Exclusive: TRON: LEGACY Director Joseph Kosinski on Easter Eggs, Secret Cameos, IMAX, Daft Punk B-Sides, Reshoots, and so Much More

by     Posted 3 years, 311 days ago

At the end of last week, I met up with TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski for an extended interview at a local restaurant in Los Angeles.  It was right before the movie got released, and while I’d already spoken to him at the press junket, he’d agreed to give me more time for an extended conversation.  The fact is, you can only ask a few questions during a TV interview and most of the time you walk away feeling like you only scratched the surface.

However, during my epic 50 minute conversation, Kosinski and I discussed everything I could think of and I also asked the questions a lot of you sent me on Twitter.  Some of the things discussed were what Michael Bay told him before filming, secret cameos, the Easter Eggs, the Daft Punk music and what never made the soundtrack,  what might be in Tron 3, the IMAX release, how did he make a movie that looked so fraking cool, what sequences were changed or removed due to time/money, what will be on the Blu-ray, will he keep changing the film like George Lucas does Star Wars, how he became a filmmaker, and so much more.

However, the best part of the interview had nothing to do with his movie.  That’s because when I first arrived, he was motioning me to look over his shoulder and he was smiling like a kid on Christmas.  I didn’t understand why he was so happy.  But when I looked to his left, I understood.  Harrison Ford was sitting right next to him eating lunch.  More after the jump:

Before going any further, a bit more on Harrison Ford.  While you might think Kosinski would be too cool for school regarding Ford sitting right next to him, he was geeking out as much as I was.  Kosinski went on to tell me that he’d never met Ford and during our lunch he revealed Ford’s movies meant a great deal to him.  He was just as thrilled as I was to be sitting next to a living legend.

Of course, when Ford finished eating, while everyone else in the food court left him alone, we both stopped him for a few moments to talk.  I won’t reveal what Kosinski said, but I’ll say that I told Ford how much I was looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens.  He seemed happy that I knew the movie, but he was probably more relieved that I wasn’t asking for an autograph.

After Ford left, we both geeked out a bit more about getting to talk with him.  While interviews are often very formal and to the point, it was awesome to see a big up and coming director just as excited as I was.

Now, back to why you’re here.

If you haven’t seen TRON: Legacy yet, this is the part where I warn you about spoilers.  Since I decided to post this interview after the movie had been out for a little while, Kosinski and I discussed major plot points and the many secrets of TRON: Legacy.  However, if you’ve already seen his movie, you’re about to learn a lot more about how the film came to life.

If you have the time, I recommend listening to the interview.  It’s always better to hear someone talk about their film than to read a transcript.  Here’s part one and here’s part two of our conversation.  You can always download the files and listen as you’re stuck in traffic.

However, since I know a lot of you might not have the time to read a huge transcript, here’s a few of the highlights you might like to know:

For fans of the original Tron, I wanted to know if there were any Easter Eggs in Legacy…especially any Easter eggs regarding the MCP. Kosinski says:

“Yes. There are a couple of things hidden in Flynn’s secret lab, if you look closely. That secret lab is filled with more Easter eggs than I think any set in history. Just watch when the camera pans you’ll see the MCP, spec details of the Shiva laser, there’s earlier versions of the Shiva laser, there’s stuff hidden all over Sam’s bedroom. There are Easter eggs all over, especially the real-world stuff. If you look at the street signs in front of Flynn’s Arcade, you’ll see some Easter eggs. The intersection of the streets, if you can, they’ll be able to be seen on the Blu-ray too.”

Regarding Cillian Murphy playing Dillinger’s son. Kosinski says he was able to get him during the reshoots in June and he’d always wanted him in the movie but they had scheduling conflicts.  The entire scene was filmed in one day. I then asked what about Dillinger being an important part of any sequel. Kosinski said:

“We just wanted to create the kind of biggest, most fleshed out universe we could for this movie, in terms of the mythology. And the Dillinger storyline is kind of an important one from the first film, so we thought it’d be nice to kind of show it’s still there. But, you know, nothing’s for certain yet.  I think it’s a nice little thing that we could latch on to if we were lucky enough to do another one, that’s a great storyline to kind of continue. So it’s there, but I’m not presumptuous enough to have—you know we’re not in pre-production on the next movie yet.”

Some say TRON: Legacy advocates piracy.  Kosinski says:

“Kevin Flynn designed the Flynn OS, as a freeware system in the 1980’s. And ENCOM has simply taken that freeware and packaged it and is selling it. So Sam is setting something loose that wasn’t designed to be free. It wasn’t meant to be a piece of protected ID, it was Flynn’s freeware system. So if it’s designed to be free, it should be out there.” He goes on to say “obviously our movie is not designed to be free.”

43 minutes of the movie (7 or 8 scenes) are specially done for IMAX. Meaning if you see it in IMAX, the entire movie will fill up during those scenes for a more immersive experience.

Regarding not showing Sam getting digitized into the computer like the original film, Kosinski says:

“from the beginning we kind of didn’t wanna do that, cause it was done so well in the first one. I wanted this experience to be different, so I liked the idea that you kind of experience it with Sam and it’s a quick thing, that you don’t really realize until Sam does when he comes running out in the street. And I liked the idea of switching from 2D to 3D once Sam comes running out the doors in a kind of Wizard of Oz type feel.  So I didn’t wanna make it that kind of thing, I felt like it would be better to experience it through Sam’s eyes once he comes running out and sees that Recognizer. To me that moment, looking up at the Reco, was kind of the moment of realization.”

Regarding the serious tone and the character of Tron, Kosinski says:

“we didn’t want it to become a jokey film. The world has become a darker place, I mean the grid is not this utopian world that Flynn wanted it to be. I mean it’s been overthrown and it’s darker and more dangerous, so I felt that the tone of the film should reflect that. In terms of Tron, the main core of this film is this kind of father/son relationship, so in kind of making that our main storyline, everything else kind of becomes secondary. And I kind of like where we—you know Tron’s not really the star of the first one either. The term “tron” seems to transcend the actual character. But I feel like he’s worked into this film in a very interesting way, and certainly we leave open the door for what role he could play in a future story if we get to do one.”

On what’s the number one thing he hopes to improve on if he gets the chance to make a sequel:

“First of all I wanna make sure I get more time. Time to actually shoot the movie. I think we shot this one in like 65 days, which is insane. And, you know obviously it’s the same as on any film, I’d like to have the script in a much better place from day one of shooting, rather than trying to continue to work on it while you shoot it. I think those are lessons you learn on any film.”

Daft Punk.  He says that the band gave him 26 demos when they first met.  Obviously not all of them made the movie.  He says he’s unsure what will ever happen to those demos.  I also asked if they might ever do a live concert with the movie showing in the background.  He said:

“I love that idea. I’m actually just trying to get them to do a version on the Blu-ray where you can just do soundtrack and images, but for some reason I heard they can’t do that because it somehow impedes on the album sales or crosses some line. I was trying to get them to do a version of the movie that way, cause I thought that would be a cool option on your Blu-ray, to just say “soundtrack.” ‘Cause you know, in a mix the soundtrack kind of dips down to make room for dialogue, but if you just hear the soundtrack at full volume with the visuals I think would be a really cool kind of, something to just put on in the background.”

While some have issues with the film, people love the look and atmosphere that Kosinski created.  He attributes that to bringing in people that haven’t worked in the movie business before.  People like Daniel Simon (who was working with Bugatti), David Levy (came from the video game world), one of his makeup concept artists came from the fashion world.  Since they are all in demand on other films now, I asked if they will be back on his next project.  He said:

“Yea, actually I’ve already got a good hold on all those people for my next things. It look like they’re all coming back which is a good sign. They had fun working with me the first time around. So, yeah, I think I will be able to keep a lot of those people.”

One of the things I wanted to see was more of the city inside the computer.  I asked him if he ever planned on showing more of the city.  He said:

“Yea, there was an earlier version of the script that had a lot more story to it. It was a bigger movie. It delved more into what’s only hinted at in that brief scene between Bartik and Zuse where Bartik talks about fomenting this revolution. Programs are disappearing, Clu’s up to something, we can’t put up with this anymore. We need to overthrow him. That brief conversation that happens in 10 seconds of the film, used to be a much bigger scene where Sam was pulled by Zuse into that private lounge and there was a meeting of all the different factions of programs. The revolutionists, the survivalists, the spiritualists, and the head of each of those divisions were having this huge conference about how they were going to get this revolution started and try to overthrow Clu from the inside. So there was a lot more there but I couldn’t do the two-hour, 50-minute version of this film. We just didn’t have the time or the money to tell that epic story. It ends up being cut down to just a hint of a conversation there.”

The reshoots.  While everyone knows they did reshoots, the big question is what was reshot.  Kosinski says:

“One scene was that boardroom scene. We wanted to fill out why Sam was breaking into ENCOM. To show why he was jumping off the roof a bit more purpose. Originally he was going to just get his kind of kicks and thrills, and jump off his dad’s building and the releasing of the software and that whole bit was added in June. I added a couple of things to the bedtime stories in the beginning, particularly those figurines of Clu and Tron to establish those characters early on. All those little inserts to key in the world. Originally the bedtime story had Flynn telling the story of the original film with MCP and Sark and all that kind of stuff, and when we watched the movie we realized, “Yea, we just summarized the first film but it has nothing to do with the plot of our film.” So let’s setup the characters of our film in the bedtime story and then they’ll resonate more. So, it was tweaked in that area.”

While most might think Kosinski was able to shoot everything he wanted, he revealed what he didn’t have the time to shoot:

“There was going to be… I boarded this whole sequence and we were planning on shooting it but we didn’t have time. When Sam goes for the disc, up in the throne room, when we walks into that room and those two sentries come out, and he pulls his disc and they are like, “Identify yourself, program.” And he says, “I’m not a program. My name’s Sam Flynn.” And then you cut to Jarvis and you hear this battle going on and he turns around. I was originally supposed to shoot that entire fight. There were supposed to be four sentries that come out and Sam is supposed to be in this ridiculous disc fight in that room with those security pods down. So, hiding behind the things with things bouncing around and it was supposed to be a huge fight sequence. We came to a point in shooting where I had to cut days out; I had to cut time out of the schedule. That was a scene that was lost. So, it’s all boarded and pre-vis’d. Maybe that will end up on the Blu-ray someday. Or maybe in 30 years I’ll go back and reshoot it.”

This led me to asking if he would pull a George Lucas and reshoot or change his movie.  He said:

“I don’t know if I’d shoot a sequence. I certainly want to… there’s certainly things in the movie I want to tweak and I hope to for the Blu-ray. Little things like details, mix things, color timing things, stuff like that. I don’t know if I would ever go to the… hopefully I’ll be busy enough that I won’t have the time to go back and actually add a whole other sequence to the film.”

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Again, if you have the time, I recommend listening to the entire interview.  Here’s the full transcript.  Finally, if you haven’t yet seen TRON: Legacy, I strongly recommend seeing it in IMAX.  It’s amazing in the large screen format.

Collider: You were just saying that Michael Bay gave you some advice?

Joseph Kosinski: Yes. The one word he used to sum it all up was “stamina,” and I think that is absolutely an important and essential part of the equation.

I saw you on set doing crazy stuff, but how was it with the shooting? You guys shot, what was it 5 days a week or was it 6?

Kosinski: I was shooting second unit as well, so I would shoot second unit on the weekends, and first unit during the week. So I’d be doing like motorcycle stunts on the weekends, or like that sunrise scene at the end of the movie was shot on like a Sunday morning, that was like 14 days in a row. If I wasn’t shooting on the weekends, I was either doing rehearsals or I was doing pre-vis or I was doing something to get ready for the next week.

When I first saw it the first time, I immediately saw Cillian Murphy as Dillinger’s son, which has still been under wraps pretty good, considering the movie is just about to come out. So my question is: how did you get Cilllian Murphy to be in the film?

Kosinski: I had been talking to him—I like him a lot—I had been talking to him for a while about playing a role in the movie, and the schedules didn’t line up with our principal photography last summer, 2009, he was doing a play in Ireland. So then we came back around this year to do an extra week of work, and one of the scenes that we shot in June was the boardroom scene. So I went back to him ‘cause we had this—you know I like the idea, for the people that are following Tron, I like the idea of continuing the Dillinger legacy as well, even though it’s not really what this film is about, but just tying up that loose end from the first film. So I asked him if he’d come for one day and be Ed Dillinger Jr., and he loved the idea.

So that whole scene was done in one day?

Kosinski: One night. Bruce Boxleitner was shooting a western in Simi Valley that morning. He got off his horse at 2:00, jumped in a helicopter, we flew him to ENCOM Tower from the first film. That scene was shot in the ENCOM Tower from the original Tron, which is the AT&T building downtown. He landed on the roof, just like the final scene in the original Tron, came running downstairs, got into Alan Bradley mode and was shooting that boardroom scene from about 4pm to 7am the next morning. So he shot a western in the morning, and that scene in the afternoon and the next day, so he shot for like 20 hours. He’s a trooper.

Yeah, I would definitely say so. Of course, a lot of people were speculating after seeing the movie, that Dillinger might have a bigger part in the sequel. Was that always your intention or was it sort of like “this is just a little easter egg to the fans?”

TRON: LEGACY Triptych Movie Poster CluKosinski: We just wanted to create the kind of biggest, most fleshed out universe we could for this movie, in terms of the mythology. And the Dillinger storyline is kind of an important one from the first film, so we thought it’d be nice to kind of show it’s still there. But, you know, nothing’s for certain yet.  I think it’s a nice little thing that we could latch on to if we were lucky enough to do another one, that’s a great storyline to kind of continue. So it’s there, but I’m not presumptuous enough to have—you know we’re not in pre-production on the next movie yet.

Another thing that a lot of people are talking about, and it’s from that scene in question, that TRON: Legacy may actually advocate piracy. So how do you sort of feel about that?

Kosinski: I think, if you listen carefully you’ll see that that’s not the case at all. What Sam says is, “You can’t steal something that was designed to be free.” Kevin Flynn designed the Flynn OS, as a freeware system in the 1980’s. And ENCOM has simply taken that freeware and packaged it and is selling it. So Sam is setting something loose that wasn’t designed to be free. It wasn’t meant to be a piece of protected ID, it was Flynn’s freeware system. So if it’s designed to be free, it should be out there.

But you can understand why certain people are saying online—making that sort of discussion?

Kosinski: Yeah, I mean obviously our movie is not designed to be free. Disney would not be happy with it being out there, leaking on the internet. So I think it’s very specific to what Flynn created, in terms of his operating system.

The thing about your film, is that you have something visually that cannot be recreated on a computer screen. There’s just no way to take in the grid except for on a movie screen. So how do you feel, because it seems like Hollywood and sort of movies in general seem to be going in two directions: you have the smaller films, the midrange films, and then you have these tentpole films. And the midrange, that used to be say the $80 million movie or the $70 million movie has just gone away. It’s now between like $5 million and $35 million and like $150 million and up. Have you sort of seen that?

Kosinski: Well, this is my first film.

[At this point, Mr. Kosinski introduces himself to Harrison Ford]

Kosinski: You gotta put that in the interview.

Yeah, of course. So, you’re movie’s meant to be seen on a big screen, not on a computer screen.

tron_legacy_movie_poster_international_rinzler_01Kosinski: Yeah I mean I definitely shot it that way, I shot it for the big screen. I mean it’s a 3D movie which is great too, you can’t really recreate that experience at home, at least not with a pirated version. So, you know, it was shot as a big screen movie and particularly the IMAX stuff is, I think, essential to seeing on the big screen if you’re looking for a completely immersive experience. That’s just something you can’t do on your iPhone or your 42 inch plasma. And the sound required to kind of make this movie sing, I mean no one’s got 50,000 watts in their living room.

Actually something that I’m gonna talk to the IMAX guys about next week is, when you see it in IMAX the screen, I believe, fills up. Could you talk about those sequences?

Kosinski: Yeah, there’s 7 or 8, I mean some of them are kind of blended together. But there’s about 43 minutes of the movie in the IMAX version that go from a 2.4 aspect ratio, which is the aspect ratio that’s in most theaters—all RealD, Dolby, and standard 2D prints are 2.4:1, it’s called “scope” aspect ratio. In IMAX, there are 43 minutes where it goes to 1.77 which is 16 x 9, which almost fills an IMAX screen. So basically you get this effect of basically it kind of fills your vision. And that happens only in the Tron world and kind of those big action set pieces, like Sam gets captured by the games, disc wars, light cycles, escape route, I did all of solar sailor full frame just because I wanted to make that sequence feel big even though it’s not an action sequence, and then Clu’s speech, light jets, and then finally the portal, all full-frame.

I’m anxiously awaiting seeing it in that format.

Kosinski: Yeah, and IMAX sound is generally pretty damn good too. They do a good job of keeping the fader at 7 where it should be, you know a lot of movie theaters now turn it down to 5.5 or 6, and that just sucks.

I put on Twitter this morning that I was gonna talk to you, I gave people 10 minutes to tweet me questions, and they did a pretty good job. And a lot of these people have seen the movie, through Tron Night or whatever, they have real questions. In the film, you sort of jump from Sam getting hit with a laser right into the grid. Did you debate having a more prolonged sequence there showing him actually getting digitized?

Kosinski: From the beginning we kind of didn’t wanna do that, cause it was done so well in the first one. I wanted this experience to be different, so I liked the idea that you kind of experience it with Sam and it’s a quick thing, that you don’t really realize until Sam does when he comes running out in the street. And I liked the idea of switching from 2D to 3D once Sam comes running out the doors in a kind of Wizard of Oz type feel.  So I didn’t wanna make it that kind of thing, I felt like it would be better to experience it through Sam’s eyes once he comes running out and sees that Recognizer. To me that moment, looking up at the Reco, was kind of the moment of realization.

You know, I see the pros and cons of both sequences, of doing it one way and doing it the other, but I actually thought it was cool, personally, as you said you’re just there, it’s not a drawn out thing.

Kosinski: It’s a 3D shot, so you notice that transition scene, all those pixels get stretched out into the audience.

Someone wanted to know: you went for a more serious tone in handling the character Tron. So let’s start with the tone of the film, can you talk about the tone?

Kosinski: Well, we didn’t want it to become a jokey film. The world has become a darker place, I mean the grid is not this utopian world that Flynn wanted it to be. I mean it’s been overthrown and it’s darker and more dangerous, so I felt that the tone of the film should reflect that. In terms of Tron, the main core of this film is this kind of father/son relationship, so in kind of making that our main storyline, everything else kind of becomes secondary. And I kind of like where we—you know Tron’s not really the star of the first one either. The term “tron” seems to transcend the actual character. But I feel like he’s worked into this film in a very interesting way, and certainly we leave open the door for what role he could play in a future story if we get to do one.

There’s a lot of easter eggs or a lot of little droppings throughout this movie for what could be in future kind of stuff. So I wanted to know, when did you first take an interest in filmmaking?

Kosinski: Well I grew up in the Midwest, and I think the first film that blew my mind was Raiders of the Lost Ark

(laughs) Was this your first time ever [meeting Harrison Ford?] Or you’ve seen him around?

Kosinski: I’ve seen him around, I’ve never met him. That was cool. But that was the movie that blew my mind as a six year old. But I grew up in a place where no one knew anyone in the entertainment business, I never knew it was an actual career. The closest I ever got to movies was going to watch them, and I thought that’s the way it would be, so I never considered working in this business. I went to school for engineering, I studied jazz. So I always had this kind of creative side and technical side, and I thought architecture might be the way to combine them, so I went to architecture school in New York. And when I was in architecture school, rather than giving us drafting boards and t-squares and lead pencils and stuff they gave us all the same tools that places like Digital Domain and ILM used to make features films or special effects. They gave us all these digital tools like Alias and Mya and Soft Image and all these kind of high-end computers, so I came out of architecture school knowing how to use all that stuff. And I started making short films at night. Once I got out of architecture school I decided not to be an architect, I just started my own little design studio. I started making short films and one thing lead to another, lead to a commercial and I moved to LA and struggled here for a year, I couldn’t even get like a fabric softener commercial for the first year I was here. [David] Fincher helped me get my first job, and once I got that first spot then I just kind of worked solidly until I got Tron.

What is the number one thing you hope to improve on, if you get the chance to make a sequel, that you learned on this film?

Kosinski: Boy I learned a lot. I would say, first of all I wanna make sure I get more time. Time to actually shoot the movie. I think we shot this one in like 65 days, which is insane. And, you know obviously it’s the same as on any film, I’d like to have the script in a much better place from day one of shooting, rather than trying to continue to work on it while you shoot it. I think those are lessons you learn on any film.

I’ve spoken with a lot of filmmakers and I generally, I have not met too many people who say “the script is exactly where I wanted it, I had enough time.”

Kosinski: I heard, one of my producers told me this story where like the Hollywood studios brought all these high-end consultants in to try to figure out how to improve their process and make films more efficiently, and these consultants like studied the process for years and finally came up with this report they put together about how studios can improve the efficiency of their process, and the conclusion was “have the script ready by the time you’re shooting.” (laughs) That was basically the conclusion, cause that’s where all the spinning of the wheels and the waste comes, is from kind of either trying to fix it on the day or trying to fix it after you’re done shooting, which is very very difficult.

I’ve heard this from one or two people. Something that everyone is raving about is the pairing of your movie with Daft Punk, people are just going bananas for it. Of the songs that you used in the film, are there a lot of unreleased tracks that were made for this film that will maybe be eventually released?

Kosinski: Yeah. We had to lock the album like two months before I finished the movie. So, when I was mixing up at Skywalker, the song that I put in the Solar Sailor sequence isn’t even on the album. And then one of the songs we do in the End of Line club we hadn’t even written yet. So there’s a song in the End of Line club, the one where Zeus says “Change this game all to the mood, electrify the boys and girls” the song that kicks in there and goes all the way up to the black guard fight, that song’s not on the album, that’s in the movie only. It’s a really cool song, it’s a really industrial rock kind of pounding. And then the Solar Sailor song, which is one of my favorites, I don’t think is on the album either. It’s actually a version of the first demo they ever gave me in 2007. It’s this very kind of arpeggiated thing that’s all in the surrounds, and it’s for that whole Quorra operation sequence, and then the song that was there I put in the end credits. And that’s the one that made it on the album.

You mentioned to me that they gave you like 26 demos back in the day. I have the soundtrack, I don’t think there’s 26 tracks…

Kosinski: No, no I’ve got a bunch of demos that we just never fit in the movie, there’s a lot of great stuff.

tron_legacy_movie_image_daft_punk_01So you basically don’t know what may or may not happen with the unreleased songs?

Kosinski: No I imagine those two songs that we finished for the film will eventually come out as some sort of bonus track or special edition. But that wasn’t a calculated thing, literally when the album had to be printed those songs weren’t in the movie yet, so that’s why those exist. But in terms of all the demos, yeah I don’t know what’ll happen to those. Only I have ‘em and Daft has them. I don’t know if they’d ever want them released.

I’m sure that maybe one day, in the Daft Punk b-sides collection.

Kosinski: It’s pretty cool stuff.

Someone wanted to know about a live concert with the movie, with them. Any chance of that happening?

Kosinski: Yep. I love that idea. I’m actually just trying to get them to do a version on the Blu-ray where you can just do soundtrack and images, but for some reason I heard they can’t do that because it somehow impedes on the album sales or crosses some line. I was trying to get them to do a version of the movie that way, cause I thought that would be a cool option on your Blu-ray, to just say “soundtrack.” ‘Cause you know, in a mix the soundtrack kind of dips down to make room for dialogue, but if you just hear the soundtrack at full volume with the visuals I think would be a really cool kind of, something to just put on in the background.

I think people could just do it on their own, a la Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall

Kosinski: Yeah but the mix I did for the movie and a lot of the edits, and all of this granular stuff just isn’t on the album. And like I said there’s a couple tracks that just aren’t on the album at all, and the mix is different.

Upon me saying it, you’re totally right. I just had that brain fart.

tron_legacy_movie_poster_daft_punk_01Kosinski: But in terms of the live thing, I’d love to see that like at the Hollywood Bowl or something. I know John Williams does that with all the movies, he does like a big retrospective with a live orchestra.

I would imagine that could sell out rather quick: Daft Punk.

Kosinski: I think that would be cool, yeah, that would be really cool.

Did the original Tron influence any of your early work? What was your first experience with Tron?

Kosinski: I probably saw it when I was like 8 years old on VHS tape. All I remember is kind of my impression of it. I don’t really remember the actual experience, all I remember is that it was completely unique and looked and sounded like nothing else out there. I remember feeling a little odd and strange, you know ‘cause I was like a Star Wars kid like most kids of the 80’s, and it just felt a little weird. That was the impression that I remember and it’s kind of what I wanted to preserve with this film is that same feeling. It looks unique, sounds different, but also there’s something a little odd about it, it’s not right down the middle kind of mainstream.  I’m gonna tell Olivia [Wilde] I just met Harrison Ford

That’s funny. I so wanna tweet this exact moment: “Sitting with Joe, we just saw Harrison Ford and said ‘Hi’.”

Kosinski: Yeah that is surreal. I got to show 23 minutes of Tron to George Lucas at Skywalker a couple of weeks ago, that was insane. That was another one of those moments that was like, “I can’t believe this.”

Do you think that Tron can be a multiplatform, pop-culture fixation?

Kosinski: Multiplatform, pop-culture fixation?

I’m going to asterisk that by saying a lot of times for a movie to be a huge, worldwide hit, it has to hit in a huge way in four quadrants. You have to catch the public consciousness. Disney has done everything they can to make your movie an event. I give them all the credit in the world. They’ve advertised it. But the question is do you think the material is one of those things that is going to connect with a large segment?

Kosinski: I think it can. I think you’ve seen a little bit of that already. The only people that I’ve really talked to that have seen the film are the people connected with the movie or the press, which are not objective groups by any means. But I just did 14 days around the world and I was surprised by how many women, female reporters or females who went to the premiere or a screening and who wouldn’t normally ever consider science fiction films something they would ever go to. I was surprised by how many of them said they really loved the movie. They found something in it, whether it was the father/son thing or it was the character of Quorra or the fashion and the style, or whatever it was, I was amazed by how many women found something in the movie that they really liked in a movie they never thought they would enjoy. Hopefully people can watch this movie in different levels. If you’re a 12-year-old kid and you just want to see light cycles and light jets, and hear Daft Punk, you can enjoy it that way. If you’re someone who is interested in thinking about our relationship with technology and what that means, we certainly touch on that in the movie. If you’re a father who wants to take his son and that storyline resonates with you; this notion of focusing on what’s important in this world we live in and focusing on human connection instead of this digital world that we find ourselves surrounded with, you can connect to that. Hopefully there are different levels that people can link in with. But I feel like I’ve already seen enough stuff swirling around the film, whether it’s something users have created themselves. For instance people creating their own YouTube videos, or someone sent me last night this Playboy pictorial. There’s definitely some stuff outside of the movie that shows people are embracing Tron. Not only the movie, but the Tron franchise in a way. But I think you’re right; it’s not something you can force. You can’t just will it into being no matter how much the studio markets it. There has to be that kind of intangible thing that makes something pop and some things not. I don’t know. We’ll see. Ask me in six months.

There’s something that studios often try to market to people… cool. They try to force the word, something to be cool when it isn’t. I really believe that you’re movie drips of cool. The way it looks, the way it sounds, it just has all that going for it and you just were able to do that and the studio is marketing that… cool. What was the magic formula to make it like that? When you’re looking at a TV spot and you see the light cycles, it just looks fucking cool.

Kosinski: Right. Well, I think it goes back to me wanting to create that impression of what Tron did to me as an eight-year-old boy. Build on the DNA of that original film. Syd Mead created a lot of cool in the ‘70s and ‘80s with his watercolor paintings and stuff that’s cooler than most of the stuff done today. So that’s a great place to start. You start with that and you build onto it. You hire all the designers that I admired, guys like Daniel Simon who was working with Bugatti last year, yanked him out of that and put him in the film business and now he’s one of the most wanted concept illustrators in town.

Has he sent you a thank you card?

Kosinski: [Chuckles] Yea, he sent me this amazing Christmas card of a light cycle decked out in holiday colors trailing holiday lights. It’s amazing. It looks photo real. My production designer, who isn’t your kind of average production designer, came out of Art Center of Pasadena, the same place that Zack Snyder went to school. David Levy came from the video game world, one of my makeup concept artists came from a world of fashion. I mean I pulled all these people from outside of the movie business. This was not a standard art department of the usual suspects. These were people from outside of the movie business thrown into a feature film production and most of them were doing it for the first time, like myself. Guys that I went to architecture school with were working on it. The idea was to create something fresh and different, and maybe that’s what’s cool. Something that looks unlike anything else.

You mentioned all these people that you were able to bring out for their first time working in the biz. Obviously there are rumors of you with Black Hole. Obviously you’re thinking about Oblivion. There are a lot of possibilities out there. Do you think you’ll be able to get all your people back to work again or are they going to be too booked with other things? And have you already asked them?

Kosinski: Yea, actually I’ve already got a good hold on all those people for my next things. It look like they’re all coming back which is a good sign. They had fun working with me the first time around. So, yea, I think I will be able to keep a lot of those people.

Did you ever plan on showing more of the Grid in the city?

Kosinski: You’re talking about the scene where Sam drives downtown?

Exactly.

Kosinski: Yea, there was an earlier version of the script that had a lot more story to it. It was a bigger movie. It delved more into what’s only hinted at in that brief scene between Bartik and Zuse where Bartik talks about fomenting this revolution. Programs are disappearing, Clu’s up to something, we can’t put up with this anymore. We need to overthrow him. That brief conversation that happens in 10 seconds of the film, used to be a much bigger scene where Sam was pulled by Zuse into that private lounge and there was a meeting of all the different factions of programs. The revolutionists, the survivalists, the spiritualists, and the head of each of those divisions were having this huge conference about how they were going to get this revolution started and try to overthrow Clu from the inside. So there was a lot more there but I couldn’t do the two-hour, 50-minute version of this film. We just didn’t have the time or the money to tell that epic story. It ends up being cut down to just a hint of a conversation there.

What you’re trying to say is as filmmakers, you have limitations.

Kosinski: Believe it or not, there are a lot of them even on a movie like this. There are a lot of limitations so you have to ultimately focus on what you think the most important storyline is and we had to focus on Sam.

Are there any Easter eggs to the MCP in the movie?

Kosinski: Yes. There are a couple of things hidden in Flynn’s secret lab, if you look closely. That secret lab is filled with more Easter eggs than I think any set in history.

Really?

Kosinski: Yea, just watch when the camera pans you’ll see the MCP, spec details of the Shiva laser, there’s earlier versions of the Shiva laser, there’s stuff hidden all over Sam’s bedroom. There are Easter eggs all over, especially the real-world stuff. If you look at the street signs in front of Flynn’s Arcade, you’ll see some Easter eggs. The intersection of the streets, if you can, they’ll be able to be seen on the Blu-ray too.

I will be looking for it on Saturday morning. A lot of people asked this question. You’ve been very open about Pixar helping you guys out. But I don’t think it’s been clear exactly what you guys worked on, what tweaks were made or reshoots. Have you talked about that?

Kosinski: Yea, I talked about it a little. I didn’t want to talk about it too much before the movie came out because I didn’t want people watching the movie and saying, “Oh, this was shot later, this was shot earlier.” I think the first thing that makes it clear is that the Pixar roundtable that we did was a two-hour meeting. Was part of a process to decide what we wanted to shoot in June. It was part of a six-month process of us working internally, watching the movie, deciding what we wanted to fix. Going to Pixar and showing it to them. Me showing the movie to David Fincher. Sean showing the movie to Ben Affleck. It was us doing out kind of process of saying, “We’ve put this thing together. Let’s show it to people who make movies that we admire.” We knew we couldn’t test it for the general audience because… you couldn’t do it. The movie was too bizarre to look at to get an opinion from people who aren’t used to seeing a movie like this, unfinished. So people always attached to the Pixar part of it, but it was one small part of a much, much bigger process. I can’t specifically say, “Pixar had this note and that’s how it showed up in the movie.” I can just say that the whole process of looking at the film and deciding what we wanted to shoot in June resulted in some additional stuff we shot. One scene was that boardroom scene. We wanted to fill out why Sam was breaking into ENCOM. To show why he was jumping off the roof a bit more purpose. Originally he was going to just get his kind of kicks and thrills, and jump off his dad’s building and the releasing of the software and that whole bit was added in June. I added a couple of things to the bedtime stories in the beginning, particularly those figurines of Clu and Tron to establish those characters early on.

That’s a great shot by the way. Where the camera pulls back and you’re on that shelf.

Kosinski: Oh yea. The figurine at the disc games and the light cycles. All those little inserts to key in the world. Originally the bedtime story had Flynn telling the story of the original film with MCP and Sark and all that kind of stuff, and when we watched the movie we realized, “Yea, we just summarized the first film but it has nothing to do with the plot of our film.” So let’s setup the characters of our film in the bedtime story and then they’ll resonate more. So, it was tweaked in that area.

On the Blu-ray, a lot of people like seeing the nuts and bolts of filmmaking and some filmmakers don’t want people to see how it was all put together. Is there a way of showing a version of your movie where you don’t see all the effects added back in so you can see the raw, blue screen…

Kosinski: You could. Like you said, it may be interesting to some people. My editor and I watched the disc games a couple of weeks ago without the effects done and it’s pretty insane. It’s like literally… there’s nothing there. Just two guys with discs in a big, blue room. And then you see it done. So Digital Domain, I’m sure, will do it for the visual effects breakdowns because they just made a list of nominees for visual effects. So they’ll do those kinds of breakdowns. They’re pretty mindboggling.

I would be utterly shocked if your film was not one of the final five.

Kosinski: Oh God, I hope so. I think they did a tremendous job and we were certainly ambitious in what we set out to do with Clu and just creating this world.

This time, unlike the ‘80s, when the Academy thought that the computer did all the work for the filmmakers, I think they understand what CGI is nowadays.

Kosinski: Yea, if we made that cut it would be a really nice… I think Steve Lisberger could feel like Tron had come full circle.

It’s ridiculous to hear the original story. What is the biggest thing that you didn’t have the time or budget to include?

Kosinski: There was going to be… I boarded this whole sequence and we were planning on shooting it but we didn’t have time. When Sam goes for the disc, up in the throne room, when we walks into that room and those two sentries come out, and he pulls his disc and they are like, “Identify yourself, program.” And he says, “I’m not a program. My name’s Sam Flynn.” And then you cut to Jarvis and you hear this battle going on and he turns around. I was originally supposed to shoot that entire fight. There were supposed to be four sentries that come out and Sam is supposed to be in this ridiculous disc fight in that room with those security pods down. So, hiding behind the things with things bouncing around and it was supposed to be a huge fight sequence. We came to a point in shooting where I had to cut days out; I had to cut time out of the schedule. That was a scene that was lost. So, it’s all boarded and pre-vis’d. Maybe that will end up on the Blu-ray someday. Or maybe in 30 years I’ll go back and reshoot it.

Ala George Lucas.

Kosinski: Yes.

Let’s actually talk about that real quick. How do you feel about that? A lot of people, like me, grew up loving the Star Wars movies. We all feel like Lucas is sort of tampering with them again and again, to tweak them or whatever. It’s very frustrating as a fan. Are you the type of person where you made your movie, and it’s done, or could you see yourself, if you ever had the time and money down the road, to be like, “I always wanted that sequence. I’m going to do it.”

tron_legacy_movie_image_james_frain_01Kosinski: I don’t know if I’d shoot a sequence. I certainly want to… there’s certainly things in the movie I want to tweak and I hope to for the Blu-ray. Little things like details, mix things, color timing things, stuff like that. I don’t know if I would ever go to the… hopefully I’ll be busy enough that I won’t have the time to go back and actually add a whole other sequence to the film. But sure, I think for Blu-ray, which ends up being kind of the definitive version. The people that people end up… once the theatrical run is over and no one’s watching that version anymore, certainly there are things I’d love to tweak to make it as perfect as you can before that goes out.

Well, obviously the window for Blu-ray/DVD is now so short.

Kosinski: I know.

It’s like four months or five months. They want to capitalize on the buzz that already exists. So do you think that first edition of the Blu-ray is going to be the definitive one or do you think the one that first comes out… Your Blu-ray is going to be out in May, most likely. And then you have the holiday season. So you could almost do the special edition. Are you sort of…

Kosinski: I’m hoping that I can get in there and tweak stuff for the April edition. But I know that it’s not a barebones version. I know that they’ve got a lot of cool stuff planned for it. They’re not going to do the movie-only version with no extras. They’ve got a lot of cool stuff. Documentary stuff that I’ve seen which are really interesting about the making of the movie and even additional content; filling out the story a bit more. It is going to be a very fleshed-out version and hopefully I can get in there and make my final tweaks before they start pressing it.

I definitely have to ask, you just spend 14 days travelling the world, what the f was that experience like?

Kosinski: It was insane. It was really interesting; the press questions from every country are different. I found the questions from the Japanese press to be the most thoughtful, researched, and most insightful. Really interesting. Like, all focusing on character, emotion, theme and what it means to us as a human race. Big questions. Very thoughtful, very polite.

What is an example of when you think of the Japanese press, what’s a question that really hit you?

Kosinski: Just in general there were a lot along the same line. Like, what does this film say about humans and technology and our relationship? Where is it going? How does this film advance the question of the first film forward? But they were just really connecting to that relationship of Flynn and Clu as an analog for what we’re dealing with in the world today. Whereas, in other places, you might get a question like… “Is there any chemistry off set between Garrett and Olivia?” So instead of celebrity-based, which tends to be the focus in some places, I found that in Japan they were watching the film at a much deeper level. Which I thought was really interesting. But it was different in each region. Mexico City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and obviously the LA junket now. It was a very interesting learning experience. It was grueling. I mean, you know what a junket’s like… imagine 14 in a row. Fourteen days of that, in a row, and changing time zones of eight hours every four days. There’s a point in Japan where it started to feel so surreal. Sean Bailey and I were sitting next to each other and two guys walk in in Tron suits, and started asking us questions. It starts to feel like you’re in some kind of weird dream.

People say that if you do a ridiculous amount of traveling, and you’re completely jet lagged, it’s like being on drugs but you’re stone sober.

Kosinski: Yea. It does feel like you’re in a waking dream. It just gets surreal and you start locking eyes with people and you stop hearing the questions anymore. In the meantime you got a camera on your face at all times, so…

You’re looking forward to seeing some of those interviews on YouTube.

Kosinski: Exactly!




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  • MonsterKilledThePilot

    Can’t wait to listen to this!

  • IllusionOfLife

    Very good interview. Joe Kosinski seems to be very smart and really passionate, and I really hope Legacy does well enough that Disney green lights a sequel.

    One thought, though: Mr. Kosinski, if you ever read this, I think the scene where Sam retrieves the disk works wonderfully as it is now, I understand from your perspective it was probably something that was really cool and you really wanted to do it, but from an audience perspective, I honestly think it works much better the way it is right now. Hearing what’s going on, and catching glimpses of it rather than seeing the full action of it really helps sell the idea that Sam has become bad-ass enough to take on Rinzler and also helps to sell Jarvis reaction when Sam enters the room. I think your movie worked great the way it is, and I’m looking forward to whatever your next project might be.

  • IllusionOfLife

    I also wanted to point out a minor transcription error. I’m not trying to nitpick, but for people who only read and don’t listen this could be confusing:

    You wrote:
    “It’s this very kind of arpeggiated thing that’s all in the surrounds, and it’s for that whole *core operations* sequence, and then the song that was there I put in the end credits.”

    It’s actually:

    “and it’s for that whole *Quorra operation* sequence”

    • Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

      good catch. my bad. will fix right now

  • MrInvisible

    Excellent interview. I also hope and want a Tron Legacy sequel. I wish all interviews with movie directors would be like this so that critics could ease up on them and let them hear their thoughts and mindset, rather than just judging their films at face value.

  • ddacruz

    The Solar Sailer track is in the album. I believe the other track he was talking about is named “Castor”

    • IllusionOfLife

      There ended up being nine extra tracks released as bonuses from different services. The one he’s referring to specifically in the article is Sea of Simulation, which was the amazon.com bonus track.

  • cartouche

    I seen this movie on opening night in IMAX 3-D and I was supremely disappointed after this was (IMO) was the most anticipated movie of the year.
    I believe there was too much going on for this movie to succeed. The visuals were OK, JUST OK..Claims of 3-D being made for a movie like this were way overstated. The world of the Grid was too dark for 3-D to work; truly not worth 15 bucks.
    AVATAR was a more pleasing 3-D experience.
    I did enjoy this movie on a viseral level but anything I was hoping for beyond that was nill.
    Kosinski says they had to focus on sam? I would have much rather had the scene of the extended light ring fight Kosinski said they shelved rather than anymore on sam or ciliian murphy’s useless cameo..which was a mind boggingly waste of time and money on the film..
    It was added because he liked Murphy?? How about consider a better movie or scene to enhance the movie for fans for $15 a pop but its better his pal got a shout out in the movie I guess. I like Murphy but that was a useless cameo and his (Kosinski) explanation of it was maddening.

    The focus was on Sam?? Did we ever really learn anything from Sam or about Sam? Not really, just that he misses his pops like anyone would. We just assume that his curse of billions is something he wishes he never had save for a Ducati and a weirdly placed apartment garage of some sorts on the river (?)..
    I like Jeff Bridges but his Messiah / God complex was as mind boggling as was the lack of explanation of the Grid and the rules that apply or lack thereof!! He is the creator but is powerless?
    They live and breathe air but are pixelized when destroyed in the games? Are they people or are they programs and why do programs need wind and clouds?? Clu cannot travel off the grid per Olivia Wildes character but all the sudden he can track Sam there somehow?

    Its obvious that the money machine was a driving force behind this movie and this interview pretty much solidifies that assumption. I admire Kosinski’s ambition but its obvious they chose him because they could control him and get him to shoot a tentpole film on a crazy schedule with a budget that does not beget the hype and grandoise of this kind of film.

    I think Disney misplayed this movie by cuting corners and instead should have given it the epic treatment of say”PIRATES”..(part 4 was shot on a meger budget so dont expect much either)

    I truly hope this movie gets a sequel to wash this bad taste out of our disappointed mouths.

  • casting couch

    @cartouche — Yours is probably the best piece I’ve read so far on this TRON movie. Nice one, thanks.

  • Drartgon

    Hmm…I have to say I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. First off, as a video game artist myself, I commend the graphics. They were good and you can a lot of effort was put into the visuals. However flashy visuals are NO substitute for a good story, as much as both the Gaming Industry and Movie Industry seem to think they are nowadays. As a fan of the original Tron I feel torn about this film mostly because of the way the characters are portrayed.

    I understand that Kevin Flynn is 20 years older and was trapped in the Grid all that time but his ‘our best option is to hide and wait unitl things get better’ attitude just doesn’t fit his character from the first film. He was a risk taker willing to risk it all, and now he’s all ‘nah, it’s cool, I all stay in this cage forever.’ Also his zen god complex was a little out there.

    My biggest character problem was with Tron himself. Probably because he’s my favorite character. I will admit the idea of Clu ‘repurposing’ him into Rinzler the attack dog/grim reaper of the Grid was an interesting twist, it just lacked something. I’m thinking character depth. I know the movie was supposed to be a father/son whatever but come on character developement is just as important as story developement. I just felt that Tron/Rinzler should have been developed more.

    Speaking of Tron himself and character developement, I know Tron is a program abiet a very smart one I just felt his ending sequence was so rushed it was both dissapointing and unrealistic. So he locks eyes with Flynn and reverts back to his original programing. Okay, would have had more of a internal moral struggle there between Tron and Rinzler so it would feel more believable on a personal level with the audience. Second he crashes his light-jet into Clu and they plument, no problems with that. But when Clu just kicks Tron alway and steals his light-baton leaving him to plument into the Sea of Simulation I felt that was a very anti-climatic moment. After all Tron is the best fighter on the Grid and two kicks and he’s out? Seriously? I spent the last 10 minutes of the movie waiting for the Guardian of the Grid to save the day…which sorely didn’t happen.

    Basically I guess I just didn’t like the storyline of the film. It wasn’t as bad as Indiana Jones 4 but still the “son takes on the fathers legacy” was a bit ‘overdone’ shall we say.

    So when the movie comes to blu-ray will I buy it?…probably. But will I watch the end of it when I watch it?…most likely not.

    And so the burning question: would I like to see a sequel?
    Well like cartouche said so well, I do hope the movie gets a seguel so I can be hopefully, less disappointed.

    And put more of Tron himself in the dang movie! Even Rinzler’s role wasn’t that big. Jeeze you name the movie after him and then make him a minor supporting character…yea listen to the logic in that boys.

  • percychow

    Hey so, saw the movie with my 5 yo son. In short, it was a good movie from the perspective of a 40yo geek.

    Reasons:

    1. I tend to *like* storylines and can pretty much put together a plot line pretty fast in my head as a film unfolds. Couple that with the fact that I was in junior high when I saw the first film, was into computers and video games at the same time, etc. the concept resonated with me. However, I can see how people younger (30 or less) or older (50+) would miss it because there’s no *charm* in the storyline or history to them.

    2. Visual effects – in one world, stunning. The worlds are not overdone or cartoony (like punches flying into your face). The visuals unfold fairly naturally. Plus I’ve done A LOT of 3D (primitive blue/red) work so I can appreciate the putting together of live action, blue screens, cgi, etc.

    3. Dialogue – yeah a bit of that. A lot of explaining the story. I will concede it’s a bit much, but then again, if one thinks back to The Matrix or even Lord of the Rings, it’s almost a similar pace.

    I find it amusing the criticism of the movie. Most of it with words like “disappointing”. My OPINION is that today’s enduring movies are a lot like a good video games… unlike the pre-90′s, where a movie began and ended with itself, we are starting to see movies growing beyond just one film. Granted not a ton of them…

    but perhaps film makers are trying to make more than a movie and it’s taking a lot more than the 2/2.5 hours an audience is willing to sit through.

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