When Tron was first on its way to science fiction cult status, Tron: Legacy’s 25-year-old star wasn’t even alive. The 1982 movie broke technical ground and wowed sci-fi fans, but for one reason or another, a sequel just didn’t seem meant to be. Now, in one of the more unlikely fan-driven sequel stories in cinematic history, Legacy’s December 17th release will mark the longest period in Hollywood history between a movie and its sequel. And if it’s as good as it looks so far, all will be forgiven.

For the third Comic-Con in a row, Tron: Legacy has a presence, but Disney is pulling out all the stops this year. They’ve debuted a new trailer and footage, held panel discussions with the cast and opened the infamous Flynn’s Arcade in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp District featuring vintage arcade games, props from the movie and wall screens constantly running Legacy clips.

As Garrett Hedlund steps into the shoes of Sam Flynn, the son Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) hasn’t seen in a quarter century, the young actor can’t help but smile at the fearlessly loyal fan base bursting with anticipation for December. “If Comic-Con didn’t exist, Tron: Legacy wouldn’t exist,” Hedlund told us during our exclusive interview. “It’s fantastic.” We spoke with Hedlund earlier today in the soft neon glow of Flynn Arcade’s about his wild ride stepping into the machine. You weren’t born yet when the Tron franchise began. What was your awareness of the first movie, the video games and the fan following over the years?

Hedlund: Well, I grew up on a farm so I definitely wasn’t around the Tron video game. We had three channels on our television so I wasn’t around the movie. I got to see it for the first time in 2003. I said, “Wow, what a trip.” Seven years later, to be a part of this film is such an incredibly unique experience. Your character, Sam, hasn’t seen his father since he was a kid. What kind of relationship does that create for you with Jeff Bridges in terms of getting to know each other and rehearsing for the movie together?

Hedlund: It’s funny you ask that because we all met up several weeks before we started filming and we’d sit around a table – Me, Jeff [Bridges], Olivia [Wilde] and Joe Kosinski, the director. The writers [Adam] Horowitz and [Edward] Kitsis would be sitting on the couch along with the producers. We would improvise scenes to get that feel. All of the sudden, you’d see some of this stuff applied into the script. It was a wonderful process. Our input actually seemed to be completely accepted into something that was such a blockbuster, momentous kind of thing. Take us onto the set of Tron. How much were you interacting with physical props and how much are you holding a placeholder that will be replaced digitally later?

Hedlund: It was kind of like this room [he motions to the lights around the Flynn’s Arcade bar]. The only things that were completely blue-screen were things like the disc game. I’d be on a platform and I’d have to be completely acting by myself with a camera and a screen throwing the disc. They would keep tossing about 20 discs at me and they’d just let me do what I wanted between the takes. I could jump around and say things like, “Come on! That’s all you’ve got?”

Now that I’ve seen a little bit, they didn’t just use the things we perfected, but also a lot of the mistakes, which sort of gives a nice, diverse side to the character. If they tossed a disc at me and I fumbled with it, that fumble’s in there. Everything can’t be so serious. Did you have to do a lot of wirework?

Hedlund: I did so much wirework during this, having to do the flips and dropping 40 feet at 100 percent, doing a shoulder roll, a look from right to left straight into a slow stand up. Doing these things, especially at the point when gravity changes, those are some hard hits, man. I thought I was going to have a concussion. [He slaps the table] Bam! And the suit is a very tight, but once you get a full body harness under it, it becomes tighter. [Laughs] What goes into Tron training school?

Hedlund: Olivia and I both had to undergo a lot of the training because we had to do the majority of our own stunts. I started at the beginning of January and we didn’t start filming until the beginning of April. We were training with this setup called 8711 in L.A. We had to do parkour and capoeira, hand to do hand-to-hand combat, physical training. It was a lot of training. There was motorcycle riding in terms of the smoothness and flow of the light cycles and the beginning sequence with the Ducati Sport 1000. Do you have a favorite prop you’d like to have in your house as a memento?

Hedlund: Oh man, I’d love to have the light cycle. I wish one of them ran. It’s such a pristine, beautiful, dark, unique vehicle. If I had one of those discs and it did the damage that it does in the film, give me that thing, man! Which action scene stands out as your favorite?

Hedlund: Well, now that the light jets are involved, I’d say some of that, because somebody might be man-handling a gunner. If Tron succeeds like Disney’s hoping, it’s hard to imagine we won’t see more. What are your thoughts on the future of Sam Flynn?

Hedlund: They said months back that the writers are beginning their initial steps into the next of the Tron: Legacies, so that’s an exciting feel. With the vision that Joe Kosinski brings to this, it would be exciting to be involved with all of this again and to have all of the same cast back again if we could. It was the experience of a lifetime. Just to confirm, you are signed on for more?

Hedlund: [Grinning and whispering quietly] Yes.

Tron: Legacy opens in theaters nationwide on December 17th, 2010

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