Exclusive TRON: Legacy Interview with Jeff Bridges

There’s no doubt that TRON is a cult classic. It broke barriers when it first premiered in 1982, and it still has fans of all ages holding interest in it today. So, when Jeff Bridges was asked by his old pal Steven Lisberger, original TRON creator, to come back and play Kevin Flynn 28 years later, Bridges, 60, didn’t flinch.

In the upcoming TRON: Legacy movie, directed by Joseph Kosinski, we find Kevin’s son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), embark on an adventure to find his missing father, who has been trapped in the Tron world for 20 years. When Sam hears a signal coming from an old machine at his father’s old Arcade shop he finds a hidden office and, with some tampering with some old equipment, gets sucked into a strange world. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe—a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.

Bridges plays a unique role in the film this time around by playing both the good guy and the bad guy—two characters that are separated by nearly three decades. The effect to make Bridges look 35-years-old was achieved by the visual effects artists at Digital Domain in California by using some of the same techniques from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that made Brad Pitt look like a realistic 90-years-old man. The effects team used Bridges image from one of his past movies, Against All Odds.

Tribute’s Toni-Marie Ippolito spoke exclusively with the Oscar-winning Bridges while at Digital Domain FX studio in California to discuss what it was like picking up where his character Kevin Flynn left off 28 years earlier, advancing technology, and what it was like to compete with his 35-year-old self onscreen!

Well congratulations on this movie. When one thinks of Tron, one thinks of Jeff Bridges. Was this project a no-brainer for you?

Bridges: Well you know, I was enticed by the same things that enticed me about the first one, taking advantage of all the cutting edge technology in my profession—that was a big draw. But also the other thing was that it was a chance to be part of telling a myth. I think we could really use some mythology, as far as our technology, and how we navigate these waters that we’re in right now. So that’s what the movie was addressing, and when I was invited to come on board I talked about my thoughts on this, and they were all in alignment and they we’re very encouraging to me, to bring all my ideas to the table, because they wanted that. So I was happy about that.
How did you approach the character this time? Did you have any ideas of what you wanted Kevin Flynn to be?
Bridges:
Well, we were really fortunate to have Steven Lisberger on-board as well, the original director of the first one, who brought all of his knowledge and wisdom into this one. So that kind of kept a consistency through the whole thing. And it was wonderful how they juggled that, because at the same time they didn’t want to make a movie that you had to see the first one, so it kind of does stand alone, but it really calls back to that first one.

Garrett Hedlund, Steven Lisberger, Jeff Bridges and Joseph Kosinski on the TRON: Legacy set.

How did you approach this character? Did you have ideas on how you wanted it to be?

Bridges: I approached it pretty much like I approach all my roles, based on the script. The script tells you so much about how people are talking about you and how you’re talking. And then we also had it written in the first one that you could allude to in the second one. Everyone was just so open our ideas that were kind of flying around, and some stuck, some didn’t.

What’s it like for you to be associated with an iconic character as an actor? Do you like that?

Bridges: I try not to think about it, I don’t spend time thinking about it, unless somebody asks me a question about it. I don’t think about it really. My father, Lloyd Bridges, developed a very iconic figure with a TV series he had, Sea Hunt, back in the early 60s. And I could see his frustration by developing that strong persona because he was such a Shakespearian actor, he sang on Broadway, he did different things. Then people saw him as the skin-diver, which was actually a great compliment because people thought he was a skin-diver. So I really try to steer my career from developing too strong a persona, and I think I’ve change kind of, because I figure I’ve got enough parts under my belt, that I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

You’ve already proved yourself I think!

Bridges: I can at last relax! [laughs]

Were you reluctant at all to make this sequel because so much time has gone by?

Bridges: There was a rumor going around that there was going to be a sequel, and I was excited about what might come up. You know your other question about the iconic figure,
I think it’s kind of amazing, we’ve been hearing buzz about TRON: Legacy for a while now. Are you shocked and surprised by all the interest?

Bridges: Yeah, to go to Comi-Con and to see all these people who feel so strongly about the movie. It’s a wonderful thing. I mean that’s actually how the movie got made, was because of the fans. I didn’t realize that there was that kind of fan base for that movie.

It’s kind of telling that it was a good film ahead of its time, because its still relevant, even more so with today’s technology. When you saw footage of yourself at 35, what was your reaction?

Bridges: For an actor, for me anyway, it’s very exciting and I’m happy to know now, that I can play myself at any age, maybe even sex too! Maybe I could play a woman next?

You never know right?

Bridges: Yeah you never know! You could do whatever you want nowadays.

Jeff Bridges as Clu (L) and Kevin Flynn (R) in TRON: Legacy.

Was it grueling to shoot this?

Bridges: There was some gruel to it. Getting use to the motion capture stuff was a first for me, and that was kind of interesting, but I kind of got with the program and had fun with that as well.

This is a perfect movie to make in 3D. Are you a fan of 3D movies?

Bridges: It’s kind of cool, I haven’t seen too many of them. Avatar I guess was one I recently saw. Yeah it’s kind of fun. I mean eventually they’ll have it so you’re not wearing the glasses, and that will be kind of cool. Yeah innovations are happening left and right.

I don’t even think I can keep up with technology.

Bridges: I hope theatres stick around for a while, because there’s something great about getting in a dark room with a bunch of people, don’t you think?

Absolutely.

Bridges: And you know, isn’t it interesting, how you perceive a movie depending on who’s sitting next to you. You know if you’re seeing a movie and you don’t think that person is going to like it, but you’re kind of seeing it through their eyes, you know it’s a weird thing isn’t it?

Will you be taking any sort of break?

Bridges: Well I’ve got two movies coming out at the end of the year. I’ve got TRON: Legacy and True Grit coming out. So you’ll see me in those, and then there will be another one hopefully after that. I’m thinking of opening the window that says “open for business,” at the end of the year!

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