The sci-fi classic Tron was released twenty-eight years ago. In it Bruce Boxleitner portrayed Alan Bradley, Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) partner in Encom. When Kevin disappeared, Alan acted as a guardian to Sam, Kevin’s young child.
But now Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a rebellious 27-year-old, still haunted by his father’s mysterious disappearance. When a strange signal is sent from the old Flynn’s Arcade, Sam investigates it hoping it’s from his father, and finds himself pulled into a digital grid where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. Sam also encounters Clu there, a digital program created by Kevin Flynn in his own image to oversee the expansion of the digital domain – but Clu now wants the world to himself.
During his journey to find his father, Sam comes across Castor, played by Michael Sheen, a flamboyant program who runs the Grid’s End of the Line Club. He is designed to contain a wealth of information and to be able to adapt and survive in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen spoke with us about their new movie and the ever-expanding digital world we live in.
Have you ever revisited a character previous to this?
Bruce Boxleitner: Never, no. I think it’s a rare thing for an actor to do.
Michael Sheen: You’re talking to someone who has played Tony Blair three times. Not so rare in my career!
Bruce: But you didn’t have 28 years in between. I was totally surprised and frankly moved when I saw the movie last night. I was near tears and I didn’t realize that I would have that kind of reaction seeing the film. I think Jeff was going through the same thing.
Were you that emotional too, Michael?
Michael: For someone like myself the emotional thing is that I watched the original film when I was 12-years-old and it changed my life. It’s a big part of why I wanted to become an actor. It’s a major part of why I feel film is a very powerful medium that you have to take great responsibility for, because it can really affect the way you see things.
The original Tron was probably the first film I ever saw where I walked in and I didn’t know what to expect, and I came out an hour and a half later and my life was different from that day on. And so it’s a hugely emotional and spiritual thing for me. That 12-year-old boy, who wanted to be an actor and understood the power of what cinema could do, he was there watching it with me last night.
Bruce, did you have any concerns about revisiting this character?
Bruce: When I got the call from [producer] Sean Bailey and [director] Joe Kasinski, I was so flabbergasted that this was a reality. I did see the clip that they revealed at Comic-Con two years ago, which literally green lit the project, the success of that and the reaction to it. I was overjoyed because this has been rumored for many years and I just gave up on it.
I saw all the storyboarding in Joe Kosinski’s office and was impressed that this was a serious endeavor. They weren’t going back and revisiting it. They were going forward in real-time, 28 years later. What would Alan Bradley do? What would I be there? And I felt Alan was being Alfred to Sam’s Batman.
How would you describe Castor?
Michael: I suppose he was a cross between Ziggy Stardust and Charlie Chaplin. He’s a bit of the emcee in Cabaret, Joel Grey, and Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show. He just assimilates everything and then throws it out, and underneath it all there’s sometime completely psychotic going on.
How careful did you have to be to make sure that your character is over-the-top just enough that he’s still interesting and compelling?
Michael: This character is a survivor and so it’s all about illusion, smokescreens, sleight-of-hand and misdirection. That’s who he is. Originally, Joe said he wanted the character to burst into the film and give it a completely different energy. But it’s always most important to me as an actor to bring it back to what is actually going on for this character, so we were trying to find that balance.
Did making this film make you think twice about your relationship with technology and how we are so dependent on it?
Bruce: I think it’s one of the larger themes in this film. Certainly as we race ahead with our technology we are seeing the dark side to human beings. It think it is very much reflected with Jeff’s character, Clu.
I’m not really tech savvy as I should be. I do e-mail and things like that but I don’t want people knowing anything about me and constantly bothering me. I’m old school that way. I’d rather go have a coffee and talk instead of tweeting and twittering.
Michael: [Like Clu], actors will be able to play their younger selves. So suddenly we’re not limited to age. But there’s the fear, paranoia and the insecurities that that brings up for us as actors as well. Suddenly after I’m dead someone [could resurrect me], like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. Has technology gone mad?
Technology is neither good for bad. It’s a tool. And ultimately there’s always fear about a new tool because we’re scared that that tool could get in the wrong hands. So ultimately the only thing I feel I can do is try and embrace the technology and ask, ‘What can I do through this technology that will help me connect more with other people?’
Bruce: We’re storytellers. That’s what we are and this is a new tool for us to continue telling the story.