DISCourse: Exclusive Interview with TRON himself, Bruce Boxleitner

DISCourse: Exclusive Interview with TRON himself, Bruce Boxleitner

Apr 06, 2011

As the eponymous character in TRON and TRON: Legacy, Bruce Boxleitner "fights for the users." In real life, the affable actor has always fought for fans with his popular roles in TV series like How the West Was Won, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Babylon 5.

Both the original TRON and TRON: Legacy were just released on DVD and Blu-ray or bundled together in a two-movie pack. There is even a Blu-ray 3D version available for those with future-forward home theater setups. We chatted with Boxleitner and asked the man who plays TRON about the leap in technology in the 28 years between the two movies, what other character of his that he'd like to reverse age, and when we will see him as TRON again.

Movies.com: It's amazing how colorful and clear the original TRON looks in high definition. How do you think the film holds up today?
Boxleitner: Nothing since has looked like it. The imagery of what the Grid world looks like—I can't think of another science-fiction film or fantasy film that looks like that. I think it's a simple story and it wasn't meant to be Hamlet. We didn't have a lot of computers back then, and certainly not in our homes or pockets. This whole generation today is not talking to each other. They are tweeting, texting and Facebooking. Does anyone sit and talk to each other anymore? [laughs] In a funny little way TRON predicted a future that we are living.

Movies.com: What's the biggest difference you see between TRON and TRON: Legacy?
Boxleitner: Legacy shows how far that world has changed. The original TRON has a sort of innocence about it. Videogames today aren't so innocent—they are pretty dark and violent. It's a much more cynical age we live in, I guess, and the games reflect that. I'm often in the game room with my four boys, and the games they play are cinematic. They very much look like the TRON: Legacy world.

Movies.com: In TRON: Legacy, the filmmakers reverse age you in the flashback sequence with Jeff Bridges. Does this technology make actors nervous?
Boxleitner: I watched every pass they made on my character. I have a very distinctive nose and chin, I think. If you get those two right, you've got me, and I think they did. They caught me in my 30s. With the Blu-ray you'll be able to look and compare. There has been some controversy within the acting community, but I think actors need to embrace this because it is a great tool. We had prosthetic makeup—those are great, too—but this is another thing. You can actually tell a story in flashbacks like we did. It opens up the storytelling process.

Movies.com: What character that you have played would you like to reverse age?
Boxleitner: Aside from Babylon 5's Sheridan, my really standout role at the height of my popularity would be Scarecrow in Scarecrow and Mrs. King. That was done right after TRON, so I look very much the same way. I think we could revisit him. The first season finally came out on DVD last year, and I have the new season ordered. I didn't get one free by the way! I guess I'm just a bad boy with a disc.

Movies.com: Garrett Hedlund teases your character, Alan Bradley, in TRON: Legacy for "still rockin' the pager." How tech savvy are you in real life?
Boxleitner: I love that line! I'm looking at the old TRON arcade game in my office right now. My wife found it on eBay years ago. You know, I've got the new iPhone, a laptop and I send e-mails, but I've never been a tech person. I think Jeff [Bridges] is like that too—we are both kind of quiet about that. It's ironic, because that's all I play now. If I want to talk to somebody, I still like calling them. Call me old school. I like hearing their voices—I don't know what they are really saying if they are typing it to me. Are they mad at me? Are they joking?

There is a dark side to all of this. What if it all went down? What would we do? This rapid communication would be total science-fiction to generations past—we're seeing rapid changes in the Middle East through these little devices in our hands. It's amazing.

I'm about to start a miniseries where there is a massive blackout in Los Angeles and someone is hacking into the power grid. See? The grid again! I'm the guy that's trying to solve this thing while sitting from my computer terminal.

Movies.com: In TRON: Legacy, TRON redeems himself by fighting for Flynn and his son. What do you think happens to him?
Boxleitner: "I fight for the users." He turned and found himself again, and he went after Clu. He gets knocked out and sinks down, but he's turning his old colors. We're left wondering what happened to him. Well, I'm hoping we find out! [laughs] I don't have a definitive answer, but we have some special features on the Blu-ray that are going to whet the appetites of fans and titillate them some more. Hopefully there will be more, and hopefully it's not 28 years from now.

Movies.com: TRON: Legacy looks amazing both in the theater and at home in 3D. To 3D or not 3D, that is the question.
Boxleitner: I thought the 3D was done tastefully in TRON: Legacy, and not just because I was in it. It wasn't so in your face—we didn't have things jumping out constantly just for that effect like they used to do with 3D. This worked in giving an extra dimension. It did it just enough to enhance the story. When something would get derezzed, it had that great effect of shattering glass. None of that came out in our laps too much.

Movies.com: You've lent your voice to the TRON videogames over the years. Tell us about the animated series TRON: Uprising, in which you will reprise your role as TRON.
Boxleitner: I just finished the second episode, in fact. It's going to be on the Disney XD channel—Miley Cyrus is not in it, but Elijah Wood and Lance Henriksen are. It takes place sometime in between the two films, but the animation has got a TRON: Legacy look to it with an anime influence. TRON is very prominent in it, and it all takes place on the Grid.

Movies.com: You have a long history with sci-fi fans, including your role as John Sheridan in Babylon 5 on TV and in the direct-to-DVD films, including The Lost Tales in 2007. What are the chances of seeing you again as Sheridan?
Boxleitner: Boy, I would love to revisit that character. Even though I played his end at the end of the show, there are so many stories that we really didn't get to tell as much as we wanted to. That character I got to age from his late 20s all the way to when he went "over the rim," as they say, with the white beard and all. I can grow it—they don't have to put any white in it at all. I could do The Kenny Rogers Story! [laughs]

Movies.com: We have to ask TRON what is his favorite science-fiction movie of all time and why?
Boxleitner: I know John Carpenter did a great remake, but my favorite one was always the original The Thing. It was very suspenseful, Roswell had happened, so it reflected that Cold War era. Christian Nyby directed it and a young man named James Arness—he played the monster—gave me my big break on How the West Was Won on ABC. I played his nephew in the miniseries, and it led to the career I have now.

Movies.com: TRON: Legacy was a huge hit worldwide. If the filmmakers called you back for another sequel and maybe wanted to reverse age you more this time to play TRON again, would you be game?
Boxleitner: This cycle has gone around once and we didn't have this type of technology available. Now these things are out there and people get a kick out of having the original stars there and, boy, I'll do all things TRON. I'll ride this pony until it's down! [laughs] I want to because it's been very good to me and it's very much a part of my personal legacy.

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