Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Interview with James Frain for Tron: Legacy

How would you describe your character in TRON: Legacy?
I play a character called Jarvis in TRON: Legacy. Jarvis is the right-hand man to Clu, who is the baddest guy inside the TRON universe. Jarvis is the head of the secret police in this luminous, alternate world – but unfortunately he’s completely inept. Basically, he spends most of his time trying not to get killed for making very obvious mistakes.

How much fun did you have with your character?
Jarvis was a really enjoyable role. He adds a lot of humor to the movie and he was a lot of fun to play because he’s an entertaining, comic character that’s a little offbeat. He’s different to the other characters in the movie. Michael Sheen’s character, Castor, is a very flamboyant, comic character. My character is not flamboyant; he’s more human. Jarvis is fallible and absurd.

What attracted you to TRON: Legacy?
What attracted me to the movie? I got to be part of the amazing TRON universe!
When I first found out about the role, there wasn’t much on the page about my character – but the director had a clear vision about the movie. He knew the movie was going to be technically challenging, but he was committed to creating this story about human relationships in this futuristic world. It’s a great story and the audience becomes emotionally involved as they watch the action unfold. It’s not just a movie about incredible special effects and awesome imagery; there’s an emotional story to be told, too.

What was it like to work on a movie with so many special effects?
I was blown away by the special effects in the movie. Jarvis is the right-hand man to a character called Clu, who is played by Jeff Bridges. However, Clu is a younger-looking Jeff Bridges that they created in Post Production.

How did you shoot your scenes with Clu?
For the motion capture sequences, I’d shoot a scene with a body double who was around the age that Jeff was supposed to be. But then I’d shoot the scene again with Jeff wearing a motion capture helmet that captured all of his facial movements. Jeff’s face was covered in hundreds of dots, which is what they used to create the younger look to his character. It was fantastically bizarre trying to imagine the end result to Clu, but it’s amazing when you see it. I was stunned. I was blown away. He looks 30 years younger.

What was your most challenging scene in the movie?
There’s a scene in the movie where I say a speech to thousands of ‘programs’ in the gladiator arena. It’s a huge theatrical speech. There are thousands of people in the audience and there are things flying through the air. It’s an immense scene packed with characters – but I was completely alone when we shot the sequence. It was just a camera, a blue background and me. Everything else was added in Post Production. All of the characters are CG. It was pretty intense working a scene like that on my own. It felt like I was performing some sort of off-Broadway theater. I just had to imagine what was going on. I put it out there and I hoped for the best – but it looks great in the finished film. I’m really happy with it.

What do you think of Jarvis’ costume in the movie?
When I first saw pictures of the costume, I loved it. The whole world of TRON has a beautiful aesthetic and everything fits inside this futuristic world. I was amazed at how the high-tech outfit designs were turned into something tangible that we could operate in. The suits had a strip of electric lighting in them that would function. They actually lit up. It was incredible.

What was the rehearsal process like?
Rehearsing the scenes became really important in TRON: Legacy. In most of the movies I’ve worked on, the rehearsal process involves a bunch of actors standing around with a coffee in their hand. On a film like this, it’s really important because you might not get a chance to do the scene again with the actor. You’re doing scenes with motion capture and body doubles… You certainly have to pay attention and make the most of everything.

What do you think of the music of the movie?
Daft Punk did an amazing job on the music. From what I understand, their whole look was originally inspired by TRON, so the film is part of their history. They actively sought this movie. They wanted to create the music for it, so they did a big campaign to get Disney’s attention. I love Daft Punk. I think they were perfect for the job.

How would you describe the story of TRON: Legacy?
TRON: Legacy is a very human story set in a futuristic world. There’s a father and son story at the heart of the movie, which is where Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund come into it. The technology is in the background; it’s the shape of it. The rest of the story is about being sucked into another world, an alternative reality where there’s a lot of conflicting relationships between very flawed people.

What went through your mind when you first heard about the idea of TRON: Legacy?
I immediately loved the idea. TRON is about setting your imagination free. That’s why it’s so much fun. The idea that you could get sucked inside in a computer is brilliant. What would it be like in there? What would happen? It’s an idea that is so rich in imaginative possibilities.

Have you always been a fan of the TRON universe?
To be honest, I never saw TRON when I was a kid. I didn’t see it until much later in life when a friend of mine couldn’t believe that I didn’t know what a Light Cycle was. He was shocked and horrified, so we immediately rented the movie. As soon as I saw it, I was blown away and I could see why it means a lot to so many people.

As the star of a highly technical movie, we’ve got one final question… Are you tech savvy?
It’s funny you should ask me this question because I’m cursed with wanting to get every new gadget that’s out there. It’s a huge curse. I’m drawn like a moth to the flame, and yet I’m totally inept at using them. I refuse to read any operating manuals, so I’m useless. I’m terrible with technology. I’ll never learn.

TRON: LEGACY is Available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Movie Download April 5th!


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