Tron director makes history with high-tech sequel

Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:31pm EST
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By Cassie Carpenter

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Disney entrusted the reins of its "Tron" reboot to a first-time feature filmmaker who worked less than a year as a commercials director.

Joseph Kosinski, 36, studied mechanical engineering at Stanford and received his master's degree in architecture at Columbia. His brief stint in commercials earned him awards from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers for his campaigns for the Xbox 360 games Gears of War and Halo 3.

He was already well versed in all the latest special effects techniques -- he got to use the 3-D fusion camera system James Cameron developed -- and he assembled people from the automotive industry and the world of architecture to collaborate on "Tron: Legacy," which opens December 17.

The sequel to 1982's "Tron" marks a lot of firsts in cinematic history. It's the first film to integrate a fully digital head and body based upon an existing actor, creating the younger version of Kevin Flynn, Jeff Bridges' character; the digital representation also serves as his avatar, CLU. Bridges had 52 facial markers and a helmet with four lipstick cameras capturing his every move.

Kosinski wants to reassure the acting community that even though filmmakers now have the ability to create photo-realistic digital characters, such technology will never replace living, breathing actors.

"The actor will never be replaced because a computer can never create a performance like an actor can," says Kosinski. "The performance of CLU is completely driven by Jeff Bridges. That's his performance. We just mapped it on to another creature, so I think Jeff saw the CLU character as an amazing opportunity as an actor to try to do something completely different and play himself at 35 years old. If we had made this movie 10 years ago, we would've had to cast another actor to play him, and that just wouldn't have felt right. So I think there are some really exciting opportunities there for actors."

Hundreds of people read for the part of Sam, Flynn's son, but Garrett Hedlund ("Four Brothers") possessed a look, charisma, quiet confidence, and sense of humor comparable to Bridges.

"It's important that you actually believe he could be his son," says Kosinski, who set out to make a father-son story. "If you cast someone who looks completely different (than Bridges) you would never buy that scene where they're standing across from each other in the safe house."   Continued...

<p>A light cycle prop is seen at the world premiere of "TRON: Legacy" in Hollywood, California, December 11, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>