One of the unsung villains of Tron: Legacy is bad guy Clu's lackey Jarvis (played by True Blood's James Frain). In our exclusive interview, we go behind the glass visor and explore minion life, complete with murder and housework.
For those of you unaware of the Tron Legacy back story, there are two versions of Jeff Bridges in this film. There's old Jeff Bridges who plays the aged "maker" Kevin Flynn; and there's his once-loyal software counterpart Clu. Clu is a computer program who never ages, and eventually he turns against his maker Flynn. But even more interesting than the ageless face of Clu is his lackey, Jarvis, a program we got to spend some time with...
io9: Your character Jarvis is one of the new characters who we don't get a lot of back story on. I'm curious - did they give you any back story, or did you make up your own? Where did Jarvis come from?
James Frain: Jarvis comes out of the air. I discovered who he was while we were shooting [Tron Legacy]. I got the visuals very clearly from the costume department. The glass mohawk and visor, and the incredible costumes that we all had. And I knew that he was the right hand man to the bad guy, but that was basically it. When I got onto set and started working with Joe [Kosinski, the director] was when I discovered how much of a comic character he was. Joe was very keen to push the comedy. It became a really fun experience, looking for what we could find in every scene that showcased the slightly slapstick nature of this guy. He didn't come with an imprint or a back story or other characters to reference - we just kind of made him up.
What's your favorite Jarvis line?
My favorite Jarvis moment isn't really a line - it's when me and the other bad guys break into Jeff Bridges' [Flynn's] apartment. And I end up knocking over everything on the table just at the most inopportune moment. There was something about that was just pure joy to do, every time. It's just really basic comedy. Simple stuff.
Your glass mohawk made me think of Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element. Did you have any input in the costume at all or was it just waiting for you?
Someone else said that - I didn't see that coming. It was already built and ready to go.
Is it difficult wearing a glass mohawk?
Its very important not to sneeze, and sometimes it made it a bit tricky to see where the hell you're going. But apart from that it's fine.
One of the big plot points in Tron Legacy was Clu's desire to cross over into the real world of humanity. If Jarvis was in the human world, what do you think he'd do?
I wonder if he would have made it very far. He probably would have ended up in some sort of a gang, just on his look alone and his experience with malevolence. Either that or he'd be working for the IRS - he's a very good bureaucrat.
So what are the day-to-day responsibilities for Jarvis, Clu's right-hand program
Well let's see, he'd have to get up and have to clean his visor. He'd then have to prepare a list of Programs who have all been misbehaving. Get Clu's breakfast, that would have to be done. And those apartments, there's a lot of glass to clean, so he'd have to get the dusting done. Hmmm then maybe execute some people. I think that probably wraps up the morning.
The butler in Iron Man is named Jarvis as well, was that an intentional nod?
Yeah! I think that's coincidental but I noticed that as well. Jarvis, there's something to the name. You know Jeeves from the P.G. Wodhouse books - they're about this guy who is a butler and assistant to the hero. There's something about Jeeves and Jarvis - they seem to pop up in this vein. I think that's just completely coincidental.
What was your favorite little world building detail that you noticed in Tron Legacy?
What I was really struck by that I didn't see coming was the off-site world, the off-grid world. Where Olivia Wilde's character drives that little buggy around. That felt physical and tangible, and like a real space. I was really blown away by that.
Recently you've been doing a lot of villain work, what was the appeal of this villain in Tron for you?
I wanted to be in Tron in whatever part they had. I just wanted to be in the movie - I knew it was going to be incredible. I was just thrilled to be involved.