Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jeff Bridges on the making of "Tron:Legacy"

Making a movie without cameras
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated December 16, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

Jeff Bridges has a fascinating hobby he has successfully sustained all these years: when he makes a movie, he chronicles the filming by taking snapshots of the actors, technicians and crew on the set — during and in-between takes.

“Did you see my book yet?” he asked us immediately at the start of our roundtable interview with him during the junket for Disney’s highly-anticipated sequel to the 1982 cult hit Tron recently at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The set of photographs he took during the shoot, or variations thereof, as the actor characterized it, was compiled into a neat coffeetable book and was made available to every journalist covering the junket as part of the introduction of Tron: Legacy to the world.
He brought up his book to give us an idea of the challenging work he and the rest of the cast and crew did to create what is probably the most deliriously-immersive and enjoyable 3D experience one will ever have at the movies this year.

“It was bizarre,” he said of the filming process. “I made it though. It was a challenge but an exciting one. One of the reasons that brought me to the first one was the chance to work with all the technology that was available at that time. And it was the same thing for this one — to take part in the cutting-edge technology that is available today.”

To create the movie’s revolutionary look, the filmmakers used more advanced and sophisticated cameras than those used in Avatar. “It was basically making a movie without cameras — what a bizarre thought; I’ve never done that. This was the perfect movie to experience that because it’s very odd making movies without cameras; you make it in a green room called the volume.”

Avid film enthusiasts are in for an early Christmas treat when Disney rolls out its biggest and most ambitious project this year tomorrow, Dec. 17. Tron: Legacy opens simultaneously worldwide to ease the hunger faithful fans of the original Tron have been waiting to see for nearly three decades.

This incredible build-up of excitement over the release of Tron: Legacy was in direct contrast to the tepid box-office and critical reception the original Tron had when it was released in 1982. The groundbreaking and never-before-seen special effects used on the movie were initially blamed for the failure but over the years the movie has gained enormous cult following and diehard fans started on-line petitions for a sequel.

The commonplace CGI-effects that we see in big blockbusters today would not have been possible without the technology developed for Tron, which, interestingly, was so advanced in 1982 that it was deemed ineligible for an Oscar award consideration, with the Academy accusing the filmmakers of cheating.

That was 28 years ago. This year, the filmmakers behind Tron: Legacy are introducing another groundbreaking special effect: Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges regains his youthful, 30-year-old look!

The Hollywood veteran, who turned 61 this month, plays a dual role in the movie: The younger computer program Clu and Kevin Flynn, the creator of the Tron universe.

“It was very strange,” he said, describing how his character Clu was created. “It took me a while to get used to it as an actor because I like having a costume. I like having a make-up and a set. I like to know where the camera is, you know, but in this case everything was done in post-production.”

For the part of Clu, the actor was shot wearing white leotard and with 52 markers drawn on his face. He was fitted with a state-of-the-art helmet that captured and controlled his facial expressions and movements. He still had control over the “performance” of Clu.

“The challenge was to not bitch too much about that,” he joked. “It’s like going to a party and they are playing the waltz when all you want is do the cha-cha.”

When we did the interview with Jeff, the actor has not had the opportunity to watch the final cut of the movie yet and had no idea how it came out. “Did it come off all right?” he asked. When told that it evoked memories of the adolescent Jeff in The Las Picture Show, he smiled politely before laughing loudly. “They were going more for Against All Odds. That was the model they were going after.”

“It’s wonderful as an actor to know that, now, I can play myself at any age. Usually, there’s two actors playing the young guy but now I can play that part, too,” he added.

Asked if there were any roles that he would like to revisit, he replied: “I had thought about it, you know. It’s wild to be able to go back there and play it… It’s crazy. It opens up a whole world.”

Aside from the “technical wizardry” that this production of Tron offered, what attracted Jeff to the movie was the opportunity to create a modern-day myth that “will help us navigate these waters, these technological waters that we find ourselves in now.”

He recalled how technology has rapidly advanced in three decades since the first Tron was released — “There was no Internet!” — that the idea of charting a universe to give life to this modern-day invention was very appealing to him.

In his own personal universe, Jeff continues to chart his legacy, too. A highly-respected veteran, the actor has been in the business for more than four decades and has enjoyed the patronage of Hollywood all those years. Last March, he was awarded with an Oscar for his performance in Crazy Heart.

He shared that the recognition opened the door for him to pursue his music career. “The acknowledgement was great but the real cool thing was that particular movie, being all about music, caused a blooming in my own music,” he revealed.

“I have been doing music since I was a teenager and I had to put it in the back burner.” He added that he is currently in the middle of making an album with T-Bone Burnett.

Before we ended the interview, we asked Jeff what would he tell the younger version of himself if he were to meet him: “That’s it, man. You’re doing okay,” he said while making hand gestures like patting someone in the back.

Yes, the dude deserves that very nice pat in the back.

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