Interview: Garrett Hedlund Talks 'Tron Legacy'

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. Yesterday we posted an interview with Olivia Wilde. Today we have the interview with Garrett Hedlund, who plays Kevin Flynn's son Sam Flynn in the film.

Hedlund was busy on the set of his new film, On the Road, and couldn't make it to the junket. So we interviewed him via video chat on a macbook pro. After the jump you can read the transcript of that roundtable interview.

Garrett Hedlund: Right, great. I just want to first start it off. My apologies for not being able to be there in person. I assure you it's more awkward for me than you guys but I'm sorry if it's a hassle for you.Question: Are you shooting on the road?Garrett Hedlund: Yeah, in Montréal, yeah.Question: How is it going with Walter [Salles]?Garrett Hedlund: It's incredible. Walter to me is... I owe the world to him for having me along on this journey. It's one of the most gratifying, rare, incredible opportunities I'll have for the rest of my life. But we were down there. We were close to you. We were in Argentina and over — over and Bariloche and Chile and Patagonia.Question: What do you like about his perspective?What do  you like about his way of shooting or filming?Garrett Hedlund: You know what impresses me the most is — I'll be going through my mind–. What impresses me the most is his just neverending awareness of internal rhythm. And it's– and also his control. I think he's the most in control person I've ever met and it's inspiring as hell to say the least. Yeah.Question: Do you remember the first time you were aware of Tron.... that a movie like this exists? I think when it was released you weren't born yet?Garrett Hedlund: I grew up on a farm and there's no Tron on the farm. We watched Roseanne and Cheers. But, we only had four channels there. It was like 48, 49, 50 and 51. That was what I grew up with in the world of television and movies. I watched Tron for the first time in 2003 actually. And it was when I was filming in Malta, the island of Malta. And I just watched on the balcony off of some guy's laptop and yeah I mean I dug it. I think back then I was just really impressed with the way the creators mind works. With Steven Lisberger I was just– because when you're at that age, you're really inspired about things. I mean when I read Brave New World, I was really sort of questioning all this — all the junk about genetical engineering and this and this and [UNINTELLIGIBLE] and socialism and totalitarianism.

So I was trying to crack his mind and everything about technology and the circle of life and questions and answers and questions to be answered. And then of course you got the young, energetic, maniacal, Jeff Bridges and all I remember was I just wished I could've hung out with that guy. Still to my benefit I got to play father and son was such an incredible, wise actor, and just a brilliant person that he is today. But I wouldn't have minded hanging out with Jeff of 1982 for, for a few days.

Question: Growing up in the countryside the film industry must've seemed incredibly far away from you. How did you get to the cinema? Where was it?Garrett Hedlund: We had one– one theatre in our town. Our town was only 2500 people and we lived 30 miles out on the farm. So the movie theater because nobody went to the movies there. They're all like that's going to cost me 20 bucks in gas. I could've — I could've bought my tickets with that. Instead now when we go back it's going to cost me 40, and it's a round trip. But there was only one theater in to play the movie Friday, Saturday, Sunday and it was the same movie. And so when 10 movies come out a weekend, we would only get one of those. So that guy had to pick well. And then that next week and we get like a good film from the next week. But it was pretty silly and say like if — if I do a film and my– they don't even play my films in the town. My — my dad has to drive to Fargo to go see my film. That's a three hour drive.Question: Lots of gasoline.Garrett Hedlund: Yeah, yeah, that's a six-hour round trip.Question: You've been in a lot of high-profile films since you arrived in Hollywood. How do you think that this role fit into the kind of career trajectory that you're looking for?Garrett Hedlund: Well, in an odd way it's kind of a weird little thing. Like when I was sitting on– I was sitting in a little town called Durban North Dakota with my mother once and its only, the town population if 8. There was a grain elevator and three other houses. And we were watching A River Runs through It and my mom said to me – that one's you. And to my older brother, more responsible, that one's you. And so she pointed to me as the Brad character and it said that you. So I had a fear that she knew I was always mischievous and in trouble but then I had a fear I was going to be killed after a bad poker hand in an alley at some point in my life. And then for my first film to be working with Brad it was just incredibly surreal. And it was like nothing– nothing really unbelievable happened to me in my life until then.

Then for the next film I was driving the tractor on the farm singing Don't Take the Girl from Tim McGraw and all of a sudden he's playing my father in the next film. And then I sing on stage with him in Austin. I sing I Like It, I Love It. He wouldn't let me sing Don't Take the Girl. And then after the next film and I had a feeling to work with Wahlberg and then I was working with Wahlberg. And when I was in high school reading the glass menagerie, John Malkovich is a trail of Wingfield was so inspiring to me.

It was the first time that I think my instincts in my head were right. Reading the voice of desperation and allowed and — and him playing that way. So that I was kind of like what maybe I can be an actor. I think this voice was kind of right. And then when they called me up on Aragon and said, well, John Malkovich is playing the King now. I was like I'm in. It's like I got to keep connecting the dots. And Jeff has always been one that I've kind of always had that weird little notion.

It's weird to talk about it I guess but it was there and I've always been so inspired by his work that being able to work with him is just– it fills me with such incredible disbelief but at the same time just incredible gratification and — and thrill and excitement, curiosity to see what tomorrow is going to bring in this kind of journey.

Question: As you look back it sound like a very smooth ride because you made big movies early on. Were your first years or months here in Hollywood difficult?Garrett Hedlund: Well, for two years or so I was flying from, from the time I was 15 to 18, I was flying from Arizona to LA to audition for anything, whatever I could. So I was working at a restaurant at a buser and a runner and all my paychecks went to Southwest Airlines. Fly there. I'd get in a cab, go to the audition, get back in cab, go to the airport and go back. Wake up for school the next day. And I went on 25, 30 auditions in that process and then finally I was like — everybody in all these rooms looked the same as me and never getting a good response. So what can I do? Like a train be smarter than all of them so I — and the whole next year before moving to LA I didn't have any auditions and I'd read any book I could get my hands on. And a lot of these other things in literature were inspiring to me because I was doing photojournalism class, creative writing and world lit.

So your reading all the things like Brave New World and 1984 and so when you're dealing with socialism and totalitarianism and all that kind of stuff, well that's going. Your wheels are turning and things are– you're reading Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby and anything else by Salinger, Fitzgerald, and all these things are going. And the details start flying and finally I knew that when I went to LA, when I moved there that kind of started formulating an opinion on the kind of things that I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to do effective films and films that affected people. And I knew I could get to a dark place and I knew I could. I had a good humor and I knew that hopefully if I just focus and just if I just focus 200% on the task at hand or the characters at hand that maybe somebody would finally give me a chance.

Question: Jeff and Bruce talk about how brilliant you are especially during the action scenes. Walk us through the physical preparation.Garrett Hedlund: Well, yeah, it was kind of– see they scan you and I know Jeff– and Jeff speaks about it as well but they actually scan you into the computer. They do a scan. You're just in skivvies and they scan you from head to toe and if you're a shy person you might get a little pinchy. But, I was all right. So the suit has to fit you, completely and precisely so it looks like it's a part of you. And you have to maintain that state throughout the whole film as well because if you gain an inch or lose an inch the suit not going to fit the way it did and it's going to have people sort of barking. And–.Question: Was that challenging?Garrett Hedlund: Yeah, I mean well it's just, the physical preparation for it was hard-core and all these things, the talents that it takes time to acquire. A lot of what you're trying to acquire is the strength in certain muscles, for hard-core, you don't know how much strength it takes and sort of the shoulders and just the upper region to pole vault you over things just by your arms or swing you over things. And so that takes time to acquire, the weights and the training and the hand-to-hand combat. You got to get really smooth with, with that. And — and the motorcycle and it's all in preparation of having to do these wire stunts, the wire rigs and just being able to move around in that suit all day every day. And yeah, yeah just — it takes — it takes a lot of strength.Question: Do you consider your self to be the hero of the story?Garrett Hedlund: What was the first bit of that question?Question: You consider Sam to be the hero of the story?Garrett Hedlund: Well, it's I mean, with these kind of things you bring Joseph Campbell into it a little bit and the — the journey of the hero. And there's some qualities that are there at the beginning and there's qualities that aren't there. And then by the end you hope that all those qualities are fulfilled. I wouldn't– it's not like coming of age or anything like that. It's kind of a coming to terms and having the jugular to deliver. And — and having the heart and soul in you and the drive to deliver. And it's kind of — that's — that's more what it was. I mean yeah, and he's forced to sort of do heroic acts once in a while with those tools yeah.Question: We talked about the suit. People will see you as a sex symbol now. Is this an awkward thought to you?Garrett Hedlund: [LAUGHS]. I don't know. I guess [LAUGHS], well I'll just have to find a gruesome character to– to counterbalance that scale. Yeah, I don't know. I mean this it was nice yeah. I think — I think Olivia's going to have to worry more about that. [LAUGHS]. Have you seen her yet? Yeah, no, I won't have to worry about it. Olivia will. Let's say that.Question: Did you get to keep the Ducati?Garrett Hedlund: No, but if you see Jeff coming in there, maybe you can give him a little nudge for me because that — I didn't get a knock on my door with that waiting for me. I was wanted to but, I think it's better for me to not own a motorcycle in LA. I think I would be too selfish with my life. The roads aren't well-maintained plus sometimes I'm not as well maintained.