In recent interviews the stars of the upcoming science fiction movie Tron: Legacy have spoken about the influence that Zen Buddhism had on the making of the film. Jeff Bridges, a practicing Buddhist and the star of Tron, hoped that the cult classic would blend special effects with elements of Zen. From National Post:
“I didn’t want the new Tron to be just about new special effects,” [Bridges] says of the film that blends 70 mm live action with state-of-the-art computer imaging and hand-drawn animation. Besides the eye candy, Tron: Legacy contains a few other things. For one, it comes across as “a cautionary tale” about modern technology. For another, the film features many philosophical references to Zen Buddhism, which Bridges champions. “ ‘You can be a slave to your preferences’ is one of my favourites,” the actor says of a Zen subtext.
Bridges’s costar Olivia Wilde–known best for her role on the TV show House–also spoke of the influence of Zen on the making of Tron and the formation of her own character, Quorra. From her interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:
Q: Quorra strikes me as being in a constant state of discovery. Wide-eyed, literally.
A: (laughs) She has what in Buddhism is referred to as “the beginner’s mind”: a great sense of optimism and appreciation for all things. I was very much inspired by Joan of Arc; when I made the connection between Quorra and Joan of Arc, it all fell into place. Unlikely warriors. Childlike warriors. Joan of Arc seemed to have one foot in another world. She was led by a higher power, guided by compassion and selflessness. She had this rare combination of a warrior’s spirit and innocence. That all made a lot of sense for Quorra. Her devotion to Kevin Flynn is what guides her. The addition of Sam Flynn really rocks her world and energizes her revolutionary spirit.
Q: Kevin Flynn describes a “miracle” that’s supposed to change everything – science, philosophy and religion. I’d wager you put some thought into the film’s big ideas?
A: Absolutely. Jeff, our writing team, our creative group – it’s something we all took very seriously when preparing for the film. One person who was very helpful as we were creating that was Jeff Bridges’ own Zen master, Bernie Glassman, who is probably the coolest Zen Buddhist alive. He’s a social activist. His entire philosophy was so inspiring to all of us. The film raises so many interesting philosophical questions, it forces you to be constantly discussing this stuff on set. Even artificial intelligence versus humanity. That, of course, comes up in a movie like this or “The Matrix” or “Blade Runner.” I was thinking, “What does Quorra, as a form of artificial intelligence, possess that humans do not?”
Tron: Legacy, directed by Joseph Kosinski, opens in theaters on December 17th, 2010.
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