“TRON” combines state-of-the-art computer graphics with special techniques in live-action photography to create a fantasy world never before seen on a motion picture screen. It is a world where energy lives and breathes, where laws of logic are defied, where an electronic civilization thrives.
All of which is quite a departure for Boxleitner, a tall and athletic actor whose career is rooted in roles as rawboned types who helped tame the West. Collector of frontier art, reader of historical fiction, Boxleitner relished such vehicles as the television series “How the West Was Won” and the telefilm “I Married Wyatt Earp.” “I loved the idea of reliving history,” he says. “Playing a Western hero you sense how strong those people must have been. Let me tell you it’s a thrill.”
Expectedly, he was not enthralled with the notion of starring in an effects-laden picture like “TRON.’
“I was really feeling my oats,” he says today. “I had just finished doing a Western movie-of-the-week and was still thinking of myself as the gunfighter hero. When I got the script for “TRON” I rejected it. I didn’t want to spend that time cooped up on sound stages.
“Then Kitty (his wife, actress Kathryn Holcomb) read the script and told me I’d better reconsider. She thought it was something special. When I reread it, I realized that Tron, my character in the film, was not so different from a traditional Western hero.”
Boxleitner’s Tron character is the only being who can save his electronic world from domination by a huge and despotic master computer program. Ironically, while the completed film portrays an epic battle set in a fantastic landscape of light and electricity, the actors performed against sets that were practically bare. The live-action was mated with computer-generated settings in post-production.
“We looked at storyboards (rough drawings of each shot in the movie) before each scene. Then it was up to the imagination. And when you realize that what we are seeing in ‘TRON’s’ world can’t possibly exist — then you know how difficult a job the actors had. ‘TRON’ is the most difficult movie I’ve ever done.”
Boxleitner may have had it a bit easier than the others, however. Faced with a duel on the video game grid, chased by a Recognizer or a data pirate, or confronted by any of the electronic world’s myriad dangers, he could always ask himself, “What would Wyatt Earp do?” The settings may change but the heroes remain the same.
In color by Technicolor, “TRON” also stars Jeff Bridges, David Warner, 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.