Interview: Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz on Building ‘TRON: Legacy’

When it comes to the film’s set up, the film takes its time to get to the Grid. Can you talk about not rushing there, but also delivering early on what the true selling point of the film is?

EK: In a lot of ways, Adam and I thought you really had to earn going down the rabbit hole. You really want to set up who Sam Flynn is, what the world is, and what his state of mind is. I think there was, we didn’t want to rush into it. We wanted to take our time. For me, that’s a lot of fun in the movie where he pulls up to Flynn’s arcade, and that’s one of my favorite parts of the whole movie. At that point, you understand Sam. You know why he’s there. You know what he’s thinking about.

In the opening of the movie, his father said we’ll go to the arcade and try to beat the old man’s score. After that, when he walks in there, you get the sense he probably hasn’t been there since and that this is a place that he loved. Now, it’s a place that reminds him his father is gone. He’s there thinking it’s stupid, but then boom! He comes into that world. For us, it was really important to learn who Sam was before his journey. It was to take everybody on the ride with us.

And how about handling the character of Tron?

AH: That was a tricky thing. What we were trying to do was to take what became of the Grid in the aftermath of a horrific event, which was Clu’s takeover. For us, Tron became a symbol of the corruption and the repurposing Clu endeavored to move onto all the programs in there. Ultimately, Tron’s redemption in the movie could help symbolize the turning of the tide against Clu. When he sees that little drop of blood and says “user,” it’s him being awoken. Tron’s function was to fight for the users. When the users come back, no matter how much they did to him, that part of him couldn’t have been completely destroyed.

I saw someone compare him to Darth Maul, what do you think of that comparison?

AH: I remember Darth Maul getting chopped in two, and not being a good guy who gets redemption. I like to think they’re very different characters.

EK: I think people look for things, and if you look hard enough, you can say that “Sam is this” or “that is that.” For us, Tron was this partner. It was Clu, Tron and Flynn, and they were going to change the world. Clu could not handle the betrayal of his father, Kevin Flynn. Because of that, he got rid of the ISOs. Instead of destroying Tron, which would have been easier, he did the one thing that would probably hurt Flynn the most: turn Tron to the other side. That’s where that came from. That’s the character journey he went on. In a lot of ways, that’s the undercurrent of that story. As we said, Clu cannot create programs, but only repurpose them. It’s Tron fighting against his own repurposing.

Would you say there’s any intentional Star Wars homages in the film?

AH: I’d say that, we all have a lot of influences we draw upon.

EK: To say that none of us were inspired by Star Wars would be a lie. We all went to see it as children. We’re all in this business because it was one of the very first movies to inspire us on a level that was profound, just as TRON did. I don’t think any of us consciously said, “We’re going to make this scene look like Star Wars.” Star Wars was a huge influence on me. The Beatles were a huge influence on me [Laughs], you know? All of that gets into your DNA. Sometimes, maybe it comes out, or maybe it doesn’t. No one in this movie had the intention of, “This scene is going to rip-off Star Wars.”

Yeah, and I don’t mean to imply that.

EK: No, no, no.

AH: And look, as writers and as filmmakers, we all draw on inspiration from a lot of different places. In the way it comes out is really subconscious, and you’re not aware of it, or sometimes you are. You know, what makes you creative person is how you take the things that inspired you and make them your own.

I’d also imagine while writing certain character or story beats in the “hero’s journey” story that similarities naturally come up.

AH: Well, the hero’s journey is as old as stories. So yeah, are there certain beats that are played out over and over? Of course. For us, the challenge is always taking those beats and telling them in a way that’s fresh and relevant to the story you’re trying to tell or what you’re trying to say.

I’m guessing you guys pay attention a lot to online buzz, and I’d say that the film has gotten a pretty divisive reaction. Were you guys expecting this type of response?

AH: I would say that after six years of Lost, we’re used to that.

EK: But it still really, really hurts [Laughs]. Here’s the thing, we tried really hard and all of us worked really hard for three years to create something. We are very proud of it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so it is not for us to say what they should think. We hope that the audience likes it. I mean, everything we’ve ever worked on has always been divisive. Everyday someone comes up to me and says, “Oh, you worked on Lost? I love the ending.” You know, I don’t really know. Adam?

AH: Yeah, you try not to let the reaction affect you. You know the reaction is going to be across the board for everything and you just gotta know you did your best work. As long as we can say we’re proud of it, that’s hopefully good enough. We’re obviously always thinking about the fans, because we are fans. That’s how we approached this. We understand there’s going to be people who feel different ways about different things, but that’s how these things work.

Obviously, it’s unfortunate that a film like this brings out a certain level of cynicism, but how do you differentiate those cynical responses versus, say, genuine criticisms?

EK: You know, I don’t know. We got into a business where the business entertaining people, which means we’ve opened ourselves up for criticism, both good and bad. We knew that when we became writers. This movie or Lost or anything else we’ve worked on has been no different. We know that some people will like what we do and that some people will hate what we do. Some people will be cynical and all we can say is this: for three years we put our heart and our souls into this movie. Joe Kosinski has not slept in three years. We’re very proud of what we did. It’s up to people whether or not they like it, and that’s all we can do.

AH: It’s a high-cost problem to have your movie criticized. We’re incredibly humbled by the whole experience of having this movie out there for people to take as they will.

TRON: Legacy is now in theaters.

All you really need to know about Jack is his favorite movies are: The Last Detail, Rumble Fish, Sunset Boulevard, The Truman Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Verdict, Closer, Shadow of a Doubt, Spider-Man 2, Jaws, Adaptation, Get Carter, The Last Days of Disco, Carnal Knowledge, Almost Famous, Ed Wood, Barton Fink, and L.A. Confidential.

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