While promoting Tron: Legacy, this amazing talent took time out to talk to a handful of us journalists. He talked about Tron, a little about True Grit, and whatever else came to mind.
Tron: Legacy opens this Friday and True Grit opens on December 22. I’d recommend going to see both.
Was this character always written as a Silicon Valley hippie or did you introduce the Lebowski'ness of him--?
Yeah, no, no that was Lisberger. What was it like 28 years ago? Is that when it was? Gosh, man, it was the script basically from the original one. And that was -- that's before Lebowski still. So that I guess you could blame Stephen [Lisberger] for that.
What were your thoughts when you first saw CLU?
Amazing! And for one thing what that means for me as an actor that, I can play myself at any age now you know. I love going to movies but if they have -- like if there's a movie where the character ages or you know another actor plays the guy as a younger person always kind of bumps along the, takes me a while to get up to speed on it. But now, any age you know, it's quite remarkable. And they'll be able to combine actors. I don't know quite how I feel about this but that's coming up to you know just to say, let's get Boxleitner and Bridges put a little and Brando in there and see what happens.
You know that they can write that-- hire some other actor to drive that image that had been created. I mean it's getting -- it's getting pretty crazy.
Did you have any hesitation about revisiting Tron?
I did, sure I had a lot of hesitation, making any kind of decision really in my life. I mean, I'm really slow at it. My mother says that I have abulia. Have you ever heard of that term? It's like a mental disorder I guess, having difficulty making a decision. I really resist. And with this one, I thought oh God you know are they going to pull it off you know.
I mean I could see all the, technology and everything but are they going to be able to pull it off, right. And Disney did a beautiful job of that you know. Casting I think is so important not only the actors but, the director for one thing, so you get to helm the whole thing. And they got Joe [Kosinski], never directed a movie before can you imagine the pressure. And he was -- his personality is so calm and sure and that he brings all his architectural knowledge you know to the party.
So that adds to the whole set design. So they got the right -- they got the right -- and he's-- he loves -- he loved the original and all that. That's wonderful. They also brought Steve Lisberger onboard which I thought was essential because while the movie, to be seen alone and still appreciate it, if you saw the first movie… This is going to be a flow between this one and that one and they really -- he was sort of the godfather of the whole thing.
You know he was the source. So we would always go back to him and ask him is this -- is this consistent with the myth that you started. And that was another thing that -- that brought me to want to do this because I thought we could use a modern-day myth about the challenge of technology of how we're going to surf that particular wave. Those are tough waters we're coming into now. You know we could-- we could do some amazing things that we can also head off in the wrong direction very quickly you know.
And this is kind of a cautionary tale in a way to look ahead and make sure this is what the direction you want to go.
Does it feel like a time machine talking today of the movie you did in the past that is about the future?
Yeah, it's just bizarre. I mean it's just so bizarre. But at the same time it just seems like, especially having Lisberger on the set, it's like we had a long weekend and were just back here you know doing the same work. You know it's crazy.
What are the differences between working in 1982 and now? Did you have as much green screen work then?
Well, that one was shot in 70 millimeter black-and-white… And we were in white leotards and there was black duvetyn like this -- like this tablecloth. This is basically the set with white adhesive tape, that's for the gridlines and that was basically it. And then there's some CGI all that kind of stuff. But this one… wow man, making movies without cameras. You know, what an idea.
And when they said that, I said what are you talking about? They said yeah, you work in the volume. What's that? Well, it's a room, it can be any size painted green and there's no camera but there's hundreds of sensors pointed at you. Before each take you assume the T. You stand up like this. And now you're -- they get you anything okay and now you're the computer. And you're in a white leotard with these dots all over your body, all of your face, might have a helmet on with cameras going like this right.
And then everything from makeup, costume, the set and this is the one that kills me, camera angles are done in post. So you know if you are in the volume right now and you know in our leotards with our dots on, they could say let's start the scene you know, behind, way in the back of the room under the chairs and we're going to come up under the chairs and then they'll be-- ah, let's not. Let's start here. It's all done in post now. It's just you know it's crazy. Amazing!
One of the wild moments in this movie was when I was scanned initially to get my body into the computer, and it was just like out of the first Tron. I stood there like this and there's light going-- it was just bizarre. For real it was like, for real you know.
Have you warned any of your costars that you're competing with them now? With this technology?
[Laughing]. No. I hadn't thought about that. That's funny.
Are there any roles that you would like to revisit like the Fabulous Baker Boys or something like that?
Maybe. I had thought about it you know. I hadn't thought about [Baker Boys]. But it's wild to be able to go back there and play it at different ages. It's crazy. It opens up a whole world.
You don't have to think about the lens in the volume now but does that change your performance?
Yeah, it was a challenge, because I like relating to the lens and I like having a costume and a set you know. Those are kind of grounding to you. It helps you. So much of making the movies is creating an illusion and the first person you have to create the illusion for is yourself right. So when I have-- in a costume and the person I'm working with is in a costume and there's a set, you know that helps me be in those times and be in that character.
So when you don't have that stuff, you have to kind of go back, almost like more like child like in a way. It's like when you were a kid you know and you didn't have all the cool gear to put you there. You had to use your imagination. So it was a challenge that way. And at first it kind of [went] against my acting-- it felt odd you know, I didn't like it.
In making movies and acting I think I like to, you can't spend too much time bitching about the way it is. You've got to get with the program as soon as you can, especially when you're making a movie because you don't… So that was challenging but it was a good exercise.
Did it change your life at all winning the Oscar?
I think it has but I haven't really figured that out entirely because right after, a day after the Oscars I went right to work on True Grit. So I got right back into work mode and, uh, and I've been kind of working ever since. So I haven't noticed a big flood of scripts coming it or anything like that.
Where do you keep your Oscar?
My wife-- I-- but I wanted them to do and they didn't really do this and I thought it would be fun, I was going to ask my wife, for my kids or whoever, I said I want you to take this and hide it in different spots in the house. And we'll discover it you know like where's Waldo. Do remember that? I didn't do that. I have him you know sitting on a little shelf between the kitchen and the dining room kind of thing.
How did you talk to CLU? Did you talk to stand in?
Tried it a couple of different ways; I worked with a lot of kids and you know when you're working with kids they have certain hours that they are allowed to work. With a kid you can't -- it you can't, uh, I can't go-- work as many hours as an adult. So often you will-- will shoot the kids close up and then when it comes time to your close-up he's gone or gone to school.
So you'll work to just a-- put a little mark on a C-stand or whatever and do it that way. So I did -- I mean I got used to that. We do that. I tried doing it to a monitor, television monitor you know, where I was -- I would say that, tried that a little bit.
What is your favorite Jeff Bridges film?