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Set Pieces: The look of 'Tron: Legacy'

December 17, 2010 |  6:00 am

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They had me at the trailer. For weeks now, the previews for "Tron: Legacy" have offered a striking look at what digital-age decor could look like. Though the film, which opens this weekend, unfolds in a virtual landscape know as the Grid, it also features the midcentury childhood home of hero Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and a modern house made from shipping containers where Flynn's son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) lives. The most dazzling interior by far, however, is the Safehouse, above, a glowing hideout at the edge of the "Tron" universe.

Production designer Darren Gilford described the Safehouse by e-mail as "a hideout of Flynn's own design. The vibe of the space is a calm, serene self-imposed prison where Flynn has resolved to spend the rest of his digital life."

757_01467 copy That is, of course, until Flynn's son Sam is Tron-sported into this digital world and uses the Safehouse as his secret lair.

The space, right, is furnished with timeless designs including the Barcelona chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the 670 lounge and ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames, and the Arco lamp by Achille Castiglioni, which are accented by updated versions of 18th century French antiques.

These recognizable design elements are inspired by Flynn's distant memories of the real world, Gilford said. "Because Flynn is originally human, and he has the ability to create his own exiled environment, we chose these familiar furnishings to showcase his personal aesthetic."  Look closely, he added, and you'll notice that these classic elements have been "tweaked into the 'Tron' design language."

Almost everything in the Safehouse glows. The main floor is composed of 6-by-6-foot illuminated glass panels set on a massive steel structure conceived by supervising art director Kevin Ishioka and construction coordinator Jan Kobylka. Each panel was rigged so its up-lighting could be controlled independently. The Rococo-style furniture by set decorator Lin MacDonald was constructed from acrylic that took weeks to make using computer-run milling machines.

"Lin also ingeniously incorporated thin rope lights into strategic troughs inside the acrylic parts, which makes them appear lit from within," Gilford said. 

Keep reading to see that glowing furniture ...

2S5A2985The chandelier is a traditional crystal piece that has been retrofitted with dimmable LEDs to match the other light sources in the room, Gilford said. The custom dining-room table is clear acrylic, and the dining-room chairs are white lacquer with a silver patterned upholstery. The ceiling is a thin, raw fiberglass material that comes in large rolls. "I loved the natural look of this material right of the roll," Gilford said,  "so the finished product is virtually untouched." The rock walls were sculpted by hand.

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Director Joseph Kosinski, left, cinematographer Claudio Miranda and production designer Darren Gilford sit on an ornate French settee and chairs made from acrylic and upholstered in a metallic fabric with diamond stitching.

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The bad guys discover the Safehouse. The illuminated glass floors had to be thick enough to support the weight of the actors, cameras, crew and furnishings. "Knowing how dark the 'Tron' world was going to be and that our costumes were also predominantly black, the up-lit floors allowed the contrast needed to frame the characters within a dark world," Gilford said.

2-Interior Sams House Concept

Before he enters the virtual world of "Tron," which Gilford said is "an evolving digital simulation that takes place inside a solitary isolated super computer," Sam lives in an industrial building on a derelict pier, shown in this rendering. "Sam has clearly been shaped by the mysterious unanswered absence of his famous computer-genius father and chooses a renegade 'off-the-grid' existence," Gilford said. "The vibe was meant to be the ultimate man cave where Sam could park his Ducati next to his sofa."

-- David A. Keeps 

Set Pieces usually appears on this blog on Tuesdays.

Images: Disney Enterprises 

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