d23: steven lisberger tron interview

Yesterday, we spoke to Tron Legacy producer Steven Lisberger about the new film and his view on the current state of technology. After talking to him for a few minutes you quickly find out that he really knows his stuff. He answered a few major questions about the upcoming sequel, including how the hell they’re going to introduce the iconic and complicated back story of Tron to a newer, younger generation.

If you enjoyed my interview with fellow producer Sean Bailey, then you’ll love the goods we got from Steven. He’s not only a producer and writer on this film, but he also directed the first Tron back in 1982.

Check out our interview with Steven Lisberger now…

What are some of the problems that Flynn will encounter in Tron Legacy almost 30 years after the first film?

I think that one of the themes in the story being expressed is where Flynn’s allegiances really lie. He created breakthrough technology in the day, so it means something very special to him. But he also has a real world family, and he’s being asked to decide who he loves more. Then it gets really tricky because there’s a tendency for people to say, ‘The best thing I could do for my kid is bless them with the best technology,’ and maybe the kid doesn’t really want your technology, he just wants you.

Do you think that concept has become an issue with how people relate to one another?

I think that’s sort of an interesting metaphor because we’re sort of in the race with the Devil. Aspects of the world are going to hell, and we think if we can get to the point where we can simulate it, then we’ll understand it and we’ll solve the problem. We’re struggling with AIDS and global warming, but if we can simulate it correctly, then we’ll understand it and we can fix it. It’s a classic sci-fi problem. Is technology gonna be your best friend or at times is it gonna be your best friend who turns out to be your worst enemy?

Technology is constantly evolving. Talking about Jeff Bridges, do you think that in 30 or 40 years you’ll be able to just scan him and use his image forever?

You can start thinking in terms of replacing the actor as a shell, the ghost in the shell if you will. You can replace the shell, but you can’t really replace the ghost. The difference for me, is that real life has a lot of infinity to it. There are so many things that you don’t understand, that we’ll never understand, and we can’t get a handle on, and cyberspace by its very nature has an element of the finite in it. You can always break it down, you can always figure it out.

You start thinking, yeah we can have a Jeff Bridges we could replace physically but the Jeff Bridges that I know, there’s a strange brew of mystery, zen master, and crazy artist and it’s all in this non definable form. I don’t think we’re even close to saying “Oh, I’ve got a piece of software that will mimic that.” But the other one is falling, we’ve brought down that god, that statue, the physical reality we’re gonna beat that. But next comes the human software? That’s a long way away.

For some people, this will be their first exposure to the world of Tron. How will you introduce the history, the concept, and the characters to a newer, younger generation?

I can’t give away too much without giving away parts of the story mechanism and some of this is almost subtext. We were imprisoned at one time by the MCP, which was the mainframe computer system that told us what we could know about our information, and when we could know it.  Some very trippy people have talked to me about what they think the MCP represents, and how it represents a form of how the universe tends to make us feel like we can’t exceed certain parameters.

It’s like “Why can’t I play the piano? Why am I not gifted at sports?” There seems to be something in us that’s limiting us. There’s a since of being trapped. We deal with being trapped all the time as people. It’s like yeah, “I can’t play music, I wish I could.” So, we overthrow the MCP, but we don’t overthrow that limitation, and now technology is much more sophisticated in how it traps us. It doesn’t just brutally say, “I’m the MCP, you’re going to do what I want.”

The internet has become an important part of the average person’s daily life. Do you think it’s easy to become addicted to it?

It seduces. I lost the internet connection at my house yesterday, because we accidentally cut the internet cable and it’s just horrifying. I’m freaking out. I feel like somebody I really love just said, ‘I’m not talking to you.’ It’s like, ‘Is that service man here?’ You’re trapped now by how seductive it is, by how much you need it.

In Legacy, how will you integrate that type of obsession into the plot of the film?

In this story there’s a certain amount of seduction in terms of some of these characters, and how they seduce you with their beauty or their ungodly cyber capabilities. The first film as a subtext, the programs trying to reach their users is a metaphor for them trying to reach the best in themselves. They think of us as greater beings, they don’t know how flawed we are.

So is the conflict similar or different?

It’s always the same. Are you going to use the technology to bring about the best in yourself or the not so great part of yourself? That’s in this film, but in a different way. It’s not about whether the programs and the users are going to get together anymore, it’s about whether we’re going to still make contact with the best in ourselves. Is Flynn going to make contact with the best in himself? Is his son going to make contact with the best in himself? That never goes away. That’s not going to go away no matter what the technology does.

Heavy stuff, huh?

What do you think of our interview with Steven Lisberger?