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All The Rage: TRON: Legacy Costume Designer Christine Clark Interview

Not a day goes by without some form of TRON: Legacy news as LA Times’ All The Rage interviews the movie’s assistant costume designer, Christine Clark. Booth Moore of All The Rage finds out the inspirations behind the costumes including a nod to Gareth Pugh, how the costumes were lit and of course the experience in trying to put on a TRON costume. The interview can be seen here.

How do you begin a project as enormous as this? Did you start with sketches, images from the original film or some kind of brief from the director?

All of it. When [costume designer] Michael Wilkinson and I began there was the original film, which we watched as a refresher course, and also the Comic-Con teaser, and some preliminary costume concepts done for the studio. So we had great inspiration to set the tone, then we started researching like crazy — fashion, military uniforms and classic films such as “Blade Runner” and “Resident Evil.”

Did you look at any specific designers for inspiration, such as Gareth Pugh, Olivier Theyskens or Nicolas Ghesquiere?

Gareth Pugh’s name comes up a lot, and there is a conncetion to his edgy vibe. But there was no one specific.

Were you given parameters, like no natural fibers?

We definitely wanted to create a synthetic world, so we used nothing organic. Even for Jeff Bridges’ character, who was meant to be Zen-like, we wanted his clothing to have an organic, rough linen look. But it’s still polyester.

When it came to designing the super suits, form followed function, yes?

Absolutely. [Director Joseph Kosinski] said he didn’t want them to feel like Batman suits. He wanted things cut close to the body and action-oriented. Nothing too clunky. Motocross is always a great place to look when you are going for something industrial-looking.

How did they differ from the suits in the original 1982 “Tron?”

I actually visited one of those original suits in person, and because all of the special effects of the original movie were digital, and done afterward, the actual costumes are underwhelming. They are really just Spandex form-fitting suits with white lines that would later become lights. Although the line work and artistry is certainly beautiful.

How did you light the new suits?

From the beginning, we knew we had to do practical lighting on the suits, so we reached out to three special effects houses in the Los Angeles area. And one of them, Quantum Creation FX, found a sample that had just been developed, and had only been used on Japanese security vests. It was a thin vinyl sheeting, flexible and pliable. The technical name for it is a polymer-based elastomeric electro luminescent lamp.

We worked with them to develop the technology for “Tron.” So it doesn’t exist except on the grid! We wanted all the power and lighting to be self-contained to the actors, and to fit into the hubs of the disk on their backs. The lighting was powered by lithium batteries. And they didn’t last long. We could only get about 12 minutes out of Sam Flynn’s suit before the battery died. We had a remote control station so we could monitor the power of all the suits and we knew who was about to die. Normally on a set, you hear them say, “sound speeding, camera speeding, action!” We also had “light ‘em up.”

The suits themselves were designed digitally in 3-D, right?

We worked with an application called ZBrush to digitally sculpt the suits. So we took an actor’s digital scans, then sculpted on top of the scans using the program. The material is foam latex with a little Spandex.

Were they difficult to get into?

To get one on is so much worse than putting on Spanx. We called it an “interactive dressing experience.” The actor would have to participate resisting. The pants went on first and the top next.

How is Quorra’s (Olivia Wilde’s) costume different?

She may come across looking sexy, but we didn’t want to hypersexualize her. She is an intelligent warrior woman. She wears a female version of the grid suit, and her costume tells a story about her being different. It is asymmetrical, and all the other costumes have symmetry in the light design. Initially, the skirt was longer. But I like how it ended up. It echoes the line of her hairdo, which is also asymmetrical. I think she looks adorable. It was a fresh idea to give her that pixie elfin charm.

Although futuristic, at times the costumes felt quite retro. Was that intentional?

I’m excited to hear people are picking up on that. We wanted to create Kevin Flynn’s synthesized reality of a world he once knew. and play on time periods he would have been touched by.

Do you see the costumes influencing fashion?

I feel like it’s already happening. Versace did a collection recently that looked a little “Tron” inspired. And people have been so excited about the illumination, I think it’s only a mater of time before the application becomes affordable and everyone will want it.

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