Friday November 16, 2012
Bruce Boxleitner lends voice in Tron: Uprising
By S. INDRAMALAR
Bruce Boxleitner lends his voice to animated series Tron: Uprising.
THIRTY years ago, Bruce Boxleit-ner was in Tron, a science fiction movie about a computer programmer who is taken prisoner in the virtual world of the computer mainframe called the Grid. Actor Jeff Bridges was cast as the lead, Kevin Flynn (whose digital world character is Clu), while Boxleitner played his sidekick Alan Bradley, another programmer (whose character is called Tron in the cyber world).
Tron proved to be a sleeper hit: Ideologically, it was decades ahead of its time – handphones didn’t yet exist and the Internet was still undiscovered but here was a movie about real-life programmers getting lost and fighting for their survival inside a digital arena “where love and escape do not compute” (that’s a line from the trailer to the original movie).
Acting in a science fiction movie wasn’t exactly in Boxleitner’s career trajectory at the time. In fact, according to a 1982 report in People magazine, the tall handsome actor was being groomed (by then manager Jay Bernstein) to be “the next Clark Gable and Alan Ladd”. But Boxleitner accepted the role because he found the concept intriguing and it gave him the opportunity to work alongside Bridges, someone Boxleitner had “admired for years”.
Tron has since become a cult classic to science fiction fans across generations (Pixar’s John Lasseter has said that “without Tron there would be no Toy Story”) and has since spawned a series of video and computer games (Tron 2.0, Tron 2.0: Killer App), a movie sequel, Tron: The Legacy (2010), and most recently an animated TV series, Tron: Uprising.
“Well, I am surprised (at how popular Tron still is) and I think everyone who did (the movie) is, as well. I’m very happy that it is a hit. It is very rare that you have a project that lives on past a couple of years. I’ve done so many other different things over the years and yet Tron seems to be the one that still resonates with newer audiences. I think it is because of its subject matter – the younger generation uses technology as their language and that’s basically what Tron was about. In its own sweet, naive way, it was about computers and technology and ... look how far we’ve come,” says the 62-year-old actor in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, California.
The latest incarnation, Tron: Uprising, is the best so far, says Boxleitner enthusiastically.
“It takes place seven years after the original Tron and just before Tron: Legacy (in which Flynn’s son Sam goes into the Grid in search of his father). Our scriptwriters – very wisely, I thought – took Tron to a darker place. This is an older, scarred, battle-weary Tron who is bent on Clu’s destruction. Our writers have given me such a range (to portray), which is very exciting for an actor.”
In a career that has spanned 40 years (Boxleitner first arrived in Hollywood in 1972 where he guest- starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show), he has played the whole gamut of TV and movie roles – acting in westerns (How The West Was Won, The Gambler series), sitcoms (Scarecrow And Mrs King, GCB), horror (Area 51) and science fiction (Tron, Babylon 5).
Boxleitner revels in new and challenging roles, and he didn’t hold back when approached to reprise his role as Tron, whom he reckons is “the ultimate video game character”.
“I’m selfish,” he declares. “I don’t want anyone else doing it. And why shouldn’t I (reprise my role)? I was part of creating that character and creating that film … it is part of me and part of what I have done in my life. Besides, I do like the character. I like that he keeps evolving. I am just continually interested in where they take the characters and the story.”
Stellar voice cast
Although Tron: Uprising is an animated TV series, Boxleitner cautions fans against assuming it to be just a cartoon. The series introduces Beck, a young programmer who goes all out to free his friends from the villainous Clu. Beck is trained by Tron who shapes him from an impulsive fighter into a courageous and powerful warrior, worthy of becoming the next leader.
“It’s not a kiddy show. It’s not a cartoon. It’s a show all Tron fans will enjoy. It has a great deal of style and action and our writers have done a great job in tying the story together. It’s part of the whole saga,” he says.
Tron: Uprising is directed by Charlie Bean (who directed TV’s Robotboy and was the storyboard artist for shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory) and boasts a stellar voice cast which includes Elijah Wood, Emmanuelle Chirqui, Mandy Moore, Lance Henricksen and Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman).
“Charlie was really the driving force behind this. Voice acting is very different. You have to try to ‘physicalise’ emotions and actions with just the voice. In the fight scenes, I have to .. well, I don’t want to say grunt ... but exhale and bring that level of emotion and exertion into the voice. Sometimes, we act along with the animation, but a lot of the times, we don’t see what is happening. Thank God we have Charlie because he is really good at telling us what we need to bring to a line or a scene. With Tron, I had to sort of bring a fatigue to my voice while maintaining a sense of command because he is tougher here and he’s bent on destroying Clu. I had to add a huskier quality to my voice, if that makes sense. Of course, I am older and have a huskier voice so that worked out well,” Boxleitner shares.
What took some getting used to, however, was seeing himself as an animated character that’s somewhat physically different.
“The first time I saw (myself) I went: ‘Whoa!’ I wish I had a jaw like my animated character has. Gosh, what a strong jaw,” he says with a laugh. “But, that’s part of the stylisation of the series. I love the look of it. I think it’s phenomenal how we’ve expanded the Grid to include all these cities, different landscapes, oceans. It reflects a darker, more dangerous and realistic game grid, which in turn reflects the type of games we have now. The original Tron almost seems sweet and innocent in comparison.”
Boxleitner is game to reprise his role once more should a third Tron movie materialise: “I hope there will be one. I know that there is a story in development but I don’t know when that will be out.”
He, however, isn’t too keen on many more remakes; except perhaps of the 1980s hit Scarecrow And Mrs King. Boxleitner reveals that after Tron, Scarecrow is possibly the character he is best known for, particularly among women “of a certain generation”.
“I would love to (reprise Scare-crow) if someone had a terrific storyline that could work at our ages,” he says, adding that he had re-connected with Scarecrow co-star Kate Jackson a couple of years ago and the two had laughed about the possibility of a remake.
“But there is one problem with that,” he adds. “I don’t want to relive my whole career again … an older, creakier version at that! I’m still interested in doing new things. I’ve got a lot yet to give.”
Tron: Uprising premieres on Disney XD (Astro Ch 617) and Disney HD (Astro Ch 637) tomorrow at 2pm.