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Tron: Legacy – Olivia Wilde on her nerdy family activity

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Tron Legacy - Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund
Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) © 2010 Disney

Probably best known for her role as Dr Remy ‘Thirteen’ Handley in the popular TV series House, Olivia Wilde has also appeared in many successful movies including Alpha Dog, Year One and The Next Three Days. She has just finished shooting the lead opposite Daniel Craig in Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens

In Tron: Legacy she portrays Quorra, a unique program in the digital grid that was created by Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). She acts as Kevin’s confidante and sometimes warrior, helping him survive his life in exile in the cyber-landscape of his own making.

When you were a teenager did you prefer the science fiction fantasy stories or romantic ones?

Tron: Legacy - Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund
Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) © 2010 Disney Enterprises

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My family used to watch Star Trek together. It was sort of a nerdy family activity. As far as reading science fiction, I think Jules Verne was probably the extent of the science fiction literature in my library.

I was much more into romance as a teenager and it’s been a new discovery for me to learn about sci-fi adventure.

It’s an honor to be a part of it. I think it’s a really interesting genre as it’s all about the imagination. It’s boundless what you can do in these stories.

So when you have a creative team like we did for Tron, it exceeded all expectations and all boundaries of the imagination, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of it.

How did you decide on how to play Quorra?

Tron: Legacy - Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges
Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) © 2010 Disney Enterprises

It was a true collaboration to create Quorra. When we originally started putting together ideas for it, it was really kind of up for grabs, because Quorra was not in the original film. Joe Kosinsky [the movie’s director] was very interested in making her a unique and unusual female heroine, in this film that is unlike any other.

So we worked very hard to make her very intelligent and powerful but, at the same time, childlike and nuanced so that she would not just be there as a foil for the men, not just eye-candy.

I brought the concept of Joan of Arc very early on, six months before we started shooting, because Joan of Arc was this unlikely warrior, this child who could lead an army. She was unnaturally powerful and seemed to have this connection to another world, to a higher power, to be guided by something greater than her and by selflessness. And that is Quorra.

So once we found this historical reference it was really fun to flesh her out.

How did it feel playing such a strong woman?

Tron: Legacy - Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde
Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and Quorra (Olivia Wilde) © 2010 Disney Enterprises

I want her to be a role model for a young audience.

I want girls to feel inspired by her strength, her intelligence and her compassion. I think that it’s rare these days to have a female character in these types of movies that isn’t just there to look really sexy in a suit.

Too often that happens and you wonder who did these little girls dress up as for Halloween? When I was little I dressed as Wonder Woman, because she represented social justice and honesty.

Can you talk about the look of Quorra?

The hair was very much inspired by Joan. We wanted something a little androgynous. She’s a fighter. That’s her purpose. She’s there to protect Flynn, so she needs to be able to move fast. And so if she had long flowing Little Mermaid hair it would be very impractical for her.

As for make up, we wanted her to look different from the rest of the programs. She’s a little bit more of a human look, a little bit more textured, little bit more skin tone but she still has that very pale look.

What was your physical training like for this?

Tron: Legacy - Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund
In the front of the set-up: Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) © 2010 Disney Enterprises

It was challenging. I was shooting House while I was training for Tron so I would wake up way earlier than anyone should ever wake up and go and do a few hours of training a day, including cardio and martial arts training – a lot of what Quorra does in this movie is mixed martial arts. And so that was something that I worked very hard on.

I completely transformed my body. I have never looked like that before and I will never look like that again. It was important in creating Quorra to transform myself physically because I understood what it was like to be able to fight and have those kind of muscles and to have that strength, it changed the way I walked, it changed the way I stood.

I suddenly understood what it felt like to be able to protect myself, which I had never really felt before. So it was the first time I really realized how important that physical training is to creating the character beyond just the aesthetic.

What was your first reaction when you saw the completed movie?

It surpassed all my expectations. What happens so often as an actor is you retain the information about the scene that you yourself shot and you obsessed over certain scenes that you found the most challenging or interesting. And the rest of the film kind of falls away in your memory or it fades a little bit.

It’s been so long since I actually read the script in its entirety. So being able to watch everyone’s performance, with all the elements of the story coming together, was just extraordinary.