Michael Sheen, James Frain, Beau Garrett and Bruce Boxleitner talk exclusively to Tribute’s Toni-Marie Ippolito about being part of TRON: Legacy.
Michael, where did the look and inspiration for your character Castor come from?
Sheen: I was going mainly for the 70s, British, rock star look. The character was supposed to be this showman, and really larger-than-life character that would bring a different kind of energy to the film. And so when I looked at Joe’s [Kosinski] original designs for the character, it was kind of like, the M.C. from Cabaret, or like a circus ringleader kind of thing. So, I thought about all that. And then I started thinking about, because they’re programs you know, what kind of program this guy would be. So I thought about something that was very adaptable, and able to survive through changing constantly, based on new information. So I thought about a chameleon, and somebody who’s very able to take on new personas and adapt. And that’s what made me think about Bowie, and the whole Ziggy look. That’s a long winded way of saying I just wanted to look like a really cool character, so I did end up picking Ziggy Stardust.
James, what’s with your character Jarvis? Is he a bad guy?
Frain: Jarvis’ character is the head of the secret police within this fantasy world, and he is charged with keeping all the other programs in line, and with getting information on any programs that step out of line. He fulfills the designs of the evil Clu. But he’s unfortunately fundamentally inept, and finds it very difficult to get anything done without making very obvious mistakes.
Garrett: I have to say my computer is about seven-years-old. I still use dial-up when I have to, and I do have a Blackberry and just got a TV. So I’m as far away from technology as possible. I like to be as present as possible. I tend to lose myself in my Blackberry on occasion. So it’s interesting to be part of a film that’s so heavily based on that. I try to avoid it as much as I can.
Frain: I’m cursed with wanting to get every new gadget that’s out there. I’m drawn like a moth to the flame, and yet totally inept at using them. It make’s no sense to me whatsoever. I don’t know if anybody else is like this, but I refuse to read any operating manuals. [laughs]
Sheen: That’s why I’m an actor, because as an actor you come on the set, and like the first job I ever did in the theatre, I was supposed to be a genius piano player. I couldn’t play the piano, but you just sit there at a piano like you’re playing, and suddenly all this amazing music comes out and the audience believes you can do it. So, it’s the same with computers. I love scenes where there are people yanking at monitors, “yes I’ll put you through now,” and you know they’re just doing that. But you can look brilliant at all this technology. I love it.
The story is about technology but also focuses on the human aspect of it.
Frain: The idea of being sucked into another world, is more like going to a dream world or going to an alternate reality in which what’s being played out, and the thing that keeps us the most connected all the time, are these human relationships. But it’s the father-son story that drives the heart of it. But every one of these scenes revolves around changing conflicting relationships between very human, flawed people. The technology is the background really. It’s the shape of it.
Sheen: The technology that’s used in this film is the next step in terms of everything that’s been done before, and is really pushing the envelope with it. But, like what James says, what constantly brings you back is the theses about technology that’s within the film: That we can see the dangers of technology and we can also see the comforts of it, and the uses of it, and they’re both kind of fighting for the souls of these characters in the piece. And it’s the age-old thing, bullets and guns don’t kill people, people kill people. So how you use technology, that’s very much there in the heart of the piece. But you can’t relate to that just technically, it has to be through the story of characters interacting with each other. And so I think that’s why, in the footage where Jeff and Garrett meet up, the son and the father come together, the idea that they’ve come from literally different worlds to meet is part of what makes it so moving. It’s moving because technology has kept them apart, and now somehow technology has brought them together again. That’s something that’s right there at the heart of the story.
The costumes in this were very spectacular, James, what was it like wearing the suit, and did you shave your head for that?
Frain: My head was shaved for me, every morning. I just felt fantastically sexy in this costume, I must say. [laughs]
Well you looked bad-ass at least!
Sheen: The word he used was sexy! [laughs]
The ladies’ costumes looked a bit uncomfortable. Beau, how did you maneuver in it?
Garrett: They weren’t so comfortable! It was a struggle, but it was a worthwhile struggle. But it was a tough. They actually redesigned them at a certain point because I kind of had a meltdown! They made the shoes separate from the rest of the costume, because it was originally a one piece. So they ended up using this Velcro to attach the bottoms so at least I could relieve my feet. Because once you have it on there is no getting it off until you’re done. So it was a mental struggle!
How hard was it to imagine this technological world and what this movie was going to be like when you read the script?
Sheen: Well that’s a good question, because when I first read the script, for all the technology and all the FX and everything, when you’re reading it on the page it’s sort of meaningless in a way. So there’s a description of a man, and he gets on a bike, and then this explodes and so forth, and it’s sort of meaningless. The only thing that gets you through the script is whether it works reading on the page. Whether you’re engaged with it, and it moves you, is funny or takes you to another world. All the things that I think a really great, classic story means is all there. For me, it’s always a telling when I get a script. I look at the first couple of pages, see how many lines I got. If it’s not enough, I throw it! [laughs] But seriously, the first thing you do is start reading and as you read the first few pages if the next thing you do is read all the way through then you know it’s a good script. And so reading this I just went on a journey and rollercoaster ride, and you know because you’ve got to have all those things there. If they’re not there, it doesn’t matter what, how much money is thrown at the film or all the FX.
What’s is like acting against a screen or do you prefer physical sets and having the actors there?
Boxleitner: Well in this movie they actually had massive sets built. On the first one we had black sets. They were just platforms and things, and the computer did the rest. But but this time there were some amazing sets.
Sheen: It’s funny the more technological advanced everything gets, the more like acting in your bedroom when you’re a kid it is. You’re just standing in a room, with nothing else to help you, going, “Aha! I’m Captain Hook!” or whatever. So it’s weird that as everything goes one way it actually goes back another way.
Frain: I had to do a scene where I was doing a speech to thousands of “programs” in the gladiator arena. It’s a big theatrical speech, and I’ve seen some of the CGI actors, and there are thousands of people there, and things flying around, and all kinds of stuff going around, but it was only me, the camera, a couple of crew, and this blueness all around. It was a bit like doing off-Broadway theatre, where you just imagine what you’re doing, you just put it out there and hope for the best.
Boxleitner: Doing these kinds of films is so much more like doing a stage play. Where you’re creating…you have to see it in your mind’s eye. Whatever you’re seeing is not going to match what’s going to be really there. But you have to use your imagination more so than in any other kind of piece. And then what pleasant surprise if you’re as big or as small or whatever it is you have to do with what they finally put in there.
Sheen: That’s how I live my life now, in my house. I imagine that it’s massive, and that there are thousands of people watching my every move. I address them in the morning! [laughs]
Boxleitner: Oh when my head leaves the pillow every morning I have thousands of people applauding!