The former True Blood star discusses his villainous role in the long awaited follow up to the groundbreaking '80s film
Actor James Frain is best known to TV audiences as vampire Franklin Mott from HBO's runaway hit series True Blood, but film audiences will have a chance to see the actor in a whole new light this fall when he appears in the long-awaited sequel to the classic '80s film Tron, entitled Tron: Legacy.
In the film Frain plays Jarvis, the right-hand "program" and chief intelligence officer to the film's villain CLU (Jeff Bridges), a new incarnation to Kevin Flynn's (also Jeff Bridges) original hacking program. The movie doesn't even open until December, but we were among the lucky few to get invited earlier this week to the Disney lot in Burbank to see some of the exclusive footage from the upcoming film.
While we can't give you too many details on specifically what we saw, we can tell you that we had the chance to screen the official trailer in 3D, and watch the footage that was shown at Comic-Con. As well as a few additional scenes. All in all we saw roughly thirty minutes of the film, give or take. And in a word...It was freaking awesome!
The effects, which were not even finalized yet, looked amazing. The action is great and the film's plot is original and clever. We can't wait for the film's official release later this year, and think that fans of the original, and even sci-fi fans that have never seen the first film, are going to be blown away by the state of the art effects and the movie's loving homage to its predecessor. After the screening, we had an opportunity to speak with actor James Frain about his role in the movie, the direction of the new film, the filmmaker's love for the original, and working opposite the younger version of Jeff Bridges. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, what can you tell us about Jarvis, the character that you play in the film?
James Frain: Inside the digital world, the bad guy, the evil guy CLU, I'm like his right hand man. But I'm completely inept. I'm a clown and a fool. I spend most of my time trying to not get killed. My head is shaved and I'm wearing kind of this visor Mohawk. The character kind of feels like he should be this dark, terrible person but then you realize he's just kind of trying to get by. He's constantly trying to please. He's funny and it's an unusual spin on this dark, heavy, earnest world where anything that is human kind of pops.
Is your character the comic relief of the film?
Actor Michael Sheen also plays a similar role in the film, correct?
James Frain: Yeah but he brings a whole different energy to it. We're the funny guys basically, the British funny guys.
When the original was released in the '80s it blew people's minds because no one had seen anything like that before on film, do you think this new movie will blow people away as well?
James Frain: I kind of compared it to Star Wars really because I think what blows their minds is when they are moved by a story and they are taken away to another world. That's what this does. It sucks you in and then spits you out the other end. If it is just visually impressive then there is nothing to attach to, you don't care. But if people invest in the story and are moved by the story, which I'm pretty sure they will be then all the visuals just heighten it and intensifies the sense of being somewhere else. But I don't know ... I've seen a lot of shit but I've never seen anything like this. I think it's going to be sick.
Were you a fan of Original before you took the role in this film?
James Frain: You know I didn't see it as a kid so when I saw it, it wasn't cutting edge it was kind of retro. I mean there are still concepts that are great like the Light cycles and the idea of a guy going into a computer. So you are watching it as an adult watching something retro but I think for people that saw it at the time it was amazing.
Do you think in a sense the sequel was a chance to tell the story again fin a new way for a whole new generation?
James Frain: I think it will be a nice little earner in DVD sales when they come out with the double box set and they'll probably make a sequel to this. What they've done is taken something that was kind of over there and then they've reinvented it as mainstream. I thought what they were going to do was remake it. But they went one better, which is they did a sequel twenty-seven years later and Jeff Bridges is still in the computer and his son goes back to find him. That's a great idea! That works without the first movie. Then you can go watch it, watch the first movie and then watch it again.
Is that what really got you jazzed to do this movie?
James Frain: Well the script was really good and just to be in a sequel to Tron. Well they were remaking Tron, basically is what we knew, some version of Tron. So it was going to have to be incredible. You can't do a half ass, medium budget version. You know what I mean? Not after Avatar. It makes sense because you're not going to remake Star Wars because it's a perfect movie. It's a movie event. Tron didn't land the same way Star Wars did over here. It had a great concept so you can take the concept, re-imagine it and kick it somewhere else. I mean that's smart to me.
In the film, most of your scenes are opposite the thirty-five year old version of Jeff Bridges so when you are doing those scenes who are you actually acting against?
James Frain: I was acting with two people, one guy who was the body of CLU. Then I did the scene again with Jeff Bridges with the spots, the dots and the cameras. Then afterwards they would take his head and put it on the body of the other guy and make him youthful. So I was acting with both of those guys.
Do you think getting Jeff Bridges to come back and reprise his two roles was essential to making this movie work?
James Frain: Yes, I mean how could they not bring him back. Look he just won the Oscar and now he's playing both of the two lead guys. He's the good guy and the bad guy. They honor the first film as if it was Star Wars. As if it were a venerable mythology, which it is to the people who love it. So I have respect for the people who made it, respected it, cared about it, wanted to honor it, wanted to make it mainstream and there is a real love for the original. They were very careful, like with rewrites and stuff. They'd say, "Oh you can't say that, that's not Tron." They were steeped in it. They wanted it to be bigger and better but absolutely Tron.
Finally, the film has been in production for several years because of all the complicated effects, when exactly did you shoot your scenes for the movie and how did you like this new way of working?
James Frain: A year and a half ago in Vancouver and they are still working on it now. I shot that before I did True Blood and a bunch of other stuff. I'm just excited that the movie is finally coming out. I mean I play a role in it, don't get me wrong. I'm in it and I'm excited for the experience. I want my kids to see it and for my friends to see it. I know it will be huge. People say, "Really though? Will women like it?" I'm like, "Don't even worry about it." It's going to be everything people want to see. It's going to be good. If anyone comes out of this and is like, "Nah." I'm going to say that the have serious problems and I don't know how to entertain them. What do you want? It's like being in London and going to a great club. You think its fantastic and then some guy is like, "You should have been here last week." I mean I haven't seen anything like this before. I have this scene in there somewhere and I've seen a bit of it cut together. I have this big speech that I give to this huge assembly of thousands of programs and things are flying through the air, all kinds of shit and it was just me and the camera in a blue room. That was really cool when you see that happen. It's like theater. You just pretend. That's what CGI has done. It has made everything an imaginary world again. Because the imagination has become completely liberated so you can pretend you see it and they can pretend its there. I think it's kind of exciting.