'Tron' titan sells femme futuristic film

Has the cyber age finally caught up with Steven Lisberger?

The pioneering writer-director of 1982’s “Tron” has sold “Soul Code,” a futuristic tale he penned at the instigation of IGN hostess Jessica Chobot, to Reliant Pictures for mid-six figures.

Lisberger will direct the story of a tech pioneer who has perfected a way to download and transfer a person’s memory. Script examines what happens when her memory is placed into a much younger woman’s body.

“The same way ‘Tron’ was ahead of its time, this is way ahead of its time,” said Reliant topper Thom Mount, who will tap into the shingle’s credit facility with Allied Irish Bank to finance the production.

Lisberger met Chobot, a comely tech guru with a devoted following among the geek set, at a “Tron” screening and was quickly intrigued by her fresh femme take on a male-dominated arena. The two soon began hatching a story about the dangers of cyberspace from a distinctly female point of view.

“Jess is not a film person — she was a fan — and that was refreshing,” Lisberger said. “She wasn’t double-thinking what the audience wants; she was the audience.”

Lisberger, who has been involved with several post-“Tron” projects that never got off the ground, said this one “felt different from the get-go.” When he finished the script, his longtime agent Tom Chasin took it to Mount, a former topper at Universal whom he had known for years.

In 1979, Lisberger founded the Santa Monica studio where many of the pioneering computer graphics techniques used in “Tron” were developed. Many visual effects gurus worked at Lisberger Studios back then, including Roger Allers (“The Lion King”) and Brad Byrd.

“It was so exciting,” Lisberger said. “We knew were on the brink of something.”

After “Tron,” Lisberger directed “Hot Pursuit,” starring John Cusack, and “Slipstream,” with Mark Hamill, before retrenching to focus on his writing. He wrote a “Tron” sequel several years ago but the movie stalled amid Mouse House regime changes. (A 2003 videogame tie-in, however, sold extremely well.)

Throughout it all, Chasin tried to find jobs on Lisberger’s behalf. The veteran tenpercenter, whose father was Lew Wasserman’s lieutenant at MCA before forming Chasin-Park-Citron agency, lambastes the impatient “what have you done for me lately” mindset at his bigger rivals these days.

Lisberger has also become more jaded about cyberspace in the intervening years. He credits Chobot for re-energizing his creative muse, noting that he really didn’t have a project to which he felt a real connection until they cooked up “Soul Code.” This project, he said, is the type he wanted to explore 25 years ago, when he was developing “Tron.”

Sure, it took a while, Lisberger admitted, “But one’s never really prepared for how long it takes to get things done.”

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