Interview: Mr. Original Tron Bruce Boxleitner
When you’re covering the long awaited sequel to Tron, it’s pretty cool to talk to the original Tron himself. Bruce Boxleitner returns in Tron Legacy as Alan Bradley, the real world counterpart to Tron, who fights for the users in the grid. Alan is still an executive at Encom, and he’s trying to get Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) to come back to his father Kevin’s (Jeff Bridges) company.
A page from Kevin’s old line at the Arcade gets Sam into the new modern day grid. Tron is still running around in there, but he’s under a helmet and a lot has changed. If you want some Tron Legacy spoilers or just to geek out over the original Tron, Boxleitner was happy to entertain the attention in the year 2010.
Screen Junkies: Glad to meet you.
Bruce Boxleitner: Glad that he’s still standing. Like I threw my walker into the corner and said, “I’m in.” I’m talking myself blue about it but it’s kind of true. It is kind of a strange situation, something I walked away from in 1982 when it was almost a bitter experience because they really roughed up the movie, the critics and the industry kind of dismissed it. I think all of this is the final vindication.
SJ: My favorite scenes are actually in the real world with Encom now. How did you feel about seeing that part of the Tron world this time later?
BB: Well, strangely enough, we only shot that a couple months back, three months ago. It was kind of one of the last things shot. After we’d ended principal photography a long time before that, we came back because I was saying they had to make a wig for me to do the beginning. I loved that and I thought it was a really terrific way to start the movie, [Sam] mucking around with them. We had to kind of point up I think in our scene together in his house, I said, “So your annual prank. You always have to do some kind of annual prank.” Really it says a lot about young Sam but it also shows that Encom is not this place, this It’s A Small World Isn’t It place we created in the 1980s. It was taken over by a bunch of young turks that took Encom into places we didn’t want it to be. That’s why he’s sitting there, me I’m CEO in name only and they kind of allow me to.
SJ: Were you happy to see where the character Tron went in the grid?
BB: I was sad. But there’s such thing as reboot.
SJ: Let’s call it the dark direction he went.
BB: The dark direction he went, yes. If that’s what they wanted to do with it, it’s fine. I was quite shocked with the young version of Tron and Flynn walking there, but they got my nose and jaw right. There’s a couple of features on all of our faces, if they don’t do that right, it just misses your face completely. I think they did a great job.
Q: Was it ever you under the helmet?
BB: Never, never. No, no. I was told that right up front. I said, “No, that’s fine. That’s fine with me. I can’t do all of those moves.” Back then would’ve been one thing but now I couldn’t. I did the voice work of it though. When he said, “I fight for the users” in the end. If you’re a real Tron fan, you know the T mark. I saw some murmurings of some of the fans in front of me going, “Oh my God, that’s Tron. Rinzler is Tron.”
SJ: Would you have liked to see Cindy Morgan back as your girlfriend Yori and Lora?
BB: Yeah, if that’s what it was, if it was a grand old reunion. I think you needed Alan and you needed Kevin. You certainly needed Kevin because this is: Where is Kevin Flynn? That was the whole thrust of our story. Yes, it would have been great but we’ve only got so much movie to do and it’s not really about us, the guys from the previous movie. It’s about Sam and Quorra in the end, our two young heroes riding off into the sunrise.
SJ: Fans have speculated about this possible sequel for decades. What have you thought as Tron 2 rumors circulated over the years?
BB: Well, I couldn’t imagine what the story would be. Where would we pick up? That’s why I have to compliment, this script over the last two years has really gone through some changes. Like I said, we were shooting, we did some tweaking only a couple months back. Maybe more than that, three months ago or more. I had no idea when they called me. I was shocked that they would even want me. I kind of knew after Comic-Con when it was released at Comic-Con. I think that was the green light moment. The reaction to the little clip they made, they showed it at Comic-Con three years ago. But the storyline, I couldn’t guess. So when Joe was telling me it, I went, “Wow, I would have never thought of that plot.” I think it’s very original.
SJ: What has the fanfare been like for you over the years?
BB: I have signed every format this movie’s been on because it literally was Beta, VHS, laserdisc, DVD.
SJ: That Beta’s gotta be worth something now.
BB: It is, but everywhere. European formats, everything, I signed it and consistently, more than anything I was ever approached by fans. It was always about that.
SJ: Has any other role been close to that?
BB: The Babylon 5 character because that was another cult thing. They just have to come up and tell you about it. Yeah, over the years, television goes everywhere. Scarecrow and Mrs. King, I got a lot of that back then but those are the most recent ones and that was certainly the rebirth of Tron again, getting much, much more now. It feels good.
SJ: When you made the original Tron, were you thinking of the metaphysics like what is an independent being that’s a program working for a user?
BB: Not at all. I was doing westerns. I couldn’t relate. The only way I could relate to this was I was either like a Buck Rogers type character or Luke Skywalker type character. I auditioned for Star Wars and didn’t get that. Anyway, no, I really didn’t. I did get the basic kind of religious thing, studying our user gods, God. I felt that had a religious feel to it but other than that I was playing Tron by the rules that he lived by. He was a gladiator. He’s kind of Spartacus. I related it to other films, movies, Spartacus, gladiator leading a revolt against the powers that be. Or I was Clark Kent as Alan Bradley and my Superman was Tron. There was nothing to relate to all that stuff. There was no reference other than other movies.
Q: What was one thing that just would not work right on the original Tron?
BB: I found we were in tights and basically the circuitry was drawn on with a Sharpee, these heavy ink pens. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work. They kept saying, “Well, that’s going to be animated. The circuitry’s going to go.” I think everything we had worked. We were on a solid black sets, solid black rooms, soundstages which you had to run outside every once in a while just to get some color in your eyes. We were painted white in the game grid so when you see footage from before it was colorized, wow. It looks like something from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. I didn’t really concern myself with the technology of it. It was way over my head at the time.
SJ: Have you kept up with Battle Zone?
BB: No, no. Some things as a boy you leave behind. All my sons play video games. I’ve got a great game room. I’ve got a 15-year-old, a 30-year-old, a 25-year-old and a 21-year-old. My 21-year-old stepson’s in the Marine Corps and they’re all excited about it there.
SJ: Has being part of the Tron video games kept you in the Tron world?
BB: Yeah, I think very close. I did Tron 2.0, Disney’s Kingdom Hearts had a Tron character in that as well. I did voice work for him. I figured anything that was Tron, if they’re interested in me doing it, I’m going to do it because it would break my heart to hear somebody else doing it, another voice. They were interested, since actors in recent years have been doing voiceovers on games. It’s become quite lucrative but he’s my character, I gave life to him, and I wanted to stick with him. I did even in this one.
Tron Legacy hits theaters Friday.