Noticeably absent from the upcoming reboot of Tron, Tron Legacy (and the upcoming animated television series Tron Uprising), Cindy Morgan brought the radiant Yori to life in the 1982 cult classic – and became the object of affection for sci-fi fans worldwide. After I mentioned how disappointed I was that she was missing from the new film in my Holiday Movie Preview, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was contacted by Cindy herself! In part one of our exclusive, two-part interview the busy actress – currently working on a book detailing her experiences during the making of the classic comedy Caddyshack – talks about her absence from the upcoming holiday blockbuster and shares some amazing tales from the set of the original Tron.
Socialite Life: Let’s get right to it. Were you asked at all to be in Tron Legacy?
Cindy Morgan: Nope. This is what happened. I knew it was coming up, I knew it was coming for a while and people were asking me in the press “Are you going to be in the movie?” and I said “My phone works. I haven’t heard anything yet.” I’ve got my theories why things have happened the way they did. You know, I did some work as a producer. I associate produced 5 films and I’ve sat in offices and listened to very important decisions being made on such an arbitrary basis that it baffled the imagination. Someone would come in for an interview and they would say, “I didn’t like what she was wearing. My wife has a dress like that.” And I would say, “She was brilliant! What are you talking about?” So some decision was made in some office – it could have been something arbitrary, it could have been something else, but for whatever reason, the decision was made. Everyone has left the door open. As you know, Disney included me in their promotion in April when they had an event in San Francisco (at the Wondercon convention) . And they reintroduced my character there, I was back alive (the character of Lora/Yori was killed off in the 2003 video game Tron 2.0). I will see what’s going to happen. The folks from Disney were sweet. As far as I’m concerned, Tron is for the fans and the fans are making the decisions. When I went to San Francisco in April, Disney’s producers told me that they have web crawlers that go out every night and they read all of the blogs. They are very much aware of what the fans are saying, thinking and doing and decisions are being made based on what the fans want – and isn’t that the way it should always have been? It’s a wonderful time because fans are making the decisions.
SL: I was first introduced to you in Tron. You had that whole super heroine vibe that I thought was so cool…
CM: You know, the thing is I was in…I’m going to be polite here and I’m going to say I was in as good shape as (her Tron co-stars) Jeff (Bridges) or ) – you know what I’d like to say (laughs)! And I was a much better shot with that damn disc! My father was a small arms instructor in World War II. Believe me, I knew how to hit something. I hit the mark. But, at that time, they wanted to make Tron more of a hero by making Yori more of the old-fashioned foil for the hero – which I found trouble with. But then they gave me the opportunity to fly the Solar Sailer. It’s interesting because if you’ve ever been on a sound stage, they’re just big empty warehouses. And the one we shot Tron on was a big, black empty warehouse because it was shot in black and white. And there was this small riser up in one part of the warehouse and on that was basically a banquet table covered with black felt. And they told me, “Go up there. Today you’re flying the Solar Sailer, you’re crossing the game grid – go!” And I said, “Alright, I’ve just gotta ask, what the hell are you talking about? There’s nothing here! What do you want me to fly?” And he said, “Just do anything.” I’m not a big fan of just doing anything because the audience always knows it, the audience can’t be fooled. If my acting is tinny – and I’ll tell you after this about the one line I didn’t deliver with conviction and the audience laughs every time they hear it – I looked up at this thing and thought “Son of a gun, there’s nothing here.” But I used to be an FCC licensed sound engineer who turned on the Hancock Tower in the morning when I did morning drive in Chicago radio. So, in my mind, I saw a sound board in front of me. I saw all of those digits and dials and that’s what I looked at. I’d check my dials, I’d look ahead, in my mind I was running this sound board that was somehow moving this thing forward.
There was this one line – and I got into it with (Tron director) Steven Lisberger. I said, “I will not say this line! My friends are coming to this movie! I can’t say this line.” Unfortunately, as you know, Lisberger is also the writer. You try getting into a match like that with the writer and you’re telling him his line is stupid, you’re in a lot of trouble (laughs). So when I say the line, “Oh Tron, I knew there wasn’t a circuit built that could hold you.” the audience laughs every time because they can hear me choking on the line. They can hear it. And, you know what; it is one of my favorite lines today because my face don’t lie – as the phrase goes. You can’t fool the eyes. The fact that the audience all these years later…I know the films that I like and can watch over and over again. It’s like a song playing on the radio; it just puts you in the right frame of mind. The fact that this work has held up over time, it means so much to me. Whatever happened doesn’t matter, it’s just a good feeling to say “gosh darn it, I did something right!”
SL: I was particularly drawn to your character in Tron because I was a computer camp nerd and was excited about the possibility of a computer savvy woman as a super heroine.
CM: I didn’t know a lot about computers at the time, but I was a tech from before. I knew the language, I just didn’t know the words – that’s why I had to make them real for myself. And I did that because I wouldn’t lie to my audience. I’m so glad that it worked, for the most part, except for that one line!
SL: After sharing your insights as a sound board engineer I’m going to have to go back and re-watch Tron, because I’m a fellow former sound tech!
CM: Well, you can see me standing at the board and I’ll do a slide and I’ll tap a couple of buttons and I’ll look ahead, like I’m moving something forward instead of looking up at your monitors. At one point (in filming Tron)…it was the silliest thing…thank God I had some basic training at a basic studio – at one point, Steven Lisberger said “You and Jeff and Bruce are looking in three directions off the ship!” And I said, “Could you please just get a grip to get a roll of tape and drag it so that we’re all looking at the same thing at the same time?” It’s not rocket science; we just needed something to look at. We need to be looking in the same direction.
SL: Did you think Tron was going to look as good as it did when you were making it?
CM: I did not – and honestly, when I heard my dialogue coming out of my mouth when I was in the computer world, I was a little bit like “Oh, God!”, because it’s a little bit campy. And I was like, “Is this going to hold up?” and thank God it did. But in the real world, where I’m playing basically a version of myself, I was fine. But the special effects – oh, they’re brilliant. They were way the hell ahead of their time. I think it’s going to be like the movie Fantasia, you can never repeat what was done there. Go ahead and try, but why? Go ahead and repaint the Sistine Chapel another color – what are you talking about? Get something original to do! Get an original thought and then I’ll go look at it.
The heart and soul of Tron was what the people did. The reality I found in the other actors’ eyes. That’s how I did it, the reality I found in Jeff and Bruce’s eyes. And David Warner, dear God in heaven! When he tells you you’re going to die, there’s no acting required – you know you’re going to die! He’s that good. Barnard Hughes (was) genius. The reality I found in the other actors’ eyes. So when I did the press junket for Disney, people kept saying the same thing, “Do you think you’ll be replaced by computers someday? Aren’t you afraid?” And I say “No” and they said “Why?” And I said, “I can do one thing computers can’t. I can make mistakes and that’s where the human element comes in and that’s what’s interesting. The mistakes, the nuances, the subtlety, the humor…the human part of it, the part where you go right instead of left and you don’t know why – that’s what people are watching. Otherwise they’d just be watching a buzzing light turn around! The human element is very, very important and let’s hope that the human element is there. I’m very honored to be part of a film that has stood the test of time and has so many devoted fans over time. I never use the word “fans” – let’s use the word “supporters”, because to call them fans isn’t giving them the credit that they’re due. The movie Tron belongs to the people who love and support it.
SL: What would you want Yori to be up to now?
CM: The guys who did the comic books asked me that and I said, “Well, if you did kill me, I would be the ghost in the machine because, had I been a mother, I would have created.” Because at one point it was assumed that I was the mother of Jet (Bradley). They gave me blind copy when they had me do the voice-over for Ma3a (a computer program) on the game (Tron 2.0) so I figured “Well, it must be my son.” So, if I knew that I had a chance of dying and that was my son, I would have done anything to take care of him. So I told the old comic book writers about it, I said I’d be the ghost in the machine and they actually titled one their series Ghost in the Machine and never even told me about it! I’m never telling those boys anything anymore (laughs)! I think I could be alive – in the comic book that’s coming out they’re having me move to Washington DC. I think I’d have the most fun being the ghost in the machine. They’ve turned (Tron Legacy) into a guy movie, and they put in some babes. It would be really interesting to have some women in there who are clever and playful and took care of things like Lacey (her character in Caddyshack) would. Let’s put a little Lacey in Yori! I think if we put a little Lacey in Yori, I think we’d really have something.
SL: Do you have a message for your supporters?
CM: I do! Thanks to you for keeping Yori alive!
Coming Friday is part two of our exclusive interview with Cindy Morgan, where she talks about her upcoming book, shares her memories from the set of Caddyshack and shares some of her beauty secrets!