Tron Legacy


Last summer I was lucky enough to join a small group of journalists in Vancouver to visit the set of 'Tron: Legacy.' It's hard to say exactly how excited I am for the long-awaited follow-up to its groundbreaking but box office-deficient 1982 predecessor – perhaps it will suffice to reveal that I'm currently stretching out a pair of childhood 'Tron' Underoos to wear on opening day.

But even if being on this particular set weren't personally fulfilling, it would no doubt be a professional highlight of the career of virtually any film journalist. An extensive exhibition of the production offices and department designs, followed by interviews with cast and crew members and, finally, a tour of the set itself, offered some of the most comprehensive and revealing behind-the-scenes looks in recent memory. And then there was meeting Daft Punk, although sadly there's no photographic or audio evidence to confirm that particular personal moment of fulfillment.

While a list could probably climb into triple digits were I to parse out the secrets and slip-ups of the filmmakers (not to mention see the finished film), we've assembled a collection of 10 essential details we discovered on the set of 'Tron: Legacy.'
Tron Legacy


Last summer I was lucky enough to join a small group of journalists in Vancouver to visit the set of 'Tron: Legacy.' It's hard to say exactly how excited I am for the long-awaited follow-up to its groundbreaking but box office-deficient 1982 predecessor – perhaps it will suffice to reveal that I'm currently stretching out a pair of childhood 'Tron' Underoos to wear on opening day.

But even if being on this particular set weren't personally fulfilling, it would no doubt be a professional highlight of the career of virtually any film journalist. An extensive exhibition of the production offices and department designs, followed by interviews with cast and crew members and, finally, a tour of the set itself, offered some of the most comprehensive and revealing behind-the-scenes looks in recent memory. And then there was meeting Daft Punk, although sadly there's no photographic or audio evidence to confirm that particular personal moment of fulfillment.

While a list could probably climb into triple digits were I to parse out the secrets and slip-ups of the filmmakers (not to mention see the finished film), we've assembled a collection of 10 essential details we discovered on the set of 'Tron: Legacy.'

1. 'Tron: Legacy' earns its subtitle precisely because it pays tribute to the landscape and mythology of the original film.
Producer Sean Bailey explained that any follow-up owed an enormous debt to the characters and universe writer-director Steven Lisberger created decades ago. "We felt like we owed, at least in my opinion, a few things: light cycles, Jeff Bridges, lit suits; and most important, I felt like when I went into that movie in 1982, as a kid I just remember the movie screen looking unlike any movie screen I'd ever seen before."

Tron2. When Bailey recruited first-time director Joe Kosinski to tackle the project, he did so with not only the blessing but also the active participation of original 'Tron' creator Steven Lisberger.
Lisberger, who plays a small role in the film, explained in the craft services tent why he declined to take on the follow-up himself. "After 30 years, I don't want to compete with myself," he said. "And technically, I am not on the level of Joe Kosinski. Joe has a network of people that he works with, and if I brought my network in, it would be a little bit like one of those Clint Eastwood movies where all the old guys go to space. [But] it's a generational thing, which is that it's almost as if Tron was waiting for you guys who were 10 when you saw 'Tron' One, to be 40 and have a 10-year-old kid that you could take to 'Tron' and say, this is what blew my mind and now I'm going to have it blow your mind."

3. Jeff Bridges was game to reprise his role as game designer Kevin Flynn after hearing a pitch from Kosinski, but was particularly reassured after hearing that Lisberger would be around to keep things connected to the first film.
Bridges said that Kosinski showed him what he'd previously done, and what he wanted to do on Legacy. "He made this wonderful pitch on the story, where it was going, and that was intriguing to me," he remembered. "[Then] 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. The first [movie] 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."

Describing the 26-year span between the release of 'Tron' and the start of production on 'Legacy,' Bridges revealed that Lisberger's unpredictability made the process feel like old times. "It seems like we had a long weekend, basically, because Lisberger is very involved in this one," he said. "Which is great -- having the source of the material still engaged. I think it gave us all a lot of pressure, because he's such a wild cat, but it's also kind of grounded in that first movie that was so unique and everything."

4. Although the Tron character –- the guy the franchise is named for -- appears to do little in the film, Bailey insists he's still crucial to the universe and its story.
"Tron the character, and what happened to him, is dealt with in this movie," Bailey confessed. "And where he ends up is kind of one of our secrets. You see him a couple of times, but he is not the focal point of the movie. The focal points are Sam, this new character Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, Flynn and Clu, but we certainly deal with Tron and what happened to him and where he ended up. He's a critical piece in the mythology and he's a critical piece in how we arrived at this narrative, so he's dealt with as a character, and we also expand the definition of what Tron means a little bit."

Tron Legacy5. Despite zipped lips from Bailey, Bridges and Lisberger, Garrett Hedlund, who plays Sam Flynn, Kevin's son, reveals that his character is at the center of the film.
"The film takes place 20 years after Flynn has sort of mysteriously disappeared," Hedlund revealed. "It starts off kind of with me -- this kid [who's] the biggest shareholder in the company at this point and sort of grew up without his father. Alan Bradley kind of always looked after him," he explained, referring to Kevin's colleague (and the creator of Tron) in the original film. "Alan pays a visit and sort of ushers me to go to Flynn's office and check things out. And [Sam] is going to search for his father, and once he gets into this world, the light bikes and the discs and the game grid and all this sort of stuff comes to play."

6. In perhaps the film's most effective bit of typecasting, electronic icon Daft Punk is composing the film's score.
Bailey explained that Daft Punk initially volunteered to participate, but the French duo made sure the film had at least as much integrity as each of their albums. "One of the great blessings of this movie was as soon as people became aware it was really happening we had a lot of incoming phone calls that are the kind of people you dream about going out and trying to get, and Daft Punk was one of those. They called and said, hey, we'd really like to talk." He admitted that their familiarity with the filmmaking process, much less this particular film, caught him off guard. "I was just really impressed by the kind of artists these guys were, towards on how they design their shows, how involved they are with building their own technology, how much they knew about film, how much they knew about 'Tron.' And even though they called us, their vetting of us was as thorough as our vetting of them; we must have met them 10, 11, 12 times before we all agreed to do it together. And it's been great."

7. Although 3-D filmmaking has met with mixed success in the last few years, 'Tron: Legacy' wasn't merely shot using the format -- it was conceived that way from the ground up.
"The decision to shoot in 3-D was a big one," Bailey said. "But the other thing we felt we kind of owed [to audiences] was how do we get the screen to look like something we've never seen before? And we thought 3-D could be a big part of that, particularly with what we could do in the 'Tron' universe with light walls and vehicles. So we felt a little bit of 'Let's push -- let's be on the bleeding edge of technology with this movie.' And, there's some days where we regret that, [because] often in a movie you have a new piece it's a challenge in and of itself, and here we have four or five new pieces, and trying to make them all work together for a single shot gets complicated. But we felt that the result would be worth it, and I think it's going to be. 3-D cameras were a critical part of that."

8. The teaser trailer shown at Comic-Con two years ago offered proof there was an audience for the sequel, but it also threw down a creative gauntlet for the filmmakers.
Bailey said their initial conversations about developing the project intrigued Disney, but that forced the filmmakers to come through on a still largely untested concept. "We went in and we had this conversation," he remembered. "We had nothing we could exactly show, but we said we want the faces to be photo-real. We want to create a digital environment that looks like we photographed it, and we're going to attach these faces to sometimes practical bodies, sometimes wholly CG-animated bodies. And Disney said, we would love a little bit of proof of concept of that, and that ended up being the piece that we showed at Comic-Con."

'Tron: Legacy' Trailer



9. The technology allowed Bridges to play two versions of himself -- at different ages.
Bailey explained the process: "I used all the old footage and old photos as reference for a really talented artist [who] built the most elegant advanced version or anything you might imagine at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum," he said. "It's a perfect kind of silicone maquette of Bridges at that age. Digital Domain then takes that and puts it into a machine and gives it the 49 muscles that comprise your expression, and they give that digital 3-D head those same muscle movements digitally. Then Bridges, when he does the performance, he wears a headcam that then tracks those muscles, and so that data is plugged into the head. So ideally, what you end up with is this hopefully-perfect 3-D head of Bridges at that age, and then you have Jeff Bridges' expressions driving his own digital recreation of his muscles. So whenever you see Clu in the movie, it's Bridges doing the performance."

10. Although the time between 'Tron' and its sequel made it easy for the filmmakers to introduce Olivia Wilde's character, Quorra, she thinks the most exciting thing about 'Legacy' is, well, its legacy.
Wilde explained that it's precisely the new technology used to make the film that connects it to its predecessor. "This is the longest time that's ever passed between an original and a sequel, but it's parallel and similar in that it's just as revolutionary for our time," she said. "The technology that's going into it has never been seen before. Everything from wardrobe to special effects to lighting to acting, we're all doing things we've never done before. We're constantly hearing stories from [Bruce Boxleitner, who plays Alan Bradley] or Bridges, and Lisberger, about what they went through to make the original, and how unfamiliar they were with the terms -- everything from the term 'program' to 'bit.' I'm just amazed that they were able to pull it off and with far less resources."

"The idea of the special effects that they put on in post-production was completely new and they took many risks," she continued. "I think we have a responsibility to take just as many risks, so that means it's a hard thing to put together. So when it takes a really long time to make it happen, everybody keeps reminding ourselves, no one said it would be easy to do something revolutionary. And I think that's kind of exciting."