The former Lost writers discuss the process they went through to write the upcoming, long awaited sequel to the classic '80s film
Writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are no strangers to working on mythology heavy projects with huge fan-bases. The long-time writing partners, who spent several seasons as staff writers on the groundbreaking ABC series Lost, have now taken on the enormous task of writing the long awaited sequel to the classic '80s film, Tron. Tron: Legacy, which stars Oscar winner Jeff Bridges reprising his role from the original film, doesn't open in theaters until December 17th, but is already gaining a lot of buzz from fans who have been waiting for a Tron sequel for several decades now.
Last week we had a rare opportunity to visit the Walt Disney lot in Los Angeles and screen about thirty minutes of the film with the two writers. The footage was all in 3D, with the exception of the first scene. The movie will use the 3D format similar to the way that The Wizard of Oz used black and white footage in Kansas, but then went to color in Oz. The 3D will only be apparent when the film is in the world of the game. The first scene we watched featured Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) visiting Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). Kevin has been missing for over twenty years but Bradley believes that Flynn has just contacted him. Sam is reluctant but eventually goes to his father's old office at the arcade to investigate.
Soon Sam is transported into the world of the video game. Once there, and confused by his surroundings, Sam soon adjusts to his new world and is quickly chosen to compete in the games. Sam figures out how to survive in the dangerous games and is eventually rescued by a mysterious and beautiful woman named Quorra (Olivia Wilde). They escape in a special vehicle that is equipped to drive on the rough terrain that the light cycles cannot drive on. Once they arrive at their destination she introduces Sam to Kevin, his long lost father. After this scene, we were treated to a montage of clips from the film that gave us our first peek at something new to the Tron universe ... light jets!
All things considered, the footage was pretty amazing and the 3D was great. Fans of the original film will be very glad to know that this movie completely honors its predecessor, while at the same time creating an entry point for audience members who are not familiar with the original. After the screening, we were invited back to Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis office to discuss the new movie, the process of writing it, the importance of getting Jeff Bridges involved and their overall love for all things Tron! Here is what they had to say:
What was your relationship with "Tron" like before you took on this project and how did you get involved with writing the script for this long-awaited sequel?
Adam Horowitz: It really started twenty-eight years ago as kids when we saw the movie. For us it was like being dropped into the theater by parents who didn't quite understand what this movie would be. Then having your mind blown and running wild through an arcade after that too.
Edward Kitsis: I literally remember waiting twenty minutes in line with my only quarter and having all these teenagers above me who looked really cool. I finally got up to the machine, picked my game and then I died right away. I waited twenty minutes and it lasted five seconds.
Adam Horowitz: I liked the tank game because even if you were bad at it you could kind of make it last. The light cycle would end to fast and the disc one was really stress inducing, but that is when we started working on the sequel before we even knew each other.
Edward Kitsis: I still oddly have my Clu and Sark toys. I have them in a box and it was very weird. One of our very first jobs that we did out here was writing for the Ryan Murphy produced series Popular. One of the sub-plots that we did is that two of the kids are grounded, there is going to be a Tron screening and Bruce Boxleitner is going to speak at it.
Edward Kitsis: We told Bruce (Boxleitner) and Steven (Lisberger) (director of the original) this and they were like, "What? What show was this?" Oddly Tron just stayed with us forever. So one day we had a meeting with our agent and he said that Disney was looking to do something with Tron and asked if we'd be interested? We thought that they wouldn't hire two TV writers so we decided to pitch the movie that we wanted to see. We went in and we met with Brigham Taylor who is a great executive here with the company. He's been a huge champion and partner with us in all of this. We pitched him our idea and he said that we had to meet with Sean Bailey who is producing it. So we went to Sean and we said, "What if the father has been stuck in the grid, the kid doesn't know about it and inside the son meets a twenty-five year old version of his father that he doesn't realize is not really him." We didn't know if that was even technically possible but we figured that we weren't even going to get the job so we thought ... not one Flynn but two! We never wanted to do a remake or a re-imagination or anything like that. What fired us up is when he lands on the roof of the ENCOM building and he comes out in that double-breasted suit at the end of the first film, we wanted to know what happens next. For us it was like, you can't remake something like this. To me that's blasphemous. You have to honor it.
Edward Kitsis: So Sean liked the pitch and he told us about Joseph Kosinski. He showed us his reel and it blew us away. In fact, there is a Nike commercial that he did and you are like, okay that is Tron. Joe said that he wanted to do it differently. Instead of the old way where we go off for six weeks and write, then he gives us notes, he wanted us all to sit down together at a table and do this. That was three and a half years ago. It just hit me this week that this thing is actually coming out and that we didn't just do it for our own enjoyment. People are actually going to see it and it will be judged.
Did coming off of "Lost," where you were essentially playing in someone else's sandbox, help you in being able to work inside the world that Steven Lisberger created?
Edward Kitsis: It absolutely is because the key to being a TV writer is that you are playing in someone else's sandbox but how do you find your own way in it? The perfect example of that is in Season two of Lost, I started pitching to Damon (Lindelof) and Carlton (Cuse) a character named Neil Frogurt. They said there was no one named that. So I just kept saying it until finally one day Damon was like, "Well maybe we just get some guy from the background like Frogurt" and he just looked at me. So now we are in Hawaii shooting the first episode of the last season, we are watching that opening moment where we see Locke and Boone again for the first time on the plane, and sitting in between them with a sleeping mask on is Frogurt! Damon and Carlton turned to us and just said, "You're pulling the strings aren't you? How did you get that in?" That is the key ... you have to figure out a way to work in their world.
Adam Horowitz: Another thing we did was in season three with Hurley's servants ... the Trons.
Edward Kitsis: We're always getting Tron in. But the thing is that you have to go into someone else's sandbox and figure out how to find yourself in there. How do I do something that creatively enriches me but still is pushing the vision forward.
Adam Horowitz: There have been a series of terrifying experiences on this job, the first of which was after we were hired but now we had to go pitch Steven Lisberger and Jeff Bridges, at Jeff Bridges' house. We have a movie about two Flynns; if he's not in it we're screwed!
Edward Kitsis: When you are pitching the guy who created the world and you are saying this is it, if he says no it isn't, you can't say yes it is. Because he could tell you its my world so, "No." So we're driving up to Santa Barbara and I'm telling you by the time I get out of LA County I'm worried that this will not work. So we drive up Bridges' drive way and it's the Kenny Loggins' house. Kenny Loggins used to live there. So we're in the Danger Zone. We walk in and on a table laid out are the original Tron toys and his helmet.
Adam Horowitz: When he said, "Do you want to wear it? We were like, "Yeah." But they were both incredibly cool and collaborative. They had really awesome ideas and were very encouraging throughout the entire process.
Edward Kitsis: It's been a great experience for us because we know all the horror stories of writing and trying to go from TV to movies. This was so collaborative. Sean Bailey, Joseph Kosinski and everyone created such an environment of collaboration that it was like a dream project. We can't say enough about Joe. He has come from the future to teach us technology. You can see it in the way he looks at things, I understand why he is a director.
bld|Was it difficult creating a new mythology for this movie without stepping on the original mythology that was created by Steven Lisberger?
Adam Horowitz: There is a very comprehensive mythology that was in a constant state of development during this whole process. While we were writing the script we were building out this mythology. It snakes out in several different directions. When you have a movie that is going to be in the two-hour range there is only so much that you can show in the film, but if you can create a mythology that is dense, deep and hopefully well filled out. Then you can hopefully create a sense that there is stuff happening on the edges, stuff that is informing everything that is going on. So that if you do respond to it and you look into it, then you can find that there are other storylines going on and that there are new things to discover. That's one of the things that we learned in our years on Lost.
In writing the script, was it important to you to ground the film in the father and son relationship between Kevin Flynn and Sam?
Edward Kitsis: For us it was the entry point into it. When we were thinking about the story we thought, we love Tron but we want to bring in new people to love Tron, and who's eyes are they going to do it through? For us we needed an emotional spine to take us into the story or else it just becomes a bunch of moves. It just seems natural to us. Its funny because Lisberger has a son and he always says that we are writing their story and we think that the son is really our generation.
Adam Horowitz: We thought if we were really going to take it to the next step, then we are the children of Tron. We grew up on it, it helped shape us and inform us on the possibilities of technology in film and its one of the reasons that we are doing what we are doing. We thought how could we enter this story where we have an entry point as writers as well.
Edward Kitsis: For us we wanted to answer a mystery, what has happened to Kevin Flynn in the past twenty-eight years? We could have him bore the audience for two minutes with exposition no one will remember but we thought no, lets make it a mystery and have us discover it through his son. What would you do if you found out your father were a legend? To us Kevin Flynn is a cross between Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and John Lennon. So what if that was your Dad and everyone just said, be as good as him. So for us there was a lot of trying to live up to who your father is, while being your own man and finding out who your Dad really was. In the film Flynn is a legend and Sam has to find out who is the man that is his Dad.
Can you talk about how the film's Comic-Con experience helped gather excitement for the project with both fans and Disney executives as well?
Edward Kitsis: The fans of Comic-Con are responsible for this. When the test for this got snuck there the response from the fans and on the message boards was so great that I feel like it really helped green light the movie. Look we all love Tron but that doesn't mean that everyone on the corporate level is as big a fan as us. But this showed them that there was a built in fan-base.
Was there one or two specific aspects from the original film that you felt were really important to fit in to this movie?
Edward Kitsis: Yes, there are a few Easter Eggs. One is Sam just taking off his shirt and changing it, if you remember in the original Bridges did that. For us obviously we wanted light cycles and we really wanted Flynn's arcade. There were just touchstones that we felt were important.
Adam Horowitz: Walking on the set of Flynn's arcade was just incredible. We had Journey in the script for that scene since the beginning. Seeing that recreated was amazing.
Edward Kitsis: For us, when we came in we really wanted to honor Lisberger's work and not make an Internet movie. For us Tron is a world the way Oz is a world so for us that is what we wanted to do. If Flynn got out at the end of the last movie and decide to make his own grid, what would that be like? That to us is what is important. The grid is in a lot of ways a reflection of Kevin Flynn and his son going into it is like his son going into his father's brain. What we love is that Jeff is such a deep guy and a great thinker so Jeff Bridges now is different than Jeff Bridges at thirty-five. The same way Kevin Flynn now would be different than Kevin Flynn at thirty-five. Kevin Flynn at thirty-five was probably a huge ego maniac on top of the world, so now he has to be constantly reminded of all the things he hates about himself everyday and that is how we started to approach this.
Was "The Wizard Of Oz" a inspiration for you in writing this and can you talk about how the two films are related?
Adam Horowitz: It was one of many touchstones. We wear our influences on our sleeve and that was one of them. The Wizard of Oz is one of the first movies that really effects you as a kid but also transports you to another place.
Edward Kitsis: They both have a similar DNA. They are both about trying to get home and what is home? That is what inspired us.
Is the process different for you when you are writing an action scene as apposed to writing a dramatic character scene?
Adam Horowitz: On a basic level it always comes down for me to what is the audience going to feel? What do we want them to experience from this on an emotional level and how are we telling the story from it? So our approach is always the same that way.
Adam Horowitz: It is a very complicated world to try and find the simplistic truth, whether it was an action scene or an emotional one.
What was Steven Lisberger's initial reaction when you pitched him your idea for the sequel?
Edward Kitsis: He really, really liked it and I was surprised. I realized as we were going along that we tapped into what he was going through with him and his son. So in Steve's mind we wrote his life but actually we are his sons and we are trying to please him. We are the fans trying to get Daddy to tell us that we did a good job.
Finally, you have already been hired to write a sequel to "Tron: Legacy" so how is that going so far?
Edward Kitsis: Really we have been focusing on this one. Its not out of presumption but more because if we are lucky enough to have people like this one and want another, if we don't start thinking about that now then it won't come out till 2018. So we have really been working on this one and thinking about stories to tell for the next one.