|Linsberger and Jeff Bridges (On the set of TRON, 1982 and at the premiere party for TRON: Legacy, 2010)|
To call Steven Linsberger a visionary certainly wouldn’t be inaccurate.
As the writer/director of the original TRON, he certainly proved that his imagination was ahead of it’s time. It was that very vision that kept the possibility of a TRON sequel and a return to the grid alive for almost three decades until Disney and director Joseph Kosinski realized it with the release of TRON: Legacy.
Linsberger discussed his role with the TRON Universe in advance of next Tuesday’s release of TRON: Legacy on Blu-ray & DVD.
How long did it take to get the green light for TRON: Legacy?
We started discussions at Disney about 11 years ago, but there have been rumors of a sequel for much longer than that. Over the years, I’ve seen numerous Disney executives go from black hair to grey – and the sequel itself has changed and gone through many different phases. When the idea finally emerged as TRON: Legacy, I think there was a sense that the right group of people had now all arrived at the project. We were also really happy with the story. Everything clicked together perfectly.
How important is the story to a highly visual project like TRON: Legacy?
I care about the story and the characters as much as I care about the visuals. The story aspect of Flynn still being alive, and the father-son story is really compelling in TRON: Legacy. It resonates with the fan base, but it works on different levels because it doesn’t matter if someone hasn’t seen the first film. The story works for newcomers to the TRON world, too.
As the writer and director of the original movie, how did it feel to see a new TRON world come to life?
One of the most amazing things about this project is the way that the colors are different, the costumes are different and the music is different – but you still know it’s the world of TRON. The director, Joseph Kosinski, had a good handle on using the underlying aesthetic of TRON to make this new world. It feels like it’s grown up, but you still recognize the young person it was before.
How has the audience changed since the original movie?
The audience now expects to be overwhelmed in a number of categories. They want visuals, they want music, they want an emotional story and they want it all to be cutting edge. If you want to pursue cinema on this level, you have to put a check in every one of those boxes. However, I like to think that we’ve done that with TRON: Legacy.
What do you think of the music of TRON: Legacy?
I think the music is great. Daft Punk brings soul and spirit to the movie. The music they’ve created is beautiful. You know what? I think Joe’s relationship with Daft Punk is a little bit similar to the relationship I had with [French comic book artist] Moebius on the first movie. Moebius opened the bandwidth of the original movie for me and he made a much larger contribution than people realized. I think that’s the same for Daft Punk and TRON: Legacy.
What’s the greatest lesson you learned during the making of TRON: Legacy?
The greatest thing I learned though this experience was the notion that the original movie inspired people like [TRON: Legacy director] Joseph Kosinski, [producer] Sean Bailey and musicians like Daft Punk. It’s a great feeling to have your work embraced. It also feels great that all these years later, the inspiration has come full circle.
How much control did you have over the direction of TRON: Legacy?
I don’t use the term ‘control’. My position was to try and inspire the new TRON team. I was on board so that there was some trajectory from the past into the future. I’m glad it worked out that the next generation embraced what I did 28 years ago and I think it’s much better that they’re making it their own. I tried to make suggestions, but I didn’t give orders – and that’s a role that I really enjoyed. To be honest, I think we were all happy in the roles that we took for the new film. In some ways, I was happier in this role than in the directorial role.
When you created the original TRON movie, did you have any idea that it was going to become such an iconic film?
Yes and no. The film we ended up with clearly exceeded our expectations, but the reaction to the original movie seemed somewhat disappointing when it was first released. Over the years, I’ve looked at it objectively and I realized it was inevitable that the audience would react this way.
Why is that?
Being a ‘60s idealist, I thought there would be more embracing of the new and avant-garde with TRON. However, people didn’t expect the avant-garde to come from Disney. It’s interesting because one of the old-timers at Disney explained that working on the experimental original film felt a lot closer to what it used to feel like when Walt was in the building. It was highly experimental. That’s what Walt was all about.