Over the weekend, Disney hosted a special preview event for their big end-of-the-year release, TRON: Legacy and while we aren’t yet allowed to talk about any of the new footage that was screened, ComingSoon.net did get a chance to speak with several of the key players in the long-awaited big-screen sequel.
Garrett Hedlund, whose previous work includes Four Brothers and Friday Night Lights, takes on his biggest role yet as Sam Flynn, son of the original film’s Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who, fifteen years after the disappearance of his father, finds himself following clues that pull him in a world he could never have possibly imagined.
Hedlund chatted with CS about the world of TRON new and old, his nearly three-year production experience, and where he’ll be appearing after “Legacy” hits on December 17th, namely in On the Road, playing Dean Moriarty opposite Sam Riley’s Sal Paradise.
Check out the full interview below and check back soon for conversations with Olivia Wilde (Quorra) and Sean Bailey (TRON: Legacy‘s Producer and Disney’s new Head of Production).
Q: What were the original meetings for “TRON: Legacy” like? How soon did you come aboard the project?
Garrett Hedlund: I had to read for it. I went and met with Joe [Kosinski] and Sean Bailey pretty early on and they showed me the VFX footage that they made for Comic-Con to show down there. They didn’t even have a script or anything at that point. I went into a meeting uncertain and I guess I came out unbelievably driven. I never knew I was going to get to see this footage, let alone what the footage entailed. I had hoped to be a part of it. I was very passionate about it from then on. Then I’d go in for test reads with Joe and Sean and, ultimately, with Olivia [Wilde] over at Disney around November-time of 2008… So yeah, I was fortunate enough to get to do that and me and Olivia had known each other from back in 2003 when she was doing her first project and I was doing mine. A pal of mine was on that project and I went to visit set a few times and we’d all hang out. So it’s pretty fantastic that we all get to go on this adventure, you know? It was fun to show up every day in Vancouver and show up sort of as a team on this and take this ride. Because this is sort of the biggest thing either of us have every been involved in. And then to get to work with Jeff! He’s such an incredible person. He’s got such a youthfulness and he’s a guy so inspired by everything about life. He’s such a–Jesus–a hard worker. He’s incredibly inspired by music and literature and philosophy and spiritualism. He’s like the dream father.
Q: Knowing that you were going to be playing his son, did you look at any of his past work to pick up on his characteristics as a younger man?
Hedlund: I didn’t really, no. I watched the original film again and kind of got a kick out of it. I hadn’t seen it [in ages], but seeing that VFX footage and the world they created then, it’s funny, you know? How technology has advanced and the fact that they made that one and filmed it so dark, almost in black and white. They were just wearing adhesive tape. All the things that looked like lights on their suits was just adhesive tape and they sent all that footage off to Korea and they hand-painted every single frame of the film. So it’s completely different from today’s sort of self-illuminated suits where our suits can actually light the other actor in a dark hallway and you don’t have to worry about all these people running around and making tweaks here and tweaks there.
Q: This is certainly the biggest-scaled film you’ve ever done but, from an acting perspective, was it also the most demanding?
Hedlund: Oh yeah. I had never even done a film before where it was demanded that I be on set all day and every day. Just that is tough in its own way. The energy and the strength required just to make it through every day like that. I’ve always been the supporting actor trying to write his role bigger. Ultimately, you end up working pretty hard that way, too. You wind up with the longstanding compulsion of always trying to add something new that’s not there on that page. That compulsion will sort of drive you mad once in a while. But to be on this one and get to work with Joe and Olivia and Jeff and Michael Sheen and James Frain–those two are just hilarious, man–and Beau Garrett. And Bruce Boxleitner! Having him was such a treat. Seeing him and Jeff sort of bicker about the old days and what they had to go through on the original “TRON.” Then you add Steve Lisberger to the mix and it’s just a trifecta of laughs, you know? It’s great to have Lisberger around. Him being the creator and basically the Godfather of the first was such a great and, for me, necessary attribute for this. He was able to give an intense amount of creative consultation. Plus, he was able to tell me in very few words some of the greatest [tips]. Just in terms of what an audience would want out of Sam Flynn. Before we’d even start filming. He’d be that guy who someone would want to take a trip with. A guy who has to be in control or powerful and sort of reliable and maybe humorous once in a while and all that. Those are attributes I thought I could add to it and he was right. Definitely right.
Q: At this point, have you finished up with the film or are you still working on it through the post-production process?
Hedlund:I think I’m pretty much done now. Even when I was up in Montreal, I had to do a vast amount of ADR. That’s me being in a soundstage there and we’re doing it here via iChat. But I think I’m all down with it now. My anticipation to see it is just like everybody else’s. I’ve never gotten to see anything, really. Even when I do ADR, it’s just the rough footage. Sometimes it’s not always to the finished project. It’s just some lines. You spit a line out and they make it work.
Q: What’s next for you? You’re shooting “On the Road.”
Hedlund: Yeah. I did this country film, “Country Strong,” with Gwyneth Paltrow immediately after we finished “TRON.” The director was asking if I’d be willing to put the work in necessary to play this role, now. This director, Shana Feste. And I said of course I would. So, from August on, I started guitar training for six months. We started filming January 11th for that, it was just a two-month shoot. Thirty-six days. And then it was to become this whole character, so I gained 40 pounds and got to 200 and was playing guitar all day every day. I was kind of on the pulled-pork diet. I was going to studio and putting down old Hank Sr. tracks or something else and charting the progress and then coming back two weeks later and putting down some other songs. Then we acquired our songs, one by one and you go in to work on those. I moved to Nashville a month and a half early to get the city down. I was staying at Tim McGraw’s cabin on his ranch about 40 miles outside of town, sitting by the fire playing these songs. I was really proud of that one. A really sad story. Now we’re halfway through filming “On the Road” with Walter Salles directing. That one was extremely special to me because when I first read it at sixteen or seventeen, I looked it up online and it said that Francis Ford Coppola was producing or directing it. I said, “Great. I’ll never get a chance at this.” Now I’m playing Dean Moriarty and I couldn’t be happier. But I had been attached to it since September ’07. And I think, man, if I hadn’t had been able to do it, a part of me would have definitely drowned a little bit. Just because I have such a passion for this project and Walter Salles is the only one in my eyes who is right to do this film. I’m so glad that all the stars aligned the way they have.
TRON: Legacy hits theaters and IMAX in Disney Digital 3D on December 17.