Interview: Steven Spielberg Tempts the Fates With His Animated ‘Tintin’
Director Steven Spielberg at the premiere of 'The Adventures of Tintin' (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Steven Spielberg turned 65 this past Sunday, closing out one of the busiest years of his long and storied career. In 2011 alone he produced "Super 8" and was the executive producer on "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Real Steel," along with the television shows "Falling Skies" and "Terra Nova." And if that weren't enough, he also directed two films which are being released only five days apart: "The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse."
Spielberg has had the rights to make a movie out of the classic "Tintin" comic book series by Hergé for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't until he partnered up with "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson that he was able to make the project a reality. With Jackson as a producer, Spielberg made his first-ever animated film utilizing motion capture technology — the same process used to create Gollum in the "Rings" trilogy. This allowed actors Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig to bring the comic characters to life, and it gave Spielberg the biggest technological challenge he's faced since the first "Jurassic Park."
The resulting movie is a globe-hopping mystery — complete with pirate ships, sea planes, and motorcycle chases — that uses cutting-edge 3D computer graphics to present a classic adventure tale. I was able to speak to the three-time Oscar winner about "Tintin," and he explained how he adapted his filmmaking process and how his relationship with Peter Jackson mirrored that of the movie's main characters.
Matt McDaniel: I would imagine that one of the great things about working in film is that there is always something new to explore, and "Tintin" had the most new elements of any project you have had in a while, isn't it?
Steven Spielberg: Not since "Jurassic Park," where we had the first leading characters in a movie were digital. That was the first time that had ever been done. I don't think I have gotten involved in technology as critical to the success of a story, not since "Jurassic Park,"
MM: Now, is there an intimidation factor going in that, or just an excitement level?
SS: No, it's not intimidation. It's just sort of tempting the fates in order to do something way out of the box that I feel is the only appropriate medium in which to tell the story of "The Adventures of Tintin."
MM: When you are dealing with this sort of completely blank canvas in a world, how do you find the balance between the fantasy and the reality of it?
SS: Well, luckily with animation, fantasy is your friend. And the more fanciful and the more out of control the story seems to be reaching -- and reaching for laughs and reaching for a real buddy movie rapport between Tintin and Haddock, and reaching for a crazy series of flashbacks taking you back to the 17th Century -- I think all of these things go down more easily when the medium is an animated one and not a live action one.
MM: That being said, were there moments where you were on the motion capture set and thinking, "Man, I am glad I am not on a pirate ship or in the desert"?
SS: No, no, not at all, not at all, because it was a whole new challenge for me. So I never took what I was doing with "Tintin" and compared it to what I had done, let's say, a couple of years before, where I was on actual locations and shooting with real vehicles and be involved in a real chase.