Q&A Media Interview with Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley/Tron) for “Tron: Legacy” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
April 5, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Images courtesy of ©Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Back in 1982, the sci-fi Disney film “Tron” captured the attention of sci-fi fans, especially for those who saw the beginnings of animation on coordination with CG for live-action film. “Tron” was a groundbreaking film for Disney.
As Disney was able to use experimental ways of achieving animation back in 1940, the company would do the same in 1982 with “Tron” and many thanks goes to the creative and foresight of writer/director Steven Lisberger, who had the concept in his mind of what he wanted to accomplish. And although the technological terms may have had people scratching their heads back in the early ’80s and the film was seen as “ahead of its time”, while the majority of the public may have not understood the film, many younger people were fascinated by it.
“Tron” would become a box office success as it grossed $33 million in the U.S. and since 1982, the film would be seen as an amazing time in Disney live action and animation as the film would inspire many people to become animators and the film itself would become a significant cult film, including the “Academy Award for Technical Achievement” in 1996.
As the film would spawn a successful franchise of video games, comic books, an animated series and toys, “Tron” was a film that would remain a fan favorite for nearly 30-years.
And then came the sequel, “Tron Legacy” in 2010. Produced by original writer/director Steven Lisberger, the film would feature the debut of director Joseph Kosinki and feature a screenplay by “LOST” writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The film would also feature the return of the original movie’s actors Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner.
This long awaited sequel had a hefty budget at $170 million and made over $397 million worldwide.
And now both films will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 5th. This includes an Ultimate Tron Experience, a 5-disc collection which comes with “Tron: The Original Classic” on Blu-ray and “Tron: Legacy” in 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy.
In celebration of the release of both “Tron” films on Blu-ray and DVD, J!-ENT will be featuring Q&A interviews with the cast and crew of “Tron: Legacy”. We began with Olivia Wilde, the actress who plays the character Quorra, followed by Garrett Hedlund who plays the protagonist, Sam Flynn and Jeff Bridges, who plays Kevin Flynn/Clu.
In this fourth interview, we feature Bruce Boxleitner who plays the character of Alan Bradley, the computer programmer who created “Tron” in the original film and plays Sam’s caretaker in “Tron: Legacy”.
Bruce Boxleitner may be known to sci-fans for his role on both “Tron” films but for many others, they know him from the ’90s sci-fi series “Babylon 5” and ’80s series “Scarecrow and Mrs. King”. Boxleitner continues to be active on television, making appearances on the TV series “Chuck”, “NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service”, “Cold Case” and “Heroes”.
Here is a transcript of a recent media Q&A interview with Bruce Boxleitner:
How would you describe the story of TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: TRON: Legacy is the sequel to TRON. The story of the sequel is set in real time, 28 years after the first movie. We revisit some of the characters from the original movie, including Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley, and we revisit the world of Encom. We also meet Kevin Flynn’s son, Sam. Ultimately, the story takes us back down into the world of TRON where much of the action was set in the 1982 movie. However, it’s a different world now. It’s a darker, more violent and dangerous world down there.
What can you tell us about your character in the movie?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: I return to play Alan Bradley in the sequel. Alan is the storyteller who bridges the past to the present. There’s a lot of history that needs to be told about the world of TRON and not everyone watching the movie knows that story, so Alan does that at the beginning of the sequel. He passes the torch onto Sam Flynn, who is the new hero of the movie. I guess Alan is the Alfred to Sam’s Batman.
What makes you choose that analogy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Well, Batman always needs Alfred to remind him of who he is and where he came from. Alfred is also Batman’s conscience. Alan is similar because he’s the surrogate father to Sam Flynn. Alan’s best friend and creative partner – Kevin Flynn – has been missing for 15 years, so Alan has looked after Sam and has always kept an eye on him. Both of these guys, Sam and Alan, are wounded people because of the disappearance of Kevin. They’ve had no closure on Kevin’s story. They don’t know where he is; they don’t what happened to him. Is he alive? Is he dead? They have no idea. Both of their lives were altered seriously because of his disappearance.
How has Alan Bradley changed since the first movie?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Over the years, Alan has been a very successful man. He is currently the CEO of Encom, but he’s not respected within the company. His colleagues tolerate him in the boardroom, but he has no say because Encom has turned into something that neither Flynn nor Bradley envisioned. It’s a shocking change to where Alan was 28 years ago. He’s now a broken man; he’s a lost soul. He wanders the corridors of Encom wearing nice suits, he drives a great car and he makes a great paycheck. However, he has absolutely nothing to do with the company. That frustrates him. He’s nothing like the nerdy tech you saw in the original film.
What’s your favorite scene in TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Shooting the seminal scene between Alan and Sam at the beginning of the movie really stands out for me. We filmed that scene in Vancouver and we spent all night outside a really cool freighter container house, which is where Sam lives. I think every young guy is going to want to have a home like that. It was amazing. I love this scene in particular because this is where the human side of the story really comes to light. It’s the human story that makes the movie stand out. TRON: Legacy is not just about special effects and computer wizardry; it’s got a heart.
Was it easy to play the father figure to Garrett Hedlund’s Sam Flynn?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: It was very easy because Garrett is a wonderful actor. I have three sons myself, so it was very natural to act out those scenes and relive being a father. In fact, I have a Sam Boxleitner. He’s a couple years older than Garrett, but that’s why it felt especially real. It felt like I was talking to my own kid and Garrett looked at me like I was his daffy uncle. That’s the way it struck me anyway.
What was your biggest challenge in working on TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Portraying Alan Bradley again after 28 years was one of the challenges. What is this man now? What’s happened to him in this interim? I was fascinated by where these wonderful writers had taken these characters. However, I guess my biggest challenge involved the motion capture work on TRON: Legacy.
Hoes does it feel to see people excited about the TRON universe again?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: It feels great, although I’m amazed because when we shot the original movie, we had no idea that it was going to become a cult classic. We knew we were working on something cutting edge, but the film didn’t have a ton of success when it was first released. However, as the years passed, I kept seeing it pop up on Top 10 lists of fan favorites and cult favorites. I would say that 85 per cent of the autographs I have signed over the years have involved a piece of TRON memorabilia. Even when I worked on the TV show, Babylon 5, I was still signing TRON merchandise – especially overseas. There were always huge lines of people waiting with TRON memorabilia when I visited countries like Australia and the UK, and I was always surprised because I never believed that it would come to that.
What attracted you to the sequel?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: The idea of working with Jeff Bridges again was a big plus point for me, but I was also intrigued to find out what had happened to these characters. It’s been 28 years since the first film was released and I wanted to know where they went during that time. When I first read the script, I was thrilled by it because I had no idea that Alan Bradley would become such a lost soul. It was such a great idea that it was a no brainer to sign up for the sequel. I was thrilled to be asked to return.
What do you think of TRON: Legacy cast members Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde, who play Sam Flynn and Quorra in the movie?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: I’m very proud to say that I started on the movie earlier than everybody else. I was hired to screen test all of the young talent fighting for the roles that were eventually won by Olivia and Garrett. I screen tested all of the Sam Flynns and all of the Quorras – and it was a lot of fun because I got to work with a lot of young, new, talented people. It feels really good that these two made the cut because they were my personal picks. I was really impressed with their work. They are both going to go far in their careers.
In what way did the filmmaking process differ between the original TRON and TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: The two movies are both cutting edge and they’re both years ahead of their time, but they were shot completely differently. On the original movie, we were running around in tights with a Frisbee taped to our backs. We were wearing hockey helmets with motocross shoulder pads and armguards, along with high boots. If you had to go to the bathroom, someone had to unzip you and you’d have to take everything off just to go for a pee. We were promised the movie was going to look good, but we had no idea what was going on when we shot it. We were blown away by the results, though. It looked amazing.
How does today’s filmmaking compare?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Today, filmmaking is still a long process – but everything is much more sophisticated and technologically advanced. There are no tights and no Frisbees. The costumes are incredible and the motion capture used in TRON: Legacy blows me away. The bulk of my time on the set of the movie was spent in the real world, so I didn’t experience the technical side of filming as much as Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges. However, I was extremely impressed with everything I saw.
What do you think of the light suits used in TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: I think they are fantastic. They have lights incorporated into the actual suit, so they’re very different to the tights we wore back in 1982. The new suits are spectacular. There was this wonderful moment on the set of TRON: Legacy where the director would yell, “Light them up.” This happened just before he called “Action” and it was amazing because all of a sudden, all of these people on the sound stage would literally light up. It was amazing to watch.
How do you think the younger generation will react to TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: How will the younger generation react to the movie? Well, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback so far. Personally, I hope that a whole new generation falls in love with the movie and this cutting-edge world we created – and I hope it spurs them on to watch the original TRON movie, too. We have the original film being released on Blu-Ray, so it’s going to be out there for them. However, they don’t need to know anything about the original film to enjoy TRON: Legacy. It’s my character’s job in the movie to reveal the past mythology and to familiarize the audience with the story, so it’s all explained clearly at the start of the sequel. You know what? If kids today don’t like this movie, then I quit! Personally, I think this new generation is going to love it. They are going to be blown away. I can’t wait for them to see it.
Can you take us through the motion capture process?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: It was very technical. I had hundreds of dots placed over my face and I wore a helmet with cameras pointing at my head. The extras had no idea what was going on, but the dots were used as reference points for the amazing artists on the movie. They created a younger version of my face from 30 years ago. In fact, the same crew who worked on The Strange Case Of Benjamin Button worked on TRON: Legacy and you get to see Jeff Bridges in his 30s again, too. The work they did was amazing.
What else did you have to do for the motion capture process?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: After filming finished in Vancouver, I had to go and have my face scanned in Los Angeles. The rig was immense. It was like walking into a UFO. I pulled every kind of facial expression you can possibly think of for the special camera set-up. The cameras captured every angle and every aspect of my face. They captured every aspect of my muscle movement. It was astonishing.
Was it very different to the special effects work on the first movie?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: You know what? I look at how far effects have come since we shot the first TRON, but it’s not like we were in the Stone Age back then. We were state of the art at that time. We’re still state of the art with TRON: Legacy. It’s just moved forward a great deal.
What advances in technology did you notice on the set of TRON: Legacy?
BRUCE BOXLEITNER: Well, the suits are much cooler in the new TRON movie. For the first film, I wore tights with magic marker drawings on them, as well as a hockey helmet and motor cross armor. I was also throwing an actual Frisbee. I didn’t have that cool-looking rainbow disk that they throw around in TRON: Legacy. However, I’m sure that the thoughts going through the minds of the cast on both TRON movies was exactly the same, especially when shooting the scenes set on the grid. Everyone has the feeling that they are making something different and something cutting edge. Everyone feels that they are working on something state of the art. That feeling remains unchanged.
TRON: LEGACY is Available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Movie Download April 5th!
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