If the 23 minutes of footage that Disney showed the press at Digital Domain this past Saturday was any indication, Tron: Legacy is a high-tech adventure set in a digital world that’s unlike anything ever captured on the big screen.
At the core of the story is a father-son relationship that resonates as much on the Grid as it does in the real world, as it provides a level of humanity that the programs that are trapped in it could never possess themselves. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is a rebellious 27-year-old who is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world’s leading tech visionary. When Sam investigates a strange signal believed to only have been able to come from his father, he finds himself pulled into the digital world where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years, and the two must survive a life-or-death journey that includes never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
In this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Garrett Hedlund talked about playing Sam Flynn, the experience of working with someone as talented as Jeff Bridges and how much he already misses being on set for this project. He also revealed that he was involved in the additional footage that was shot after the film was completed, and how he’s playing another dream role in the smaller character drama On the Road, with Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
GARRETT HEDLUND: I went to go meet with Joseph Kosinski and Sean Bailey, maybe about three or four months before I was cast, and they showed me the effects footage that Joseph had created. In terms of that room, I walked in uncertain and I walked out driven. I didn’t know I was going to walk in and be shown something like that, that was that unforeseeable. I just thought it was the coolest thing that I had never imagined. Being an audience member and being a fan of film and going to see all these films, that was something I hadn’t seen. That was the appeal, in part. It was something new and something unbelievably new. I was fortunate enough to be able take this ride with everyone.
What was it like to work with someone like Jeff Bridges?
HEDLUND: I think he’s just incredible and genuine, and filled with life and inspiration. He’s inspired by so many things, like music, literature, philosophy and spirituality, and all these things. It’s infectious. It’s such a privilege for me to be able to have the chance to work with him. I know that each of these actors that I completely admire make me a better actor. I had the opportunity to watch them on set and see how they compose themselves on and off, and how much work they put into it. It inspires me to work harder on every film that I do and never cease.
How was it to go through this experience with Olivia Wilde?
HEDLUND: I’ve known her since back in 2003, when I was doing my first project and she was doing her first project. So, to be able to go on this ride together was desirable and unbelievable.
Being Joe Kosinski’s first film and having it be so massive, what was he like as a director?
HEDLUND: The guy, in my mind, is such a genius. In my mind, he’s the next Kubrick, in terms of his vision. I could say every good word in the book about Joe. He’s great. It was an incredible experience. I miss it already.
Did it help you, as an actor, that Joe had such a clear vision for the film, since there were times that you had nothing but a blue screen to work with?
HEDLUND: Yeah. Also, they had this pre-vis, where they basically had the whole film pre-visually established. It’s just a reference, but for him to show you what this was going to look like, even before the script was completed, inspired you and comforted you. Sometimes when the days would get long and you’d been filming a lot and you were waiting for the next scene, and you were hungry, tired and thirsty, Joe would come over and show you some footage of what something was on its way to looking like, and you’d be like, “Wow! Holy shit! Let’s do this scene! How cool is this one going to look now, if that one looks like that?” And, Daft Punk being involved and coming down was amazing. They acquired 10 or 12 tracks without even seeing a single bit of the film, and they would send that stuff to Joe and Joe would play it behind some scenes. It got everybody pretty amped up. Joe was good about that.
Growing up, did you play video games or arcade games at all? Were you able to identify with that aspect of the story?
HEDLUND: I was a Duck Hunt and Mario guy, and stuff like that. I was never technologically driven. I never had all the cool, new toys. I was the youngest child, I wasn’t the only child, so I wasn’t spoiled as a kid. And, we were on the farm, so we didn’t have a lot. Also, with computers, I’m not very good with them. I just check my email.
That’s why it was cool to step into this role and do something so different than what I’ve played. He’s a rich kid and immediately, when you say rich kid, words like jealousy or envy come into play, so you just try to keep him away from the unlikeable attributes of what people initially go to, in terms of a rich kid. Sam Flynn is incredibly adventurous and individual and has lived a secluded life. He is haunted by the disappearance of his father, but that’s in the past and it’s about what’s next. And then, when Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) approaches him and says, “Here are the keys to your father’s office,” he wants to give it up, but there is that last little teaspoon of curiosity, and that’s what drives Sam down to the office and throws him into this world of unknown that he’s got to now figure out how to survive.
Were you involved in the re-shoots for the film? Were any major changes made?
HEDLUND: I wouldn’t say re-shoots. It was really additional footage. Yeah, I had a week of additional footage. As soon as I finished Country Strong, where I went up to 200 pounds on the pulled pork diet and the strummin’ work-out with the guitar, I had to lose all that weight to get back into the suit. These guys are really great and I love the additional stuff we shot. I’m so glad we did it, but I can’t really say what it is.
What’s it like to do so much press for a film that isn’t even done yet?
HEDLUND: I don’t know. It’s different. I’ve never really talked about a film as much as I’ve talked about this one, but we did finish it over a year and a few months ago now. You talk about it when you get it and you’re excited, you talk about it while you’re doing it and what you’re going through, you talk about it afterwards because it’s done and in the past and people are still curious, and now the press is picking up and it’s like you just got the film again and you’re excited about it. You get to see little tidbits that amp you up. I can’t wait until they finally show me a full version. I haven’t gotten to see anything. I’m anticipating it just as much as everybody else is. I think I’m building my own hype up, at the same time as everybody else’s.
HEDLUND: With Tron, we had so many crew members around and a stage full of special effects people that know exactly what has to be done in the situations. You’re on a stage in sets the whole time. For our experience with On the Road, it’s been quite the opposite. It’s been quite a guerilla shoot. At times, there’s just been two handfuls of crew members around us and it’s a very quiet situation. The content that we’re dealing with is all over the board. The Beat Generation is so much more different than the technological world.
Just personally, I’ve been attached to On the Road since 2007 and it was the greatest thing in my life when I got cast in it. I couldn’t believe it. When I was 17 and read the book, I looked it up on IMDb and it said that Francis Ford Coppola was going to direct it. Me just being a kid about to graduate high school, I knew I would never get a shot at it. Now, it’s eight years later and I’m on the set of On the Road. Every day, me and Sam Riley would look at each other and just be like, “We’re fuckin’ filming On the Road.”
Also, the character is such a wild, maniacal, extroverted genius. Kerouac was the cowboy that inspired the whole Beat Generation, and highlighted and put the spotlight on all of these minds that didn’t really know what they were doing at the time, but accomplished something much bigger than what they ever foresaw. I think that’s what Tron is doing, in terms of the technological world. From what the first one had done, this one is taking that torch a little further. Anybody that’s sitting out in the audience that has the aspirations to be in this business and do anything with special effects or computers, it’s going to inspire them to work a little harder to get to where they want to be. Once they get there, they’re going to create that piece of work that’s going to inspire the whole next generation of creators.