seems like the longest day in the world.  And, you know, your body is doing different things.  They got foot straps down here to keep the pants low enough so they don't raise up.  You got this on and you got the boots and the top holds this one up but this has to hold the top down.  And so when I raise my right arm I'm feeling a tug on my left foot. [LAUGHTER] And it's all these different things and your shoulders go out, I mean.  I've had a lot of chiropractic readjustments.  But to the point where I had, you know, both shoulders out and three ribs out, like both hips.  Like it's all just from the, you know, when you can't sit down and the lower back is going.

That's why they pay you the big bucks.

Hedlund: Yeah right. [LAUGHTER]

We were looking at the helmets, I mean-I can't imagine having that helmet on for all day.

Hedlund: Well that one it's nice cause you can get that one off.  These, you know, some of the other cast members have little more technical helmets.  In cave, they have to have a cooling system within there, a fan blowing around.  Even one of our other cast members has a screen inside cause he can't see out of anything in his helmet so there's a camera here.  And then the night's dark here, his vision is dark here.  But after two months in the suit, it's miraculous how it's just another day at work, you know?  Cause the first week it was just like, is it too late to try and resign?

Tron LegacyDid you do any method acting?

Hedlund: Within this?  I mean, what-

Do you try to get far away from it after hours as you can?

Hedlund: Within this it's trickier than I ever have to, you know, cause on certain films like the last one I did, I played the leader of a whole sort of, you know, kind of gang of thugs in any town anywhere.  And, you know, it's a very sort of dark story, you know.  And my father's John Goodman and I shoot him in the head, and, you know.  Kevin Bacon and Kelly Preston, and I kill them and the kid.  Both kids, I kill both kids, so, you know-

I see. So this is the same kind of role?

Hedlund: With that, you know, the trailer time is put to a sort of unique kind of use.  Cause what's not written on the page you're constantly striving to sort of, you know, write some down, all these kind of ideas, options, alternates.  And, you know, and you're in the trailer for hours so there's this certain annoyance that can just really rise.  There's, you can go very serious with it, I mean.  In this it's hard because you're want to be really serious with what you're doing and always in track of where you want to go with this, but there's also, it's a strange process that in between every take, time that you would be thinking about other routes and other routes people are always constantly around you doing this and doing that.  Fanning the hov or replacing a light, oh we got 10 minutes before the next one?  Let's replace the light, I'm like no, no let me go and think a little bit.  It's, you know, it gets hard that way.  Very distracting but, you know, somehow we are able to make it work at the end of the day, you know?