Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner talk TRON Legacy

Plus, the actors share some memories of shooting the 1982 original.

by | December 10, 2010 | Comments

Many things have happened to Jeff Bridges in the past 28 years: he’s been nominated for three Oscars and won one for Best Actor (in last year’s Crazy Heart), starred in one of the decade’s biggest films (Iron Man), played a corpse (in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland), and created a one-man character cult for his indelible performance as “The Dude” in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (he reunites with the filmmakers this month for their version of True Grit). But for now, the actor finds himself in the somewhat unusual position of promoting a sequel to a film he made in 1982; a film that critics at the time might not have guessed would spawn a franchise. In TRON Legacy, Bridges returns as information architect Kevin Flynn, the hot-shot game designer who created “the Grid” in the original TRON. We sat down with Bridges to talk about the films, and caught up with co-star Bruce Boxleitner, who played “TRON” in the first movie and reprises his character for the sequel.

RT: It’s almost 30 years now since the first film. How do you go back and connect with Kevin Flynn after all this time?

Jeff Bridges: Well, I mean the script has a lot to do with it. That’s kind of your main touchstone — and the fact that they had Steve Lisberger, the guy who wrote and directed the original, on board. They really looked to him to keep us on track, as far as being consistent with the characters and so forth. Just having him on board, I think, that helped me quite a bit with the character. And a lot of that kind of stuff you don’t have to think about too much, you know, ’cause I was that guy — he’s somewhere in there. It’s like when my brother and I played brothers in The Fabulous Baker Boys: if it was another actor and not Beau, you’d spend time trying to figure out, “How do we appear like we’re brothers?” But Beau and I didn’t think about that because we are brothers.

So you and Flynn are one and the same?

Yeah, I think there are elements of myself that kicked in pretty quick.

Was it strange to see a younger version of yourself created by the animators?

Well yeah, you know it kind of reminded me of… well, let’s say it’s not that unusual for me to see myself as a younger guy [on screen] anyway, so it wasn’t as surprising as someone might think. But it was interesting to see how they’re still honing that look. What did you think? Did it pass?

Well it wasn’t exactly you, because I’ve seen plenty of your movies from that era — but then you know that he’s a creation of the program.

So it’s forgiving, yeah.

Right. It was interesting that the digital director kept insisting they go for an Against All Odds Jeff.

Yeah, they asked me for all kinds of photographs and everything. I think the one they picked, that was kind of a good choice — about the right age.

So you were happy with that look, the hair and everything? Your hair was a bit moppier in TRON.

Well in TRON, I remember that they bleached and permed my hair, and it was terrible because I would go back and forth and do real world scenes and then we’d go into, you know, the Grid stuff, and that hat… have you ever had your hair permed or bleached?

It stings.

It kind of stings, yeah, and it gets hot — there’s heat, and so I had that helmet on, and all of my hair started to fall out; it was pretty crazy.

Wow, that explains it. Wearing the new motion capture helmets, how did they compare to shooting the original TRON? Was there more blue screen back then?

No, you know what it was in the original: the set was all black duvetyne, with white adhesive tape and vector lines, shot in 70mm black-and-white and then hand-tinted by a bunch of Korean women. In this one, one of the things that I thought was really effective was the way Joe [Kosinski, director] kind of blended the real sets with the CGI and the motion capture and all of that — it was a combination of all those things; it was really well done. It’s interesting to see how different filmmakers use the same tools, and how different the look is on each one, depending on where they’re coming from. Joe being an architect, he brought a lot of that sensibility to it.

When you were making the original film, did you have any sense that you were involved in something that may have been ahead of its time?

Oh yeah. Very much so. But it’s funny, I remember making it, and the minute it was out, probably the next day or two, you’d see that same technology on TV commercials — it moved so fast. Like, we’re using stuff the next generation after Avatar, and I wonder how long it’ll take for this to be passé? But I remember the first TRON looked like old stuff pretty quick.

But it’s still something very unique.

It’s unique, yeah, because it moved so fast, it was kind of like one of a kind — you really can’t see any other movies that were like that. I love the Wendy Carlos music in it, too; wasn’t that a beautiful score?

It’s pretty great. The thing about that film is that it’s easy to remember the visuals and forget your performance, which is actually quite human — and humorous. Were you happy with how the sequel turned out in that sense?

I think so. I haven’t seen how it’s all paced together but from what I’ve seen it’s working well, yeah.

Garrett [Hedlund] seems to have some of what your character was in the original.

Yeah, that was written in to the script; we wanted to have that in there.

So, who’s the camper villain: David Warner or Michael Sheen?

[laughs] Who’s the what? Oh, the camper villain. Well they’re both pretty out there. I wanted David Warner to be in this one as my — as Clu’s — butler. [laughs] He’s such a wonderful actor.


Next, we chat with the original TRON, Bruce Boxleitner, about Legacy and working on the ’82 film.

RT: It must be odd to be doing press for a sequel to a film that most would have thought wouldn’t have one.

Bruce Boxleitner: I know. I’ll be interested to see how this one does. I thought that [reviewers] at the time [of the first TRON] — I don’t think a lot of them got it, because they were written by older guys, you know. The first movie, in retrospect, the kids that were putting those quarters into those game machines — they got it. The older generation didn’t quite get it, because it wasn’t theirs. You guys have all grown up in this technology. It’s part of your language. It wasn’t then. It was something new, and it was an arcade game, therefore it said “childish”, you know, and the first film had somewhat been dismissed.

I’d always assumed it was a classic when I was kid — I had no idea the movie bombed.

It wasn’t a screaming bomb but I think they had this expectation, the industry did. But you guys got it. This new movie is unique, in a way, because it’s made by fans — ask Joe Kosinski, ask [producer] Sean Bailey, what was one of their favorite movies when they were boys, and TRON was it. They got to grow up and make the movie again, with the tools that they have now. Steve Lisberger and his wife Bonnie, these were two kids that came out to Hollywood from Boston with this little idea: they wrote this script about this technology and it’s called “Neutron” or something like that, and now, so many years later, to see this… I’m so happy for them, you know, because it was their brainchild.

What did you think when you were presented with the original screenplay for TRON?

Well the original screenplay I didn’t quite understand, because of the language of “Tron” or “rom” or “Kram”, and all these terms, but I did see there was this kind of chase story; it wasn’t outer space but it was kind of Star Wars-y and it was a world we didn’t know, you know. And then when I finally did get to Hollywood I was out on location in Tucson, Arizona doing a Western, and I was sitting there on a horse reading the script because I needed to get back to the hotel that night, in Tucson, to call my agents to say “yes” or “no”. Today, if someone asked me that, I’d get on an airplane right now. But then, I almost like a young fool went, “I just don’t understand it — let’s pass.”

In fairness, I guess you were sitting on a horse.

I’m doing a Western! I’m dressed as young Wyatt Earp, with a big old mustache on, reading about bits and bytes and TRON and these discs. [laughs] And then I said, “Okay, that might be interesting.” But it wasn’t until I got to Hollywood and I met with Steven at the studio and he showed me some footage that they had — and by this time it was also known that Jeff Bridges was doing it, and I was really enjoying some of the films that he was doing and thought, “I would love to work with him.” But when I saw this cut footage — it was just kind of this generic guy running and jumping and throwing — in this beautiful colored world, I said “Yeah, I’ve got to do that.” Plus, it was Disney.

And they were kind of taking a chance at that point.

They were taking a big chance. You always hear how they were sort of conservative, kind of a dowdy studio, but I think this plays against that. I thought it was very daring of them to take this step with computer animation. We were very much a wild bunch. I remember Steven saying to me on Legacy, “Everyone was so well behaved on this one — you and Jeff used to be a couple of wild crazies who were always getting in some kind of mischief on the lot.”

Oh, what kind?

We were running around in those outfits going to lunch, and these women were shocked, you know, because we had our bare asses hanging out there. We got a memo from the studio that we had to wear bath robes if we went off side the stage. Those outfits were elaborate to get out of, so it was easier for us to just run over to the commissary — and there we were, basically in nothing. [laughs]


TRON Legacy is in theaters December 17.

Tag Cloud

Horror comiccon MTV DC Comics Extras OWN crime thriller justice league independent Fox News animated Brie Larson satire BAFTA dark ESPN anime PBS Rocky NBC Hulu critics Shudder ABC Marathons best Rom-Com spider-man Winners tv talk HBO National Geographic Film rotten cops true crime Marvel Television dogs slashers 2016 Sundance Now jamie lee curtis Lionsgate Mary Poppins Returns docudrama San Diego Comic-Con crossover VH1 NYCC Countdown Crackle award winner foreign Hallmark YA superhero cancelled television PaleyFest toy story Superheroe TLC The Walking Dead universal monsters kids USA Marvel Studios BBC One unscripted travel streaming psycho Pet Sematary movie finale Pride Month Trivia DirecTV Comics on TV The Witch renewed TV shows 007 reviews Funimation strong female leads cancelled TV shows Tumblr Family green book American Society of Cinematographers teaser Epix sequels Comedy Central TCA 2017 4/20 directors Universal Film Festival video on demand Television Critics Association Classic Film binge harry potter game show Biopics mutant vampires Showtime YouTube Red Character Guide TIFF spanish language A24 Endgame Creative Arts Emmys die hard Disney streaming service romance E! Elton John Sci-Fi RT21 Netflix Christmas movies Nominations New York Comic Con spy thriller cooking Lucasfilm Sundance TV Paramount Network WarnerMedia chucky parents free movies Infographic Photos police drama GoT Star Trek FX Emmy Nominations versus ratings screenings FOX Mary poppins nature worst BBC thriller Certified Fresh Disney+ Disney Plus breaking bad 72 Emmy Awards Star Wars video cartoon Mystery sitcom child's play BET Awards ABC Family war 2017 Musicals Trailer Drama screen actors guild indie Holidays Food Network Freeform richard e. Grant LGBT PlayStation 20th Century Fox DC streaming service History casting Mary Tyler Moore 2020 doctor who supernatural Spectrum Originals Mudbound adaptation MCU Hallmark Christmas movies VICE Columbia Pictures Stephen King Emmys OneApp Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Amazon Prime Netflix Ellie Kemper franchise Toys HBO Go 45 quibi Fantasy ghosts Pixar Nat Geo classics composers Vudu Sundance Paramount cats TV historical drama crime stop motion Year in Review aliens 21st Century Fox Western Watching Series Dark Horse Comics blockbuster sag awards indiana jones dramedy BET Cosplay Action Bravo Turner Classic Movies Apple TV Plus Lifetime Animation boxoffice Cartoon Network canceled TCA Awards scary movies criterion political drama SDCC GIFs witnail First Reviews 2019 Captain marvel all-time Sony Pictures Awards Tour BBC America asian-american Britbox President Adult Swim Amazon Prime Video documentaries films Comedy series Martial Arts cars laika Quiz Mindy Kaling canceled TV shows Ovation Anna Paquin 2018 crime drama cancelled CW Seed Women's History Month hispanic WGN Interview science fiction Heroines Academy Awards Rocketman news SXSW romantic comedy Video Games Christmas name the review cinemax Super Bowl comics Lifetime Christmas movies Oscars Discovery Channel festivals See It Skip It Nickelodeon Polls and Games Logo Black Mirror LGBTQ Comic Book revenge TCA Winter 2020 what to watch APB anthology Red Carpet Grammys disaster zero dark thirty sports IFC Films Esquire golden globes a nightmare on elm street Box Office Cannes theme song serial killer Shondaland CBS All Access The Arrangement Country Chernobyl Starz mission: impossible batman obituary diversity facebook reboot Black History Month miniseries Kids & Family mockumentary hist HBO Max Opinion Musical fast and furious Reality Competition Amazon game of thrones 24 frames Turner USA Network technology Sneak Peek DC Universe cancelled TV series documentary comic E3 Apple TV+ politics TBS Set visit CMT Election IFC cults DGA A&E biography Warner Bros. hollywood transformers Trophy Talk Schedule Tubi emmy awards FXX YouTube Premium television Song of Ice and Fire space TCA sequel Pop TV Awards The Purge Valentine's Day 71st Emmy Awards talk show Baby Yoda dragons discovery Marvel Apple Arrowverse twilight elevated horror Avengers FX on Hulu Walt Disney Pictures dc First Look Podcast TruTV Hear Us Out werewolf medical drama period drama MSNBC blaxploitation TCM robots TNT based on movie movies Calendar south america Peacock Tomatazos Binge Guide GLAAD YouTube stoner CBS Reality Rock Travel Channel Winter TV rotten movies we love Disney natural history nbcuniversal Pirates Disney Channel VOD Writers Guild of America social media Television Academy Acorn TV Pop TV renewals dceu Masterpiece stand-up comedy spain christmas movies book Superheroes Teen CNN comedies Amazon Studios Thanksgiving X-Men psychological thriller Syfy spinoff halloween El Rey Disney Plus Spike RT History Ghostbusters Crunchyroll zombie Summer zombies Tarantino The CW 2015 children's TV latino Music Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Best and Worst AMC Premiere Dates Fall TV joker TV Land ITV Spring TV SundanceTV Holiday singing competition adventure concert