For some reason the interview Martin did with Bonnie MacBird for Tron-Sector back in 02 is no longer in the Interviews archive so I will post it here...
The following Q&A was conducted by Martin Fisher via email in 2002.
Can you tell some some stuff about yourself. What you`ve done in your life and how did you get to co-write Tron with Steven?
"Pre Tron, I got a BA in Music and a MA in Film from Stanford. My first big job was at Universal which is what I was doing when I met Steven. Since Tron I was a screenwriter for eight years, then ran a company called Creative License (won two Emmys and 11 Cine Golden Eagles for my work as a writer/producer during this time in the 80s and 90s), then wrote a novel, and later became an actor in my 40s, which is what Im doing now, mainly in theater, and some films. (see my website www.macbird.com) I still write, and am currently re-writing my novel and adapting a Sherlock Holmes story for the Knightsbridge Theater, where I`m a member and frequently appear in classical plays. (my website, while mainly geared toward my acting, has a page with books recommended for writers as I give writing workshops occasionally) Steven and I met while I was an executive at Universal Studios doing story development for Ned Tanen (head of the feature film division) and Jennings Lang. We worked briefly on a project called Lightning, liked working together, and I left the studio to join Lisberger studios as the writer/producer of Tron and another idea we had."
I have never been able to understand the beginning sequence of the movie. How could we be seeing Sark and his bike against another program battling inside the ENCOM supercomputer when it is actually just a punk playing on a stand alone arcade unit? Is there a link or was it just "artistic license"?
"I had nothing to do with this sequence, sorry I cant help you there."
What the other story lines were going to be -- the script went through four or more revisions, right? What was it originally going to be?
"It was quite different in its original concept. I worked on TRON for two years before it went to Disney. I had Robin Williams (then a new star in Mork and Mindy) in mind as Flynn, originally Flynn was a pizza delivery boy who fell inside the computer and had to find his way out. The script originally had a lot more humor in it, and more layered characters. The bit who longed to be a program, the program who longed to be a human, etc. It went through more incarnations than four there were eight sets of writers after me and a rather bitter credits dispute. "
How do you think you captured the spirit and hackers so well? Was it an accident or were there other people involved advising you about what the world of hackers was like?
"Thank you. I spent quite a bit of time at the Stanford AI Lab and at Xerox Parc researching the scene, it was not an accident. I met Alan Kay and we worked together from the start he was hired as the "technical consultant" on the film, although he later took his name off when all the scientific elements we had so carefully embedded into the storyline were
removed by Steven and subsequent writers. However his input and my hanging out at these places was crucial, I think, to the vibe of the piece."
What was the writing process like? What was the original story like compared to the final scripted version?
"The writing process was difficult and eventually Steven and I had a falling out. During our time together, I would do the writing, Steven would read it and we would have meetings in which he would tell his ideas. Then I would go back and try new things. I did many treatments and full drafts of the screenplay. My final screenply draft sold to Disney, and although I
had a contract to line produce, as often happens in Hollywood, it didnt work out that way. I think my original script was much funnier, sharper, wittier, smarter, than the final, though probably not as visually interesting. "
Did you enjoy watching Tron and when was the last time you saw it?
"No, I was too mad about it. I`ve probably calmed down some since then. I actually went to the premiere with Alan Kay and famous science fiction writer Harlan Ellison who sympathized with the "evisceration of my script." (he had read my original, which Disney had bought) and was a hilarious person to go through this experience with."
Was Steven Lisberger a geek first and a filmaker second or was it the other way around?
"Steven was never a geek. He was an intelligent, charming, boyish man who was a very talented animation director, when I knew him."
I saw you only got a story credit. Did you get to work on the screenplay and if not why not when you were involved with the story?
"I did many complete drafts of the screenplay. I consider myself the original writer of the movie. "Tron" was the name of a glowing character he had created for a radio ad. I came up with the idea of a guy who falls inside a computer, meets a video game warrior, and with his help, escapes. The entire basic storyline, and all main and subsidiary characters were mine."
The clothes that Jeff wore in the real world, except for the Flynns arcade stuff, do you know if they were provided by the wardrobe or did Jeff bring them in himself?
"Wasn`t around for the shoot, dont know about the costumes."
Although Steven Lisberger has his story for Tron 2.0, what kind of things would you do if you were involved in the writing process again?
"It would be funny, scary, and based on real computer science which is stranger than most of us can imagine. I know these guys. I`m married to one."
Were you on the set often or was most of your work done off set?
"Never on the set of the movie. I line produced the test shoots before Disney was involved. It wasn`t really fun. In retrospect, Ive worked with a lot of pros both before and since and Steven and I do not share similar styles of working."
How was working with Steven Lisberger? Had you known him prior to working on Tron?
"Originally, Steven and I were going to co-produce TRON as an ndependent film through Lisberger Studios, with production financed by the European distribution deals for Animalympics, an animation feature Steven was then directing.. Steven was to direct, TRON, I was to write. I had live action production experience (at Univ and before) and he was an animation studio, we had it covered. Then the US pulled out of the Olympics and the distribution deals all fell through. Suddenly we had to find financing for TRON. It was set up at Disney, though without me."
Your husband, Alan Kay, is often said to be very instrumental in the conception of the laptop computer and windows style interface. Was he influential in your writing? Also, I see that he was mentioned as being part of the "crew" on the set of Tron. Did you work together at all?
"Alan Kay, my husband, is frequently called in the press "the father of the personal computer" because his group at Xerox Parc developed the graphical user interface which is ubiquitous now in computers. His influence was very strong on my drafts of the script he advised me to read early Heinlein, and worked with me both on structure, and on the computer science references in the early drafts. Unfortunately, much of this work did not make it to the final version. It is too bad, the movie would have had a richer subtext and been a lot better, I think. He was pretty upset about the turn it took after it went to Disney."
Have you had any contact with anyone from the Tron cast or crew over
"A few of the animators and I have remained friends."
Were there any parts written that didn't made it to the screen though you would have liked them to?
"Any of my dialogue. Only my concept, character ideas and skeleton remain."
What were some of your contributions that you are most proud of in Tron?
"I am most proud of the concept itself, which was ahead of its time. I really share that with Steven. I remember a day when he and I went to a computer store in Santa Monica. It was the ONLY ONE in LA. It was there that I got a book about Computer geniuses working on the frontiers of research and read about Alan Kay, among others. There were video game parlours in Westwood, but no one had computers. We got so excited about the whole thing. We knew we were on to something good."
Was there anything in the final script that you didn`t care for?
"The line as one character is being drained of its life force "Wait! I need that!" makes me just cringe. It is so contrary to the wit and humor and subtlety of the original that I just shudder. I`m afraid its typical of many of the lines. Actually most of the dialogue makes me shudder."
Are you involved in any way with the 20th anniversary DVD?
"No. Would like to be."
Did you like the casting of Tron or were there some roles that you magined other actors playing?
"I loved Jeff Bridges. I read the shooting script and I saw what he did and realize that THANK GOD he ad libbed some of the humor back into the character. In fact, Jeff Bridges was very close in feel to the way I had always written Flynn, kind of a smart-ass, funny guy. He, along with the visuals, was the films saving grace. Way to go,Jeff! I`ve always wanted to tell him that."
What other work have you been doing over the past 20 years after Tron?
"See answer to #1."
Other resources for Bonnie MacBird: