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It was an early day for the stars, director and producers of “Tron: Legacy.” Original “Tron” actors Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges joined newcomers Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen for a press conference Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Director Joe Kosinski was also in attendance with producers Sean Bailey, Justin Springer and Jeff Silver, writers Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, Digital Domain’s Eric Barba, and Steven Lisberger, the director of the original “Tron.”
Bridges noted that Comic-Con is how “Legacy” got started with the first screening of experimental material in 2008. “When we showed the effects test, that was very responsible for getting the movie rolling — getting it financed and everything,” he said. “The fans are very integral to this whole thing.”
While Bridges and Boxleitner have lived with the legacy of “Tron” for more than 25 years, the new actors all came to it from different ways. Olivia Wilde was born two years after the original film was released, but was always aware of something called “Tron.”
“It was always part of the culture … because of the video game, it was this cool, retro thing,” she said.
Michael Sheen has a more elaborate story. “I remember when I first saw the film back in 1943,” he joked. “I was 11 when it first came out. I went to the cinema — my uncle Russell took me and I was just absolutely blown away by it.”
Star Garrett Hedlund didn’t see it until 2003 while overseas. “I saw it on a laptop … a pal had to show me,” he remembered. “It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.”
One topic all the actors could discuss is the skin-tight light-up suits of their computer personas. “It was amazing,” Wilde said. “It was amazing to watch Olivia in that,” Sheen joked.
She went on to describe how the new suits achieve the signature “Tron” appearance. “We were wearing electro-luminescent lamps woven through layers of Neoprene and all these other amazing materials. It was an honor to be able to wear something like that that was changing the way that every other department was working on the film.”
“They do this thing called Cyberscan, where they basically create the suit out of every sort of definition of your body,” Hedlund added, “so it just completely exact and fits like a glove.”
“All we had was Spandex tights with Magic Marker,” Boxleitner interjected about the original suits.
“And a dance belt,” Bridges added.
The film, while ultra-modern, pays tribute to the look of the original film. Kosinski said the designers Lisberger recruited for the 1982 film, Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Syd Mead, were way ahead of their time. “I come from a design background, ” Kosinski said. “I feel like that’s one reason you can still sit down and watch it today. Even though the computer graphics are simple compared to what we’re able to do now, the deign work is so strong and the imagination is so vivid and vibrant, it just transcends time.”
The “Legacy” director assembled a team from outside the film world, including architects and automotive designers, to come help update the world and give it a visceral feel.
“I wanted the movie to feel like we had been pulled into the computer and we shot it with motion picture cameras on the inside,” Kosinski explained.
Asked how one goes about writing the sequel to “Tron,” writer Horowitz quipped, “Through fear.” He and Kitsis went on to explain the collaborative process that allowed the characters to flourish in the special-effects environment of the computer world. “We’re very luck because [with] everyone here, it was a very collaborative process and we come from TV, so we’re used to sitting around a table [working out story],” Kitsis said.
“Everything we did was character first,” Horowitz added. “Everything grew out of that.”
One set of characters not returning for the film is that of Laura and her electronic counterpart, Yori, both played by Cindy Morgan.
“You have to make difficult choices,” Kosinski said. “Our story is a father/son story. It’s the story of Sam Flynn in search of his father who disappeared into the ENCOM mainframe 20 years before. For this story, we choose to focus on the story of Sam and Kevin Flynn and the instrumental role of Tron and Alan Bradley in that story.”
While Yori’s story is not part of “Tron: Legacy,” Morgan did appear as the character earlier this year at WonderCon, revealing Laura and Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley did get married. “[She] is in the ‘Tron’ universe,” Kosinski declared.
She is part of a larger mythology mapped out by the production team to bridge gap between 1982 and today. “That gave us a really good foundation for the story we wanted to tell in 2010, but also gave us those intervening years,” Bailey said. “So there was a lot of history and backstory [and] we thought there were interesting ways to express [it]. This includes the ARG, the viral websites, and last April’s stunt at WonderCon. “Some of that is going to come across on other platforms, like the video game.”
Coming back to the Alan Bradley character was something of a surprise for Boxleitner. “Finding out where these characters went after all these years, that’s what intrigued me,” he said. “I had no idea that Alan Bradley would be such a lost soul.” He left that teasing remark to call the script’s treatment of the characters “absolutely real.”
Considering the legacy of “Tron,” Lisberger described it as a “founding myth” of the information age. While the film remained obscure for many years, it found an audience, and much of it tracks with the digital world of today. “There is a sense that it has moved in to the next generation,” he said of the sequel’s potential legacy.
Whereas the first film was about the fear of centralized dominance of technology, the new film is about the loss of connection because of that technology. “Technology is all about bringing people together, supposedly,” Lisberger said. “Now there’s a sense that technology may have a dark side where it keeps us connecting from each other. I think this film examines that problem.”
Asked about the eventual home-video plans for both films, Bailey said, “We’re definitely looking at doing something special with the original movie, but no date has been determined. As for ‘Tron: Legacy,’ there will be some pretty cool materials on it.” After that, someone suggested “Tron on Ice.”
“‘It’s been on ice for 25 years” joked Lisberger.
“Tron: Legacy” opens Dec. 12.