In 1982, Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges starred as Kevin Flynn, a genius video game developer, in Steven Lisberger’s Tron, who got sucked into his own creation. But by the end of the movie he managed to get out alive and back in control of Encom, the company he founded with his longtime friend an associate, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner).
In Tron: Legacy he is once again stranded in the digital universe he created. When his grown son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) in the real world is accidentally pulled into the digital grid, he must survive and find his father.
In the movie Jeff Bridges is the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a young version of himself.
Did you have any hesitation abut revisiting Tron?
I did, sure. I have a lot of hesitation making any kind of decision in my life. I’m really slow at it. And with this one, I thought, ‘Oh God, are they going to pull it off?’
I got a pitch from the director, Joe Kosinski. You’ve got to give Disney credit for seeing his potential. They were smart because he’s such a calm, can-do guy. Joe made a wonderful pitch on the story, where it was going, and that was intriguing to me. Then he showed me his reel, and I saw some of the technology that he had available to him. So then, it was basically the same reason that I did the first one – it was cutting-edge technology at that time and this one certainly is for this time. Plus, it’s a whole different way of making movies that I haven’t experienced.
They also brought Steve Lisberger on board which I thought was essential because he was the godfather of the whole thing.
How did it help to have him there?
He was our source. We would always go back to him and ask him, ‘Is this consistent with the myth that you started?’ That was another thing that brought me to want to do this, I thought we could use a modern-day myth about the challenge of technology and how we’re going to surf that particular wave. Those are tough waters we’re coming into now. We could do some amazing things but we can also head off in the wrong direction very quickly.
What was the difference between working in 1982 and now?
Well, that one was shot in 70 millimeter black-and-white, and we were in white leotards (with a black background), with white adhesive tape for the gridlines and that was basically it.
But with this one, wow, we made the movie without cameras, what an idea! When they said that, I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ They said, ‘You work in the volume.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ They said, ‘Well it’s a room, it can be any size, painted green and there are no cameras but there are hundreds of sensors pointed at you.’ And everything from makeup, costumes, and this is the one that kills me, camera angles, is done in post. It’s all done in post now. It’s crazy. Amazing.
Was this character always written as a hippie or did you introduce the Lebowski-ness to him?
That was Lisberger. What was it, 28 years ago? Is that when it was? Gosh, man! It was the (character) basically from the original one. And that was before The Big Lebowski. So that I guess you could blame Steven for that.
What were your thoughts when you first saw Clu, your younger self?
What that means for me as an actor is I can play myself at any age now! I love going to movies, but if there’s a movie where the character ages or another actor plays the guy as a younger person it always takes me a while to get up to speed on it. But now, (you can play) any age, it’s quite remarkable.
And they’ll be able to combine actors. I don’t know quite how I feel about this, but that’s coming. They’ll just say, ‘Let’s get Boxleitner and Bridges and put a little Brando in there and see what happens!’
Does it feel like a time machine talking today about a movie you did in the past that is about the future?
Yeah, it’s just bizarre. But at the same time with Lisberger on the set it just seemed like we had a long weekend and we were back here doing the same work. It’s crazy.
Did winning the Oscar for Crazy Heart change your life at all?
I think it has but I haven’t really figured that out entirely, because a day after the Oscars I went right back to work on True Grit. So I got right back into work mode and I’ve been working ever since. I haven’t noticed a big flood of scripts coming at me or anything like that.
Where do you keep your Oscar?
I thought it would be fun to ask my wife and kids to take it and hide it in different spots in the house. And I could discover it like ‘Where’s Waldo’, but I didn’t do that. I have him sitting on a little shelf between the kitchen and the dining room.
How is the perspective of technology different in this sequel?
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.