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The Secret History Of Daft Punk's 'TRON: Legacy' Soundtrack

Updated April 30, 2021 7 items

In the hazy reaches of your mind, you probably recall 2010's TRON: Legacy, Disney's attempt to reboot the franchise around their 1982 CGI sci-fi spectacle about the hidden world inside a video game. TRON: Legacy, a long-gestating sequel starring Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde, was not as popular at the box office as Disney hoped, which scuttled their plans to turn the TRON intellectual property into a viable revenue driver and theme park attraction. It was not from a lack of trying, though. The spectacular IMAX 3D visuals from director Joseph Kosinski made the movie a feast for the eyes. The omnipresent marketing campaign created a genuine pop culture moment. And despite the film's underperformance, the soundtrack album remains a beloved classic thanks to the participation of electronic music legends Daft Punk. Some people might be more familiar with the music than the movie itself.

While TRON: Legacy has now amassed a sizeable cult following, the soundtrack eclipses even that. But questions still persist as to who actually wrote the music, if Daft Punk wrote music that was rejected, and why they never wrote another film score before breaking up. 

  • Daft Punk Were The First (And Only) Choice To Score 'TRON: Legacy'

    Video: YouTube

    Early on in the development of TRON: Legacy, Kosinski and music supervisor Jason Bentley pinpointed Daft Punk as the perfect collaborators for the film. Daft Punk's music and visual identity had always played with the ideas of man and machine becoming one and the same. While Kosinski and Bentley are credited with the foresight to seek out Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Cristo (the men underneath the robot suits), some sources say Daft Punk was loosely attached to a TRON sequel as far back as 2007. Producers Sean Bailey and Justin Springer were said to have approached Daft Punk around the time of their iconic "Alive" tour. 

    Daft Punk was legendarily reclusive and unwilling to commit to more than one project at a time, so they remained unsigned for multiple years after the first overtures from Disney. They would have to be wooed into making a TRON soundtrack their next major work. But even when the contracts were signed, nothing was guaranteed except more drama.

  • Hans Zimmer Was Considered To Co-Write The Music With Daft Punk

    Here's where it gets complicated. According to Mitchell Leib, President of Music and Soundtracks for Walt Disney Records at the time, all manner of scenarios were bandied about for how to integrate Daft Punk into the musical landscape of TRON: Legacy. One of those scenarios involved a co-composer. Leib says two of those options were Academy Award-winner Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer. Zimmer, who has become the most sought-after composer in Hollywood thanks to his fruitful collaborations with Christopher Nolan, had the requisite experience with merging electronic soundscapes into classical compositions that would be necessary to make something resembling a traditional film score.

    Instead, Daft Punk agreed to write all of the music themselves, without the crutch of a co-composer. This would be a challenge for any novice film composer, but Daft Punk leaned into the opportunity to put their stamp on the film. They would have an unprecedented 19 months to write music for the film. They had such a head start on the actual physical production of the movie that during the shoot, Kosinski could play temp tracks for the cast on set. Unfortunately, all of this documented hard work did little to assuage the skeptics who couldn't believe these pop stars could write compelling film music.

  • To This Day, Rumor Persist That Hans Zimmer's Music Publishing Company Wrote The Score For 'TRON: Legacy'

    Video: YouTube

    Since 1989, Hans Zimmer has operated a company called Remote Control Productions, which is a sort of collective of up-and-coming film composers all working to provide something similar to the trademarked Hans Zimmer sound. In essence, if you have heard a film score in a movie like, say, Mission Impossible: Fallout or Mad Max: Fury Road, and thought, "Boy, this sounds a lot like Hans Zimmer," it's because that's sort of by design. Remote Control is a place for composers to cut their teeth and learn how to score mega-budget films. Composers like Lorne Balfe, Thomas Holkenborg, and Henry Jackman have all worked under the Remote Control banner in their careers and have helped propagate the Zimmer sound across Hollywood.

    Often, when Zimmer is hired to write music for a film, he'll bring in Remote Control staffers to assist with the work. This has led to criticisms of Zimmer's work for being homogenized and dull. It's also the perfect petri dish for accusations that Zimmer's company could be farmed out to write the score to TRON: Legacy. If Remote Control could just be brought in as guns for hire, why not do that with the inexperienced Daft Punk and TRON?

  • There Were Also Rumors That Daft Punk's Original Music Was Rejected

    Joseph Kosinski has discussed how Disney didn't even really want Daft Punk on TRON: Legacy and auditioned every top composer in Hollywood. This adds fuel to the rumors that the creation of TRON: Legacy's music was so troubled that Daft Punk's first, more experimental attempt at a score was thrown out and replaced with the more symphonic work we ended up getting. 

    The height of this unsubstantiated claim was the curious mystery of The Third Twin, a French electronic music duo that alleged they were the nephews of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. When The Third Twin started dropping music and making these wild statements in 2011, a Spanish newspaper picked up the story at face value. That story included one particularly juicy detail: The Third Twin was actually an alter ego of Daft Punk, created as a means to release music written for TRON: Legacy that was rejected by Disney for being too strange. The music — a mix of disco, funk, and electronic beats that sure sounds a lot like Daft Punk — would definitely be out of place in a big studio action film. The story goes that Daft Punk were contractually restricted by Disney from performing or releasing this music, so they had to circumvent that legal issue in order to perform at Spain's Arena Sound Festival. All these rumors lined up with the conventional wisdom that there's no way that Daft Punk was responsible for the music in TRON: Legacy. Daft Punk fans who thought the score was mediocre said Daft Punk would have written something stranger. Film score fans scoffed at the idea that novices could write compelling movie music. The truth was far more mundane.