The other day I had the opportunity to watch the twenty minutes of “Tron Night” footage and then participate in a round table interview with the writers of Tron: Legacy, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the cult classic Tron, follows Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) as he searches for his missing father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges – protagonist of the first film) into the depths of a digital computer world. What stuck out most about the twenty minutes of footage shown wasn’t the oft talked about dazzling action scenes, of which you can see glimpses of in the trailer and the recently released short clip, but rather the focus on character and relationships. Often times in big budget tent-pole films, the set pieces take precedence over the characters within them. This does not appear to be true of Tron: Legacy. It is revealing that the climax of the Tron Night footage was not something blowing up or people fighting one another or a razzle dazzle chase scene but instead a reunion between father and son. It is this emotional core at the heart of the Tron sequel that gives me hope as to its possible merit.
During the interview, scribes Kitsis and Horowitz, best known for their work on the television show Lost, expanded on the emotional core at the heart of Tron: Legacy as well as discussed how they pitched the film to Jeff Bridges, what Tron and The Wizard of Oz have in common and the potential for a Tron 3.0 — among many other topics of conversation. Hit the jump to check out the interview.
The interview covered a wide range of topics – for your viewing/reading pleasure I’ve excerpted select portions of the conversation. To listen to the whole shebang, I’ve provided the unedited audio of the 41-minute conversation here. Also be sure to check out the recent interview with Tron filmmaker Steven Lisberger here. He tells us that he just spent six weeks remastering the original Tron for it’s eventual Blu-ray release.
On coming up with the story to Tron: Legacy:
EDWARD KITSIS: When we were thinking about the story, we thought we love Tron but we want to bring in new people to love Tron. And whose eyes are they going to do it through? For us, we need an emotional spine to take us into the story or else it just becomes a bunch of moves or gags and stuff…It’s funny because Lisberger (in reference to Tron director and Tron: Legacy producer Steven Lisberger) always says…’you’re writing the story of me and my son’ and I was like ‘No, no, no we’re writing the story of our generation in a weird way.’
ADAM HOROWITZ: For us, it was if we’re going to revisit this movie and try to take it forward, we’re the children of Tron. We grew up on it. It informed us. It really helped shape us and get us excited about the possibilities of technology and film and all that stuff. It’s one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing – so in that way its like how can we approach this movie in a way that as writers we have an emotional entry point ourselves.
KITSIS: For us we wanted to answer a mystery — which is what has happened to Kevin Flynn in twenty-eight years? Well we could obviously have him turn around and say ‘Well here’s where I’ve been guys. Let me bore you for two minutes with exposition you won’t remember.’ We thought no, lets make it a mystery and lets discover it through his son… and what’s interesting to us – what would it be like if your father was a legend. Kevin Flynn to us was Steve Jobs and Bill Gates all wrapped up into one and John Lennon. What if that was your dad and everyone is like just be as good as him… For us there was a lot of living up to who your father is at the same respect as being your own man and at the respect of finding out who your dad really was.
On the influence of The Wizard of Oz in regards to Tron: Legacy:
HOROWITZ: We wear our influences on our sleeves very often… Wizard of Oz being one of those first movies that as a kid really affects you but it’s also one of those first films about transporting you to another place and that gets into the experience of just going to a movie, a really great movie that can just take you somewhere else.
KITSIS: They both have a very similar DNA, which is Tron really lives on, in a lot of ways, trying to get home. You’re put into this world and you want to get home and what is home? That’s in a lot of ways what inspired us.
On their adoration for Tron writer/director Steven Lisberger:
KITSIS: We tapped into what he (Lisberger) was feeling with him and his son. In Steve’s mind we wrote his life and in our mind, it’s like no, no, we’re you’re son. We’re trying to please you. You don’t get it. We’re the fans who are trying to get daddy to tell us we did a good job.
HOROWITZ: Steve is Flynn and our generation is his son. That back and forth really felt kind of cool and really natural with us and he’s been an incredible supporter.
KITSIS: We call him Obi Wan. Because he literally is. Steve has this ability to — Adam and I can come to him with just unmolded clay. Just stuff that makes no sense. And he will be able to understand it, reach into it and say ‘Guys here’s what you’re trying to do. Go do that.’
On the pressures of re-imagining Tron:
KITSIS: We never wanted to do a re-imagination because we just thought that what fired us up is that when he (Kevin Flynn) lands on the ENCOM building at the end of that movie and he comes out in that double breasted suit, we’re like what happens next. And for us, you can’t redo something like this. To me it’s blasphemous”
HOROWITZ: No, you have to honor it.
On how the fans for Tron: Legacy made the movie happen:
KITSIS: We always say this, but the fans of Comic-Con are responsible because when the test for this got snuck there, the response in both Comic-Con and the boards was so great that I feel like it really helped green light the movie. Listen we all love Tron but that doesn’t mean everybody in the corporate level may be as big a fan as us but this showed them that there was a built in fan base and they could see what Joe (in reference to Tron: Legacy director Joe Kosinski) wanted to do with it. You know – we say the fans got this made.
On meeting Jeff Bridges:
HOROWITZ: We got the job. But now we had to go pitch Steven Lisberger and Jeff Bridges.”
KITSIS: At Jeff Bridges’ house.
HOROWITZ: By the way we have a movie that is based on two Flynns. If he’s (Bridges) not into this…”
Edward Kitsis: …So we’re driving up to Santa Barbara and at this point by the time I even get out of LA county, I’m like they hate me. This is not gonna work. Go back to Minnesota. But we get up there and the very first thing is you drive up Bridges’ compound and it’s Kenny Loggins house. Like Kenny Loggins used to live there. So now I’m just fear fear fear.
HOROWITZ: In the danger zone.
Edward Kitsis: You come in and he’s (Bridges) got this table and laid out are all the Tron toys and the original Tron helmet.
HOROWITZ: And when [Jeff] said ‘Do you wanna wear it’, we were like ‘Yeah’.
KITSIS: But now the embarrassing thing is at a certain point in the middle of the meeting, we’re there all day, Jeff goes ‘Do you guys want to take a walk’ and we’re like ‘Yeah’ and he’s like ‘Come on man’ and… [and he’s got] the body suit, the Viking helmet from Big Lebowski.
HOROWITZ: Just lying there on the ground.
KITSIS: Like a Zen garden… so he’s like ‘Hey why don’t one of you put the’ –because he takes pictures. He takes those long panoramic pictures – and he says ‘You two do a prom picture’ and we’re like ‘What’. [And he goes] ‘Yeah put the helmet on… put your arms around him, man. Fucking let’s prom.’ So I put the helmet on, Adam’s behind me. The two of us haven’t hugged ever.
HOROWITZ: When Jeff Bridges asks you to do something, you do it.
KITSIS: Yeah, when Kevin Flynn says hug, you say yes sir.
On writing a third Tron film (Note: Both Horowitz and Kitsis are signed on to write a potential sequel to Tron: Legacy):
KITSIS: It’s not out of presumption [that we’re working on a third Tron], it’s not out of this is going to be so good, it’s more out of if we are lucky enough to have people like this and want another one, if we don’t think about it now, it wont come out until 2018. Literally. So it’ll be like ‘Yay enjoy Tron in twenty years.’ So we’ve really have been focusing on this one and not really working very much on the sequel but to say that we don’t have ideas on different ways to tell stories in Tron would be a lie as well.
And as a special bonus for all Lost fans, Kitsis and Horowitz were kind enough to explicate on the genesis of the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (all rolled up into one) of the Lost-verse – the distinguished Neil Frogurt (link: http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Neil_%22Frogurt%22):
KITSIS: Season two, I started pitching a guy on Lost called Neil Frogurt. And they’re (in reference to show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) ‘Who’s that.’ And I’m ‘He’s one of the socks. His name’s Frogurt.’ And they’re ‘There’s no one named Neil Frogurt.’ And I go ‘There’s Frogurt’. And I kept saying it until finally one day, Damon [said] ‘Well maybe we just get some guy out of the background like Frogurt’ and he just looked at me… so we cut to we’re all in Hawaii and we’re watching the premiere and we’re on the beach… now this is the final season, this is this two hour opus. Giacchino is pounding and we’re on the plane and we see Boone and Locke for the first time and sitting in between them with a sleeping mask is Frogurt. And Damon and Carlton just turned around and they looked at me and they go ‘You guys are just pulling the strings, aren’t you?’
Tron: Legacy hits screens in 3D on December 17th.