"Joseph Kosinski deserves a spot on MTV News' 10 to Watch in 2010 list because of his sheer creative guts. For the director's feature-film debut, he's taking on one of the most venerated sci-fi flicks ever in Tron, the 1982 Jeff Bridges-starring escapade about artificial intelligence, gaming and the boundaries of moviemaking technology. And for his sequel, Tron Legacy, due in December, Kosinski is going big with a motion-capture 3D adventure that picks up after the events of the first movie and seeks to pay homage to the original while utilizing the very latest digital tools Hollywood has to offer.
With principal photography on the film wrapped, the director is hard at work on the visual-effects work Disney is hoping will be unlike anything audiences have ever seen. In the midst of all of this work, Kosinski called MTV News to talk about his film's 3D tech, the elements from the first film we're sure to see in the sequel and how Daft Punk were recruited to record the score.
MTV: 'Much of the work was done last year, but looking at 2010, does it feel like this is an important professional year for you?'
Joseph Kosinski: 'I'm about two and a half years in on this, with about another year still to go. We still have a tremendous amount of work still to do, because there are a lot of visual effects on a movie like this, and we're also doing it in 3D, which doubles up everything. Then sound design and tweaking the music. It's not the home stretch by any means. '
MTV: 'How immersive is the 3D? Is it start to finish, or does it pop up in key sequences?'
Kosinski: 'Our approach is not like Avatar, which I think is 3D from the first shot to the last. Ours is sort of a Wizard of Oz approach. Ninety-eight percent of the 3D is in the world of Tron. The 3D really starts once we get into the Tron world.'
MTV: 'Is the technology you're using similar to what James Cameron used or what Robert Zemeckis has used?'
Kosinski: 'It's a combination of technologies that Zemeckis has been using in terms of the completely digital motion-capture of a character and for the live-action camera system. We used a camera developed by James Cameron's company. We used a newer generation of camera than the one used on Avatar. They built it specifically for us.'
MTV: 'Will the finished film look pretty much like what we've seen in that test footage from Comic-Con?'
Kosinski: 'I would say it's not far removed. The teaser, at least tonally, represented the direction I wanted to take it. That sequence actually doesn't appear in our film at all. It represents a period of time before our film begins. We were able to refine the design of the light cycles, the characters, the world and kind of flesh it out to a much higher level of detail than we were able to do for the test. What we're going to see in the film will feel a lot more photorealistic. They did that test with eight or 10 people in a matter of months. We have thousands of people working on the film. It's a whole different scale.'
MTV: 'So the takeaway is that Jeff Bridges is playing at least two representations of himself, one that is a contemporary of the original character and one that is a younger version. How much of Jeff are we going to see?'
Kosinski: 'Jeff is playing two characters. He's playing Kevin Flynn, the character from the original film, and he's playing Clu, the avatar that Kevin Flynn created in the 1980s. I'd say he's Clu 2. There was a Clu in the first film who looked like Jeff but was very simple in terms of his abilities. He's very stiff. Clu 2 is a second incarnation of Kevin's avatar. He doesn't only look like Jeff, but he can think like him too. So it's a whole new level of artificial intelligence.
MTV: 'What strikes me from the teaser and my visit to the set is that this is a dark film, an adult approach to the material. It's not a G-rated Disney film.'
Kosinski: 'I don't know if I would say adult. There's nothing in the film that would keep kids from watching it. I think the aesthetic of the film is largely a reflection of my aesthetic and what I'm interested in. When you make a movie, you can only make the movie that you would want to see. For me, it was taking what I loved about the first film, which was the design elements that Syd Mead and Moebius [a.k.a. Jean Giraud] did, which I feel is timeless, and extrapolate it forward 28 years. We're saying in the world of the computer, it's been thousands of years and it has evolved.'
MTV: 'Has there been a mandate in terms of rating?'
Kosinski: 'While making the movie, we never did anything to serve a particular rating. We made the movie we wanted to make. I think Disney would be really happy with a PG rating. But I haven't had it reviewed by anyone. I imagine it will be PG or PG-13.'
MTV: 'It's going to be released in IMAX, presumably. Did you shoot anything specifically for that format?'
Kosinski: 'We did not shoot anything with an IMAX camera, because it uses film, and since we were shooting in 3D, we used two digital cameras. That being said, we are doing an IMAX version. What I am considering doing now is finishing four or five sections of the film in a tall format — not letterbox — and in an IMAX theater, the black bars at the top and bottom of the frame will disappear and it will become a full-screen sequence, which should be really cool. I think IMAX will be the way to see this movie.'
MTV: 'What were the hallmarks that you felt you needed to retain to satisfy the core audience who loved the original?'
Kosinski: 'The focus was always to serve the story we are telling. To include Bruce Boxleitner is not at all a cameo or stunt casting. He is integral to the story we're trying to tell, which is why he's in it. We've taken the events of the first movie as historical facts. In our story, Kevin Flynn emerged from his first experience as CEO of ENCOM and actually released the Tron video game based on his experiences in the first movie. ENCOM has become the most innovative, most successful, most forward-thinking digital company in the world as of 1989. There are fun references to parts of the first film. Sam Flynn [Garrett Hedlund], in searching for his father, has to retrace his steps and comes upon clues and places that we visited in the first film, like Flynn's Arcade. Even in the world of Tron itself, a lot of vehicles and sequences have evolved. We'll get to see how the disc game has changed, how the light cycle battle has changed. We get to see the new version of these iconic sequences. Things have gotten bigger and a bit out of control.'
MTV: 'Why'd you choose to go with Daft Punk for the soundtrack?'
Kosinski: 'I'm a huge electronic-music fan. This is a film where there was a lot of interest from different electronic bands that I follow to work on the film. I felt it was important, just as the first film was so forward-thinking visually and Wendy Carlos' music was so innovative, I felt we had to do the same thing here. So rather than going with a traditional film composer, I wanted to try something fresh and different. I set up a meeting with Daft Punk. We met for pancakes at the 101 Coffee Shop in L.A. one morning. These guys take Tron very seriously. Obviously, Tron was a huge influence on them. It was almost like they were interviewing me to make sure that I was going to hold up to the Tron legacy. But the more we talked, we realized that creatively, we were totally synced up. I've been working on it with them for over a year and a half. I don't know of a movie where you're working on the soundtrack months before you start filming. The level of integration between the music and the film is incredibly strong.'
MTV: 'Will it integrate any of the original themes?'
Kosinski: 'There's a certain level of nostalgia with something like this, but we never want it to go to a level of campiness. So we've been very careful to make sure we're serving our story. If you hear any music from the original film, it will only be in the appropriate place.'
MTV: 'I know it's early, but are you thinking of franchise possibilities?'
Kosinski: 'Yeah. I think the world we've built here is big enough and has scale to support another story. As to whether that will happen, that depends on how the film is received when it comes out.'"
I. STILL. CAN'T. WAIT!!!!!!!!!!