Tall, with legs as thin as sapling trees, wearing a pumpkin-colored bathrobe and eyeglasses perched on the end of his nose, Warner walks onto a movie set looking for all the world like a professor who has misplaced his copy of Ulysses. The set of this particular movie belongs to “TRON,” a futuristic adventure in which Warner (“I’m ready for a nice romantic comedy”) plays a power-hungry executive whose alter-ego is an unstoppable computer program.
In “TRON,” Walt Disney Productions will employ computer imaging and state-of-the-art moviemaking technology to create an electronic fantasy world never before seen on the screen. Warner’s character in the electronic world is Sark, a powerfully evil warrior who oversees the video game grid. “This character is different in that he comes from a unique kind of world,” Warner says. “But really, evil is evil no matter where you find it.
“I don’t really like waking up in the morning thinking I’ve got to do the nasty to someone,” he goes on, “but it’s how directors see me these days. What I try to do with the villains I play is give them just the tiniest bit of humanity. Maybe one percent. Else it’s just too boring and depressing, and I certainly wouldn’t be in any condition to go home and see the baby.”
There was a time when Warner didn’t expect to appear in films in any role, evil or otherwise. His early acting experience was with tiny stage repertory groups in England, and later with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “I planned to spend my life acting with a small stock company somewhere in the north of England,” he recalls. But seven lines in a Royal Shakespeare Company production snowballed into leading stage roles which in turn built to a part as Albert Finney’s younger brother in the film “Tom Jones.”
Warner has a “this, too, shall pass” attitude about the current popularity of his villainy: “It’s the nature of the profession. I have been all over the world — the Caribbean, Canada, Israel, Hungary, France — and I have been out of work, too, when I wasn’t the flavor of the month. I know I won’t be playing villains forever. But please,” he adds, “tell anyone who’s listening that we can move on to comedy now.”
In color by Technicolor, “TRON” also stars Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan and Barnard Hughes. The film was written and directed by Steven Lisberger for producer Donald Kushner and executive producer Ron Miller. Buena Vista releases. Filmed in Super Panavision® 70.
From the original 1982 Tron press materials.