INTERVIEW WITH GARRETT HEDLUND
From Walt Disney Pictures comes "TRON: Legacy," a high-tech adventure set in a digital world that is unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, "
Presented in Disney Digital 3D Real D 3D and IMAX 3D and scored by Grammy Award-winning electronic music duo Daft Punk, "TRON: Legacy" features cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology, effects and set design that bring to life an epic adventure coursing across a digital grid that is as fascinating and wondrous as it is beyond imagination.
At the epicenter of the adventure is a father-son story that resonates as much on the Grid as it does in the real world: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father, Kevin Flynn (Oscar and Golden Globe winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world's leading tech visionary.
When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn's Arcade--a signal that could only come from his father--he finds himself pulled into a digital grid where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a visually stunning digital landscape created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced, with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
First released in 1982, the original "TRON" was Walt Disney Studios' groundbreaking high-tech film from visionary writer/director Steven Lisberger, who went on to become a producer on "TRON: Legacy." "TRON" pioneered the use of computer graphics, virtual sets and backlit effects. Its unique blend of 70mm live action, CG, and hand-drawn animation was a major motion-picture studio first. As a result, "TRON" became a cult classic that has remained firmly in the currents of popular culture for more than 25 years and is now cherished as a defining moment for effects movies.
Today's exciting technological advances led to some exhilarating possibilities in visualizing a "TRON" stand-alone follow-up film that would play to present-day audiences. With Generation XBOX hooked into the Internet, phones that are tiny computers and everyone playing games wirelessly, the world we live in was only dreamt of when "TRON" was made.
Steven Lisberger was instrumental in trying to get "TRON: Legacy" off the ground. "We started discussions at Disney about ten years ago...I've seen numerous Disney executives go from black hair to grey in those years, and the film itself has changed over the years and gone through many different phases. When it emerged more recently, I think there was a sense that the right group of people somehow had now all arrived at the right spots. We explored some roads before this, but after a while we realized they really didn't resonate with the times. But this storyline did."
Producer Sean Bailey, who was then president of Idealogy, Inc., takes up the story, revealing that he and his team were brought on board to speed up development around four years ago. "Disney had played around with a couple of drafts written in the '90s and couldn't find something they were satisfied with, so they brought us on to see what we could do. We were honestly just developing, coming up with ideas and meeting with writers."
As the movie was bubbling along in early development, a lucky break saw co-producer Justin Springer discovering director Joseph Kosinski's test reel almost by accident. Despite Kosinski's lack of movie experience, his talent was clearly proven in his unique visionary approach as a commercial director on campaigns such as "Halo," "Gears of War" and Nike.
Armed with a degree in architecture from Columbia University, Kosinski has a flair for design and aesthetics as well as a comfort level with digital technology that comes through in his work. "The whole way we make movies is changing, and I'm convinced Joe [Kosinski] is one of the leaders of that revolution," says Bailey.
Sean Bailey recalls the early days with first-time director Joseph Kosinski. "I met Joe and was immediately struck by his vision, his story sense and his confidence. We then went into the studio and talked about how we wanted to advance the process. The confidence Joe inspired is what got us to that first VFX test."
Kosinski, Bailey and the rest of the team convinced the Disney executives to authorize a proof-of-concept test, which was a short film showing what today's technology could do with the iconic elements of the "TRON" digital world, such as Lightcycles and disc battles. The result was an amazing piece of footage that wowed the crowd at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con and the filmmakers got approval to start work on the film itself.
The electronically produced music also was re-imagined, thanks to Daft Punk, the visionary pioneers of the art form. From their first single release in 1993, the combined talents of DJs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter were hailed as a new breed of house innovators. Daft Punk's sound is a brazen, dance floor-oriented blend of progressive house, funk, electro and techno. Following their brilliant debut in 1997 (Homework), the duo went on to release two more studio albums (Discovery--2001, Human after All--2005) and two live albums (Alive 1997, Alive 2007).
When Joseph Kosinski came on board to helm "TRON: Legacy," he heard that Daft Punk, whose art form and style were influenced by the original "TRON," were interested in the project. A pancake breakfast in Hollywood soon followed, where the three talked about Kosinski's vision for the film.
The three artists found themselves on the same creative page and began working on the score very early on in the filmmaking process. The score took shape over the course of three years and is a unique combination of orchestra, electronic and granular sounds.
The duo worked closely with the filmmakers not only on the score, but on the sound design too, especially the moments where sound design and room tones bleed into cues. It was a very sophisticated musical approach--a layering blend that occasionally blurs the line between music and sound design in a very interesting way. "We've got over 100 minutes of music in this movie. And it's so tied to the visuals because we had it so early, I just can't imagine this film without it," says Kosinski.
All the newest technology gives "TRON: Legacy" its cutting-edge look and feel, since the filmmakers had far fewer limitations for what computers can achieve. But even with the obvious visual advantages, the filmmakers have striven to keep the spirit of Lisberger's dream intact.
To pull that off, the movie gathers together some of the most sophisticated filmmaking technology available today, including even more advanced cameras than those used on "Avatar," a blend of computer graphics and practical sets.
With that technology put in the hands of talented, creative designers and visionary filmmakers, above and below the line, "TRON: Legacy" showcases cutting-edge design and astounding visual effects enhanced by the latest stereoscopic (3D) technology. The film blends live action and photorealistic computer animation in ways only dreamed of in the past. As producer Jeffrey Silver says, "It seemed obvious that 'TRON,' being the groundbreaking film that it was in the '80s, had to be followed with a film equally as groundbreaking in the 21st century. If we were going to do 'TRON: Legacy' right, we would have to push the envelope. And we did."
THE EVOLUTION OF THE STORY
In 1982, when Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) made it out of the Grid alive and back in control of Encom, the company he founded with his longtime friend and associate, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), everyone assumed Kevin would be content with developing and producing popular games.
On the surface of things, that appeared so: Kevin married, had a son, Sam, and settled into fatherhood while he and Alan grew Encom into a video game powerhouse. But unbeknownst to outsiders, Kevin was still experimenting with teleportation, making frequent visits back to the Grid from the privacy of his secret lab hidden beneath Flynn's Arcade. Then one day Kevin simply vanished, and Sam was left alone with no father and no answers.
And twenty years later, "TRON: Legacy" begins.
When a pager signal draws the now-adult Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to Flynn's Arcade and he is transported to the Grid where his father has been trapped for 20 years, he begins a journey that will change his life--and the life of his long-absent father.
"It was very important to us, amidst all this visual spectacle, to focus on a father/son story; this is about a boy who's lost his dad, who's now grown up and, as a man, he has scarring from that. Then, he learns that his father's disappearance may not have been all that he thought, and there's a chance for them to rebuild their relationship," says producer Sean Bailey. "Our goal is to make sure we're serving our story the best way we can. And the visuals, the effects, the music, the performances and the style all support that," he adds.
The estrangement and rediscovery between father and son is the story's emotional entry point. "You're coming into this spectacular domain and you need someone to experience it through. That's how we approached developing Sam's character. You're discovering the Grid through Sam's eyes, and you'll also discover Flynn through Sam," says Adam Horowitz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Edward Kitsis (story by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal, based on characters by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird).
Steven Lisberger feels that it is important to have a story that is as significant as all the technical aspects that go into the film. "I care about story and characters as much as I do the visuals. The story aspect of Flynn still being alive and the father-son story is really compelling in 'TRON: Legacy.' It will resonate with the fan base, but if someone hasn't seen the first film, it doesn't matter--the story will work for him or her too," he says.
Jeff Bridges, who reprises his role of Kevin Flynn from the original "TRON," comments, "One of the underlying elements of the story is technology. It's so exciting to realize all the things that you can do. But what's happening with technology is that it is developing so fast that we haven't really developed any ethics to go along with it, or knowledge of what some of the ramifications of this technology will be. So that's also a theme that 'TRON: Legacy' deals with."
THE MAKING OF TRON LEGACY
Joseph Kosinski is very clear in defining his approach to the making of "TRON: Legacy": "My goal was to really make it feel real. I wanted it to feel like we took motion picture cameras into the world of TRON and shot it. So I wanted to build as many sets as possible. I wanted the materials to be real materials: glass, concrete, steel, so it had this kind of visceral quality to it."
To achieve the exciting, iconic look for "TRON: Legacy," Kosinski gathered around him artists from diverse disciplines. "We pulled people from the world of architecture, from automotive design, people who have never worked in movies before. We flew people in from all over the world," says Kosinski.
Kosinski and his team knew they would be pushing the boundaries of what current effects technology can achieve to make "Legacy" in the spirit of "TRON." The result is a complicated blend of techniques, from blue screen to 3D cameras, that Kosinski and his team have melded together for the film. Kosinski explains, "I'm going more on instinct rather than experience, but a lot of the technology we're using is stuff I've used bits and pieces of in commercials. However, this is the first time we're using it simultaneously at this scale."
According to Bailey, though, the driving force is still the plot. "We took every technology at its most cutting edge at the moment in time, but I always think it's not just technology for technology's sake, but as we do some twists in the movie, it enables us to write in a whole new way. I think we will be the first movie that has an actor squaring off against himself in two very different generations. I hope we will surprise the audience not just in an, 'oh that's a cool, glorious effect' way, but also in an, 'oh I never saw that coming' way."
In addition to the technological complexities of "TRON: Legacy," it is also produced in 3D. As Bailey comments, "3D is definitely a challenge technically; the cameras are bigger and heavier and there are a lot of extra variables that you have to take into account, so it definitely slows the process down. But I think it's a great reason to go to the movies because it's an experience that you just can't recreate on an iPhone or your laptop or at home."
"It was important for me that this be a true 3D movie," says Kosinski. "There are a lot of movies out there right now that are being converted from 2D after the fact. But with the environments we've created--the fact that we're trying to get atmosphere and these long, distant vistas--we just can't do it any other way than shoot it with real 3D cameras."
Kosinski continues, "It is a lot more work to shoot in 3D; the VFX are being finished in 3D, which is also a challenge. Having to create separate imagery for both eyes makes it that much more work."
For shooting "TRON: Legacy" in 3D, the filmmakers employed the newest generation of camera, built specifically for them, and used a 3D technique that is a combination of technologies--completely digital motion-capture of a character and the live-action camera system.
READ MORE ABOUT THE CAST AND THE CHARACTERS
THE LOOK OF TRON The filmmakers and designers of "TRON: Legacy" let their creativity soar to develop an exciting aesthetic for the film that would immerse audiences in a stunning visual landscape never before seen--or imagined. With director Joseph Kosinski at the helm to steer the film's look and Darren Gilford tapped as production designer, it was clear to both of them that keeping the first film's spirit alive was key. "The first film established a look that was so iconic," Gilford explains, "and a lot of that was because of the limitations of the computer, what they really could do back in the '80s. It was very geometric, very simplistic. With the computer technology we have now, it's limitless what we can do. But we made a conscious decision that we would not go totally organic. We'd soften shapes and forms where we could, but we would definitely try and maintain those basic 'TRON' geometric shapes." Read more
GRID LIFESTYLE The most important unifying element in the Grid is light. "In our film light links everything together. There are ribbons of light that form beneath the street then crawl up sidewalks and buildings, continuing for miles up into the city," comments production designer Gilford. "Streetlights arise out of and wrap over the street to give the illusion they're cradling the street." Read more
VEHICLES AND GADGETS Lightcycles are an important and vital part of the TRON mythology. One of the designers who worked on the sleek, reconfigured Lightcycles in "TRON: Legacy" is Daniel Simon, a former car designer for Bugatti, who used, as a basis, the original sketches by Syd Mead, the designer of the Lightcycles for "TRON." Read more
EFFECTS AND TECHNOLOGY "TRON: Legacy" is a showcase for today's technology and features some firsts in cinematic history: It is the first 3D movie to integrate a fully digital head and body to create the younger version of Jeff Bridges' character; the first to make extensive use of self-illuminated costumes; the first to create molded costumes using digital sculpture exclusively, creating molds directly from computer files using CNC (Computer Numerical Cutting) technology; and the first 3D movie shot with 35mm lenses and full-35mm chip cameras. Read more
THE TRON LEGACY EXPERIENCE The 3D experience of "TRON: Legacy" will bring viewers into the Grid, and along for the ride, more than any other film in cinematic history. Using the next generation of 3D technology developed after "Avatar," "TRON: Legacy" will allow the audience to experience the digital grid and be part of the action in the highly stylized landscape. Read more
JOSEPH KOSINSKI (Director) is a multidimensional talent whose uncompromising visual style and dynamic approach to the filmmaking craft has quickly made a mark in the filmmaking zeitgeist. His anxiously awaited feature film debut, "TRON: Legacy" via Walt Disney Studios is slated for a December 2010 release. Kosinski has directed high-end commercials, including award-winning campaigns for XBOX "Gears of War" and "Halo," Sony PlayStation, as well as Lincoln, Hummer and Chevrolet. His work represents a fusion of skills stemming from a background in architecture, product design, engineering, and music. Kosinski received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford University before graduating from Columbia University with a master's degree in architecture.
EDWARD KITSIS & ADAM HOROWITZ (Story by and Screenplay by) are Emmy-nominated and Writers Guild Award-winning executive producers/writers of the ABC television series "Lost." Prior to joining "Lost" in its first season, they produced such shows as "Felicity" and "Popular." Since then, they've written the screenplay for "TRON: Legacy" and are writing "Ouija" for Universal, Hasbro, Bay Films and Platinum Dunes.
BRIAN KLUGMAN & LEE STERNTHAL (Story by) were born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Friends since age 11, they have been working together for over a decade. Both are graduates of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and as an actor, Brian has appeared in over 40 films and television series. Klugman & Sternthal's current projects include "Torero," based upon the internationally renowned novel "Or I'll Dress You in Mourning" by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre, and an adaptation of the epic cyber-punk novel "When Gravity Fails" by George Alec Effinger. They are currently adapting the Dark Horse comic "REX MUNDI" for Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp, as well as an original project with Blacklight Transmedia and Imagine Entertainment. Moving forward, Klugman & Sternthal are prepping for their directorial debut off of their original screenplay, "The Words," starring Bradley Cooper.
STEVEN LISBERGER and BONNIE MacBIRD (Based on characters created by):
While a graduate film student at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Steven Lisberger made his first project of note, an animated short called "Cosmic Cartoon," which earned him a Student Academy Award®-nomination in 1973 and led to the formation of Lisberger Studios. Lisberger and his fellow Boston artists and filmmakers went on to produce and direct numerous award-winning commercials and documentaries, and many hours of Saturday morning "Make a Wish" animation for the ABC network. For the 1980 Olympic Games, Lisberger Studios also created an animated AFI short titled "Animalympics," which grew into a one-hour animated musical special that ran on NBC.
With an animation studio on both coasts, Lisberger wrote the screenplay for and visually developed "TRON," which was then produced and released by the Walt Disney Company with Lisberger as director, and starred Jeff Bridges. Lisberger next wrote and directed "Hot Pursuit," starring John Cusack, for Paramount and RKO, and then the indie airborne-adventure "Slipstream," starring Bill Paxton.
Bonnie MacBird is a screenwriter whose first script, "TRON," was the basis for the cult Disney classic. She left Universal's feature film department in 1979 to work with Lisberger on their idea for a movie taking place inside of a computer, and worked on "TRON" as the writer and line producer for live action for close to two years. No stranger to computers, MacBird's master's thesis at Stanford was a film, "Teaching Children to Read Using a Talking Computer." She hired computer legend Alan Kay, whom she later married, as the technical consultant on "TRON." Of interest to tech fans, Bonnie fed her early drafts of "TRON" through the precursor of the Internet from Los Angeles up to Xerox PARC in Palo Alto. There she edited the script on site--marking the first use of a computer by a screenwriter to write and edit a screenplay. Since "TRON," MacBird has worked steadily as a writer for film, TV and stage, winning three Emmys and numerous other awards, and is currently developing a high-tech thriller television pilot.
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