Tron’ll trump

Tron: Legacy will be the closing film of the Dubai International Film Festival on Saturday and will be released UAE-wide on Wednesday, January 22.

Set to be the Dubai International Film Festival’s star attraction, when the film premieres in the city on Saturday as part of the festival’s closing ceremony, Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges returns to the role he last played 28 years ago in Tron: Legacy. Here he tells us why he believes the latest sci-fi adventure is tipped to be a roaring success

Disney has made the bold move to continue the story of Tron rather than reboot the original film. They claim that Tron: Legacy is a film that new eyes, who’ve never seen the clunky-yet-pioneering original film, can latch onto.

What viewers will get, regardless of their relationship with the 1982 film, is a thrilling, moving 3D adventure that will leave you wanting more. Whereas 3D has quickly become a dirty, corporate word, Tron: Legacy’s use of the new technology to bring the audience directly into this very specific and unique world makes this movie a completely immersive experience.

Jeff Bridges, who anchors the entire experience by playing both the hero and the villain of the piece, is predictably capable stepping back into the shoes of ENCOM CEO Kevin Flynn, a man who we learn has disappeared on the night he tells his young son Sam that he’s discovered a miracle within his new creation.

Here Bridges speaks about working on the latest Tron film and how, at the age of 61, his days are fuller than ever.

You’ve been promoting Tron for a while, but could you talk about your first time seeing the final version?

I haven’t seen it yet. Everyone is ahead of me on that score.

Have you seen any of the finished footage of you working with the1982 version of yourself? 

No, I haven’t seen that. I’m dying to see it, I’ve seen some of the earlier incarnations of Clu and I was impressed. But I haven’t seen the final one, they’ve been polishing it right up until the end.

What was that experience like for you, first of all acting with yourself, and now knowing that there’s a version of you that can be pulled up from any point in your career?

It’s opening a whole new deal. They can combine actors. It’s really going back to becoming a writer’s medium, because now anything’s possible. There are no sets, no costumes, it’s all done in post-production. Even the camera angles, where the camera is. It’s crazy.

As an actor, how did you split those two characters in your head for your performance?

With playing Flynn, where I was my own age, it was often practical sets and a costume. And then when I would do Clu, it would often be shot in a thing called the volume. It could be any size room, with sensors that look almost like these little sprinkler things. They’re not cameras they’re computer sensors. And you stand in a T-shape and they [capture] you and you’re in the computer. You’re in a leotard with all these dots on your face and this funny helmet with cameras. It’s nice to imagine in your head what it must be like to live in a grid. Just being in that strange circumstance helps that. 

Could you tell us how this December is a really big month for you?

It’s so chock full of stuff. I’ve got True Grit coming out, I don’t know if it’s coming out before or after Tron. And then on top of this thing, the cherry on this sundae is I’m making an album with T-Bone Burnett right now. We’re cutting some more tracks with this band that are just phenomenal.

When is the album going be out? 

Sometime next year.

Did you put something of your other most famous character Jeff Lebowski from The Big Lebowski in Neil Flynn?

There is a little bit of a connection between Flynn and Lebowski, The Dude. Since I’m playing it there’s that natural link, but they’re of the same generation, so I think they would get along. Maybe The Dude would say “Relax! Just take it easy Flynn.”

How did you react the first time you were approached about returning to the world of Tron?

I thought, “eh you really want to do that?” I can understand with all the technology that’s available now, it’s a no-brainer why they would want to do it. But I didn’t want to participate unless the story was good. I was most interested in taking part in creating a modern day myth. I thought we could use a good myth about technology to help guide us through these modern waters right now. And so I asked if I could bring onboard a friend of mine, Bernie Glassman, who’s a Zen Master. He has a wonderful site called I was just at a symposium that he held for socially engaged Buddhism, and I wanted to get some of his input on this, so he was brought in and put a Zen spin on it.

Did you love science-fiction books and movies when you were young?

As a kid growing up, I loved science fiction. I loved Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. 2001, I don’t know if you get movies that are much better than that. Starman, I was in that movie and really enjoyed it.

Would you do The Dude again if the Coens came to you?

Oh yeah, are you kidding me? I don’t think they will, but it’s set up like that with the line from the film, “I happen to know there’s a little Dude in the oven.”

You’ve obviously reached a point where a lot of people are approaching you with scripts, what are your criteria for wanting to take on a role?

I’m drawn to movies that I want to see and those are usually movies where the filmmaker is ahead of you, you don’t know quite what’s going to happen.

My M.O. is funny; it’s usually very resistant. I really try hard not to work, not to engage, because I know what that means. Hard work takes me away from my family. My wife and I were separated for 11 months last year. And also when you engage in one thing, it’s very possible that something’s going to come right around the corner that you can’t do because you’re already doing something else.

So, I really try to resist engagement, and when I can’t resist, that’s what I end up doing. When it’s just too groovy, like the Coen brothers or Crazy Heart or Tron, when it’s just too appealing I can’t resist it.

There are so many different characters in your career, is there something, some book, some dream, that you haven’t done that you want to do?

Music is a big force in me now. I’m going on 61-years-old now and I’ve been playing music since I was a teenager. Now for some reason all the stars are aligned and it’s just coming out. That’s my big dream that’s being realised as we speak.

Do you find it interesting to be an Oscar winner, something every actor aspires to, yet there’s still another dream that keeps you going?

What’s so weird about it is that the Oscar was about a musician and it’s all connected. And with my dear friend T-Bone Burnett and my friend Johnny Goodwin, who I’ve known since the fourth grade, we are making music and art together. Johnny wrote a song in Crazy Heart and on this new album he’s got a bunch of songs. So it’s all of these dreams coming through. I’ve got to say I blame Scott Cooper, the director of Crazy Heart, for making that happen. He was one of the best directors that I’ve ever worked with. 

Grand Productions

“I think there really is something to the fact that ‘Tron’ turns out to have been a part of growing up in the ‘80s,” says 59-year-old Steven Lisberger, who wrote and directed “Tron” and returned for “Tron: Legacy” as a producer. “It belongs to the Gen-Xers. It’s their story more than a story for my generation. I think the film reflects on my generation in this way: We had all these big dreams, we didn’t think things through and we really didn’t know how to implement them, but we certainly laid out a lot of things that were high-minded and maybe in some ways predicted the future.

“Now the Gen-Xers, who were teenagers and saw Tron, the fact that they were at a Disney film where their parents got their minds blown was a good sign to these kids,” Lisberger continues. “They said, `There must be something here, because I like this and it’s too much for my father/mother to handle.’ Then over the years, as the story came true and the technology became reality, it really started to mean something more to them, that they were around at the birth of all of this.

“It took all these years for the Gen-Xers to get to the point where they could revisit this,” he continues. “I think Tron almost had to go down a checklist over the years, where it had to, unfortunately in some ways, prove over and over and over again that it was relevant. It reached a certain critical mass, I think, and here we are.”

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