Tribute’s Toni-Marie Ippolito sat down for an exclusive interview with Tron Legacy star Olivia Wilde to talk about the world of Tron, what it’s like being part of a cult classic, working with Jeff Bridges, and how long it really took to get into her sexy, skin-tight Tron suit!
Did you have some freedom to develop your character Quorra?
Wilde: I felt really lucky that Joe Kosinski [director] was so open to having a heroine in a Disney movie that didn’t have flowing, “Little Mermaid” hair. When we first talked about the role, I said I think it would be cool if she had a sort of Joan of Arc type of vibe to her. I did lots of research on ancient Buddhist warriors. I think this kind of asymmetrical, almost androgynous kind of look made her more interesting.
Tron Legacy is more than a cool movie with amazing effects. It seems to be very character driven.
Wilde: Yeah, Joe was very supportive. For instance with Quorra, it would have been very easy to just make her a sci-fi vixen, a temptress of the Tron world, and just made it like about the effects. But he was very supportive of creating a real character, and someone people could empathize with. So I think that when we were there on stage working on a dinner scene, it could have been a little film about a family having dinner. It didn’t have to be “Tron” on a huge beautiful set surrounded by green-screen.
What did you think of the first Tron movie?
Wilde: I actually saw the movie in its entirety for the first time right before I met Joe Kosiniski. I was really struck by how revolutionary it was, how unique it still seemed. It’s obviously dated to watch it now but it’s not like it was trying to be something else. It was unique in its design, story, language and tone. I was really impressed by that. I was also impressed by how many ground breaking things they were doing and saying, like for instance, saying words like “Bit” and “Program” at a time when the actors had no idea what that meant, or very vague idea.
I can see why it became a cult classic because it was so unique, and revolutionary and I think that only now, could we make the sequel as ground breaking as the original, and that’s why I think it’s great that they waited almost 30 years cause it took that long for technology to develop to a point where it could be as revolutionary.
Was your imagination going wild because you worked against a blue screen a lot?
Wilde: Well we did have some amazing practical sets because Joe Kosinksi is also an architect. In fact, for his birthday we got him a t-shirt that said Kubrick-schmoobrick. Because in the safe house set it was very Stanley Kubrick-ian, it was really beautiful. And there was an audible gasp when people walked on stage, so we were very lucky that we had beautiful sets. But in terms of the blue-screen, in terms of having to imagine different worlds, I thought it was great.
Did you do a lot of training for this? Did you kick butt in those four-inch heels?
Wilde: Physically it was more challenging than anything I’d ever done and so I really had to spend every waking moment that I wasn’t shooting my TV show House to train. We learned mixed martial arts, and that was really fun. I think realizing that I could physically completely transform was new, and was something I had never done for a movie. Once I knew what it felt like to have muscles, I suddenly thought, “Wow, this is what it feels like to be a warrior, to be someone who can protect themselves.” I was walking home at night, and I remember thinking, if somebody jumped me, I think I could take them! And that’s what Quorra feels like. She feels like she can protect herself, and that’s one way in which she’s different from me, how I usually am. But I didn’t train in the heels, which was a mistake. Now I know for next time. It was really great to feel strong and powerful like that. I’ve never been so ripped, and I will never be again!
The costumes are pretty cool and from what I’m told were very delicate. Did it take time to get into them?
Wilde: I think it was different for everyone. Certainly in the very beginning when we started shooting the prep time for suits, hair and makeup was something like five or six hours. Once we got the hang of it we were kind of jumping into the suits like pajamas.
And jumping out of them. But yeah, after four months I got pretty good at putting the suit on. But when you’re wearing something like this beautiful suit, which was almost like wearing a sculpture, it’s going to take longer to get into, but it’s really an honour to be able to wear it. And they were beautiful, they were so beautiful. And I remember the first time they turned on, we were all so excited. There were lots of jokes about turning each other on, lets get turned on. And it was pretty challenging, but really worth it, and really an honour.
Did you get to keep your suit?
Wilde: Oh no, they don’t let us touch them!
What was it like working with Jeff Bridges?
Wilde: I think we were confident enough to act opposite him and to bring our A game, but it worked because Jeff is so giving, and so patient, and generous. He became a real leader for us, a real role model, on and off set. We learned lessons from him. My character is supposed to have been with Jeff’s character for hundreds of years in Tron time. So part of the preparation was also figuring out what connection they could have that would make it believable that they almost had a shorthand with each other. So that homework involved hanging out with Jeff a lot, which was great. But one of the things we bonded over was Buddhism and his Zen Buddhist beliefs, specifically his Zen Master, who’s an amazing guy named Bernie Glassman. He turned me on to Bernie and then we had this thing to bond over, that was really helpful for the film and helpful for life, and it’s all about socially conscious, socially active Buddhism, which is really exciting for me.
What gadget/vehicle do you wish you had from the movie?
Wilde: Maybe my dune buggy. I think that’s pretty cool!
Would you be on board for a third installment?
Wilde: There are so many stories that you can tell in the Tron world, so if people like it, and they go see it, and we get a chance to do it, it would be really fun.
Tron: Legacy, starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Bruce Boxleitner, opens December 17.