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TRON: Legacy - Jeff Bridges interview

TRON: Legacy

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JEFF Bridges talks about the experience of making TRON: Legacy and some of the technological challenges it provided for him as well as why he thinks Disney have been clever in updating the sequel so that you don’t need to have seen the original.

He also talks about why he’s always up for a challenge, despite sometimes resenting it, and what sort of advice the older self would give to his younger one should they ever meet.

Q. Was it an odd experience to see yourself recreated as a younger you for some of the film?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, it was very odd and, as you say, recreated, because it was a rendition of me created by some wonderful artists of me from maybe 25 or 30 years ago. They referenced a few of my old films; I think they were zeroing in on Against All Odds… that era. My wife was called in to make the final approval. So yeah, that silicone cone was scanned into the computer and then I drive that image. So, it was very bizarre and the final results were sort of a bit like, I remember hearing my voice for the first time on a tape recorder. I remember thinking: “Oh, I sound like that?!” It was very bizarre. But it conjured up those feelings.

Q. You mentioned your wife, so what comments did you get from your wife and daughters about the younger versions of you?
Jeff Bridges: [Chuckles] My daughters weren’t around to give with their opinion, but I’m sure they would have if they would have if they were around. But I’m happy to say that my wife prefers this version. So, I’m in luck [laughs]!

Q. Aside from seeing your younger self, can you give us some idea of how the technology has advanced since making the first film?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, I was just looking at this table cloth and it’s a bit too high quality… fake velvet! Our original set was all black [material] with white adhesive tape – that was the grid back in those days. Of course, those were the days before the Internet, when we had to carry our phones around in big suitcases and we lived in a completely different world. I remember one day – I think Joe [Kosinksi] and I talked about this – scanning myself into the computer with this one… it was something that we did that was make believe in the first film, but now I was like: “Joe, it’s real! I’m getting scanned.”

But the technology we used in this one was something that I was so curious about… this performance capture and making movies without cameras and sets and costumes and make up. It was all new to me and challenging. As a movie actor, I love cameras and knowing where it is. I think an outfit will help me get into the character. But you had to really work with your imagination on this one. It was like being back when you were a kid… you didn’t have sets and stuff, so there was a lot of imagination.

Q. With True Grit and TRON coming out, which of the two schools of filmmaking do you prefer?
Jeff Bridges: Well, you know, I’ve got such a love/hate relationship with challenges. I’m sort of drawn to and repulsed by them. This new technology is certainly challenging. But you can sometimes have a bit of resentment. There were times when I would say to myself: “But I like having my costume…” And I had to make a little adjustment in my head sometimes to get with the programme. You can waste a lot of time making movies – and waste a lot of time in life – wishing they were playing a different song. You came to the party to dance a cha-cha, but there’s a waltz band here – so, you might as well learn to waltz. Sorry, that’s kind of a weird answer [laughs]!

But I guess what I want to say is that I like the old way; I’m old school. I like the canvas and stuff. But it’s a bit fun and challenging to do the new stuff. And movies are going in such a bizarre direction. In the near future, they might take a little Bridges, take a little De Niro, and just a touch of Pacino and we’ll maybe let them drive that image. We were joking around not too long ago that the next TRON would maybe end up being ‘Tron: The Pill’, where you take it and go ‘ooooh’ and experience it inside it. But I’m up for whatever.

TRON: Legacy

Q. There have been stories recently about George Lucas trying to acquire the digital rights to Marilyn Monroe’s image. How do you feel about the prospect of your image being used after you’re gone?
Jeff Bridges: I haven’t really thought about that too much. It’s definitely an intriguing idea. There are not too many of us in the computer. Brad Pitt’s in there, right? I don’t know. There’s no precedent for it, so I don’t know what’s going to become of it, with my image. I haven’t thought too much about it. But there is something interesting about, you know, after I’m gone, somebody could mess around with me.

Q. Isn’t there something wonderful about the sense of immortality you might have?
Jeff Bridges: [Laughs] Yeah, I never thought of it like that. I’ll have to think about it a little bit. It is kind of bizarre.

Q. You could have grandkids, great grandkids seeing you…
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, I never thought about it. That is pretty great, pretty wild.

Q. You are the TRON Legacy in a way. So, what criteria did you want the second film to meet? And how much ownership do you feel of the performance of Clu? How much of it is you?
Jeff Bridges: I thought Disney was very smart in terms of the way they’ve played this thing. There were rumours going around for all 28 years that there was going to be another TRON made and I finally stopped believing in it until one day I got this call saying this is for real. We’re going. Joe pitched the story, showed me some of his reel. It was very important to me to know who was going to be at the helm of this thing, and who was going to direct it. The fact that Joe is an architect is wonderful, because he brings that sense of design to the film. The fact that he was a first timer didn’t really bother me. I’ve had wonderful success both creatively and commercially with first time guys… We haven’t done much better than Citizen Kane – there’s a first timer, you know! I’m sorry, my brain has spaced… can you just get me back on track?

Q. How much ownership and what criteria did you want for this?
Jeff Bridges: Oh yeah, yeah. The other thing that Disney was very smart about doing was keeping Steve Lisberger, who directed and wrote the first one, in the picture. He was also a first time director. Disney were very smart to keep him on this picture because while TRON: Legacy can be seen on its own, and you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of it and not feel like you’re missing anything, if you did see the first one, it will scan perfectly and the worlds will match… the mythology of the first one is carried over.

Q. And how about your ownership of Clu?
Jeff Bridges: It’s odd… one of the great things about making movies generally is that it’s a very collaborative process. You work with all these other artists to create a magic trick in a way and this was that to the nth degree. While my face is running it, a lot of times my body is another body and I would have to work with John Reardon, who played my body in a lot of scenes. I’d show him what I was doing. It was interesting that it was not exactly how I would do it, which sort of made it a little bit different, but it kind of worked for Clu because it wasn’t exactly me, but an interpretation of me from other artists. It was the same with my head… I ran the expressions but the face itself wasn’t me.

TRON: Legacy

Q. Are you surprised at how TRON has endured given that it wasn’t a particularly successful film when it came out?
Jeff Bridges: Yeah, that is surprising. As you say, it wasn’t a big hit. I think it was maybe more successful here [in the UK] than in America. But there’s a great fondness for technology and I think that all the folks who saw the first one… with this one it kind of reached into their own childhood and they remember the first time they saw it and it brings the kid in them back to life.

Q. Did you ever feel nostalgic about making this film, particularly in regard to what the TRON films have meant to your career and when they arrived during them?
Jeff Bridges: I didn’t think of it in those terms so much, but in a way having Lisberger around it seemed like we were having a long weekend and just picked up right where we had left off… there was a lot of the same energy. And then all of the new elements kept my mind pretty occupied… you know, hanging out with Olivia and Garratt and Joe, there was real energy. The technology was pretty consuming. So, there wasn’t too much nostalgia other than having Lisberger around.

Q. Should the chance develop for you to meet your younger self in real life, what advice would you offer the younger you?
Jeff Bridges: Hey, it’s gonna be okay man, just take it easy.

Read our review of TRON: Legacy

Read our interview with Olivia Wilde