In the highly anticipated high-tech adventure sequel Tron: Legacy, actress Olivia Wilde plays Quorra, a fearless warrior who helps Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) reunite with his father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). She is a unique program, much like a surrogate daughter, that acts as Kevin Flynn’s confidante, and has been helping him survive his life in exile. He has taught her of the outside world, so she now longs to experience what lies far beyond the realm of possibility.
When select press was invited to Digital Domain in Venice, Calif. this past Saturday, Olivia Wilde did this interview with Collider and one other online outlet, to discuss how Tron: Legacy has already exceeded all of her expectations, what her take is on the humanity in the film, doing physical stunts in heels and how Joan of Arc influenced the look of her character.
She also explained that being involved with something this massive has made her feel like she can do anything, and it definitely gave her the confidence to work with Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell in her next feature, Cowboys & Aliens. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: Is there anything, from the footage you’ve seen so far, that has exceeded your expectations, based on what you dealt with on set?
Olivia: Oh, yeah. I knew it would be visually stunning, and I knew Joe’s plans for it. I knew what they were planning on doing, but it’s even more stunning than I imagined. But, there’s certain elements I hadn’t taken into account when we were shooting, like the way they altered the voices. I think that’s really interesting. When Sam is on the Recognizer and you hear the Black Guard program speaking to the captured programs, their voices are warped. And, the Sirens’ voices are warped. That element of changing the sound to differentiate programs from users was really interesting, and that was something new for me. But, it’s even more beautiful than I had imagined. The texture of it is not complete yet, but every time I see a little section of it, they’ve painted in more and more, and it’s just becoming more and more intricate. I’m still just blown away by the Clu head. Clu, to me, is the most fascinating character in the movie.
What is your impression of Clu and how he represents technology coming in between humanity? Is that your take on it?
Olivia: Yes, but only because it’s our fault. Clu is like the abused stepchild. He’s been created out of this beautiful program that Flynn designed, in order to be a partner to Flynn, but he’s not his real son. He’s an avatar, and he’ll only ever be that because there’s a limit to what programs can be, and that is what frustrates and enrages Clu. The philosophy of Tron, for me, really is summed up by the question of monkey versus robot, and that’s what a lot of these movies are about, like Terminator. Any sci-fi film of the last 20 years is really about monkey versus robot, but Tron is, in a way that none of the rest of them are.
The question of the first Tron movie was, “What would happen if technology overtook our lives and this new thing became more powerful than us?” That was the premise. Now, 30 years later, the film is not asking that question. It’s saying, “Technology has taken over and we are slaves to technology, so now what? Can we escape this? Can we recapture what it is to be human and appreciate that, and harness the technology we have created for good?” I think that’s what Kevin Flynn has dreamt of doing, but he became swallowed up by his own creation, and Clu is just a symptom of that. But, I don’t think it’s irreversible. I’m optimistic about what technology can do.
Did you enjoy the physicality of this role? How much more challenging was it to do these stunts in heels?
Olivia: It was much more challenging. I enjoy the physicality because it was a tool with which to unlock who Quorra was. I was doing a tremendous amount of research on Joan of Arc and Buddhist warriors, and all sorts of things that informed who she was, but it wasn’t until I had physically transformed through the martial arts training and cross-training, and everything else we were doing, that I was like, “Oh, this is how she feels. This is how she walks.” She’s the kind of person who could protect herself, if she were jumped on a dark street. That’s not who I am. I’m not a physically powerful person. So, without that training and the physical element of the transformation, I wouldn’t have been able to capture who she really is. It was really challenging, but useful as another tool.
Did Joan of Arc influence the hair?
Olivia: Yes, it did. My first conversation with Joe about the look of Quorra, I said, “Joe, she’s Joan of Arc. We should cut off all her hair. She should be androgynous. There’s nothing about her that’s sexy and flowing. She doesn’t need to pile on sexiness because it’s inherent in that suit. Because she is this powerful warrior, she is sexy. We don’t need to push it at all.” With her character, internally she’s quite innocent and childlike, in her appreciation for the world, and very compassionate and naive, but with the hair and the physical creation of Quorra, I wanted her to have something that was reminiscent of Joan of Arc in a future cyberpunk world. She was also influenced by Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and some other characters and images that we found. It was just really exciting that Joe was open to that and that Disney was open to that. She didn’t need to have Little Mermaid hair. She could be asymmetrical and unorganic and not the typical definition of sexy.
What’s it like to do so much press for a film that isn’t even finished yet?
Olivia: The reason I actually enjoy doing press for Tron, though it hasn’t come out, is because I’m really interested in the questions it brings up and why there’s so much anticipation for it. My theory on that is because the world is ripe for this movie right now. It’s very appropriate for what we’re going through now, with our relationship to technology. If I weren’t so interested in talking about everything behind it, and all the creative influences and all the amazing, revolutionary technology, it would be uncomfortable to discuss it so much because I would want it to just arrive and be seen on its own. But, I think it’s actually interesting and helpful for the viewer to watch this film with a little bit of background on what went into it. That’s why it doesn’t bother me to do the press. We’re about to start the full-scale assault. This is the first battle. But, I geek out on Tron and I like to talk about it. If I didn’t, then it would be nightmare-ish.
What’s your relationship with the original film? When did you see it and what did you take away from it?
Olivia: I hadn’t seen it in its entirety until before my first meeting with Joe [Kosinski] and Sean [Bailey], yet it was a part of my cultural awareness, as it is for many people. You think of the references to it in television shows like Family Guy, Chuck and several different shows, going back a long time, and it’s almost like Star Wars, in that there are a lot of people who haven’t seen Star Wars, but they feel like they have because it’s such a part of our cultural fabric. It certainly wasn’t as big as Star Wars. The interesting thing about Tron is that it bombed, but despite that, it triggered a wave of this Tron aesthetic that caught on. It was this sleeper movement. So, I was aware of it and I had felt like I’d seen it, but I hadn’t actually watched it.
When I watched it, I was really taken aback by how funny it was and how beautiful it was. It doesn’t hold up, in terms of the special effects being incredible. It’s weird and quirky, but that’s why it’s still interesting. It wasn’t trying to look like anything else. It came from Steven Lisberger’s head and it was such a laborious project. There were 900 people in Korea, painting film to create that effect. CG had never been used, ever. And, it was disqualified from the Academy Awards because they said that special effects meant that it wasn’t a real film.
Now, films like Avatar are nominated for Best Picture. It broke ground. The reason this one is happening now is because technology has just gotten to a point where this film can be as revolutionary as the first. If you had made this film 10 years ago, it would have fallen short because it couldn’t be as new, groundbreaking and beautiful. That’s why I think it’s the right time for it and that’s why I think people will enjoy it.
Did being involved with something this massive help prepare you to do another big project like Cowboys & Aliens?
Do you feel like you could take on anything now?
Olivia: I do. Cowboys & Aliens was another step. With Tron, I worked 68 days out of 75. On Cowboys, I worked 80 days. I’m becoming more and more responsible for the film, but I feel like I can accept that responsibility, based on each experience and what I’ve learned from it. I think Tron definitely prepared me for working with iconic actors. After working with Jeff Bridges, I was like, “Okay, I can handle working with Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell.” I’ve looked up to these people for a long time. I like that I feel like I’m taking these incremental steps, and I feel prepared for each one, and I feel like I’m in the right place and that I’m meant to be playing these characters. I feel ready for it.