Garrett Hedlund interview: Tron Legacy, tight suits, the original Tron, and more

With Tron: Legacy a mere day from release, we bring you our interview with its lead, Garrett Hedlund...

In the forthcoming Tron: Legacy, Garrett Hedlund plays Sam, the rebellious son of missing programming legend Kevin Flynn. An accomplished motorcycle rider, base-jumper and frisbee thrower, the role of Sam required considerable training to pull off. Back in September, we caught up with the actor for a round-table interview about the film, which was then still in post-production, and his experiences of making it.

Mr. Hedlund began by describing his first exposure to the original Tron

Garrett Hedlund: I didn’t see it until 2003. I would love to [have seen it at the cinema]. They’ve got to do something like that – bring it back to the cinema. I always thought it was a great film, but I wasn’t aware of how ground breaking it was for its time.

What impressed me the most was the suits they wore, which were just covered in tape. They sent that footage over to Korea, and every bit of tape in every frame was painted over to make it look like there were lights on them.

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In this film, we’ve got the self-illuminating lights. It just blows my mind.

I heard you had to train in martial arts and Parkour for Tron: Legacy. How was that?

It was good. It takes a little time to be able to leap over things, and get that trust. To throw your arms out so your body’s completely parallel to the ground – you’ve got to be flexible. I wouldn’t be able to do it at this very moment, but I do know that agility is acquirable.

But it was great. It’s such a benefit, in some films, to gain these abilities and put them in your back pocket, and take them out again and use them should you need them again in the future.

Getting my motorcycle licence, and the training that was involved, and wearing the suit – it was all a great experience.

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The suits look cool, but how comfortable are they, really? Are they practical for moving around in?

It was like a sleeping bag in a romantic getaway… [Laughs]

So you could sit down?

No, we couldn’t sit down. We were given these stools to sit on with a bicycle seat on top. Because the suits have all these unique patterns in them, they start getting damaged if you’re not conscious of it. So you’ll be waiting for the next scene in your trailer and you’ll be sitting like this [Adopts an uncomfortable-looking, half standing, half squatting pose].

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So presumably, to go to the bathroom, you’d have to be cut out of the thing?

I had it a lot easier than the girls. They had a much harder time. But I just take it – I’m not big on complaining. I’ve been on a lot of long drives where Dad wouldn’t just pull over.

But yeah, it’s difficult, particularly if you don’t have your morning coffee until after you’ve put on the suit.

Today we saw some of the storyboards for the movie. Do they help to get you into the scene?

The pre-viz, or pre-visuals, were more helpful to us. They basically design this whole thing, scene by scene, they do the motions of all the characters in each scene – it’s a really rough computer animation of what we’re going to be seeing. Just so we can get a sense of it while you’re reading the script, so it’s not all on paper.

Sometimes, before a scene, Joe [Kosinski] would come over and show you [a pre-viz], which meant you could imagine what your character’s going to be doing. It was really helpful, because you could be standing on a platform somewhere, but really Joe’s going to be putting an entire city around me.

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The Light Cycle, was that essentially you sitting on a piece of scaffolding, and they just added it in later?

Yeah. Basically, they put the dots on your face, and you’re wearing a cap, and you have a helmet on your head, similar to the one Jeff [Bridges] wore as Clu. It lights your face up and captures the movements of your head and shoulders. It’s kind of a long process – it’s about a week of going through all these reactions, with Joe explaining what’s happening. “You’re going round a right turn here, then you’re going straight, and then you’re going to look to your left because another Light Cycle’s coming up behind you.” So you hit those three beats in one.

What was it that drew you to the part? We saw the contrast between the real-world version of Sam Flynn and the one in the Grid – what made you want to play that character?

I tried to imagine it being a bit like being in an accident. You’ve had a freak accident, you;ve messed up somehow, and been in a smash, and all of a sudden you’re in heaven, looking around, trying to figure out where you are, because nothing looks familiar.

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You don’t know how you got there, so you’re trying to back track in your head, and remember what happened. And there are people here you’ve never seen before…

So you approached it like a life-after-death scenario?

Yeah. Like I’m trying to figure everything out, and I’m seeing my Father for the first time. I’m hearing this voice that’s far away, and it sounds familiar. It’s kind of like, you haven’t seen your Father in years, and now you’re reunited with him.That was the unknown reference for me.

Garrett Hedlund, thank you very much.

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