Spielberg and his boy hero

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Heralded the most anticipated movie of the year, The Adventures of Tintin premiered in Brussels to resounding acclaim from Belgian critics for director Steven Spielberg and his portrayal of Hergé’s intrepid reporter

Widespread approval greeted Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Hergé’s comic book classic here in Tintin’s home country and can only have come as a relief to those who feared the Hollywood treatment would render a national treasure unrecognizable. The verdict of the Belgian media was unanimous – “Bull’s eye,” was the headline in the Flemish De Standaard newspaper, while the front page of Francophone Le Soir proclaimed the film “A pure jewel”.

For someone who didn’t grow up with Tintin, and who first came across the stories in 1981 when he was in his thirties – “I wanted to make the movie even then” – Spielberg’s portrayal of Tintin is delighting fans of one of the most popular cartoon characters of the 20th century. More than 350 million copies of the books have been sold, with translations into more than 80 languages.

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You’re not supposed to do this when you’re a journalist, but he kept putting himself into the stories he was supposed to be reporting on, and he would become the story,” says Spielberg of the tenacious Tintin, who made his first appearance in 1929.

MUTUAL RESPECT

Spielberg and Tintin’s Belgian-born creator Hergé – real name Georges Prosper Remi – came to each other’s notice following the release of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark, likened by a reviewer to the Tintin adventures. Indeed, Spielberg’s Tintin is described by critics as being Indiana’s animated cousin. Spielberg and Hergé are said to have had a mutual respect for each other’s work, but Hergé died in 1983 the week they were due to meet.

Credited with capturing the spirit of the comic books, Spielberg bought the film rights 28 years ago, and the film remains faithful to the original stories. But it was always going to be a live-action adaptation until New Zealand director Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame persuaded Spielberg to make Tintin into a motion-capture animated film using technology his company had created for James Cameron’s Avatar. The results are considered to more accurately reflect Hergé’s drawings – and the artist himself is depicted in a cameo appearance at the beginning of the film, much as he often drew himself into the stories he crafted. Co-producer Jackson will direct the second of a planned back-to-back trilogy of Tintin films.

BRITISH CAST

“SPIELBERG was REJECTED BY FILM SCHOOl”

The first, The Secret Of The Unicorn, stars a mainly British cast – Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) stars as Tintin, Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings) as his boozy sidekick Captain Haddock and Daniel Craig (James Bond) as the Russian baddie Ivan Ivanovich Sakharine. Professor Calculas isn’t in this film, but the bumbling British detectives Thomson (Nick Frost) and Thompson (Simon Pegg) have made it. Tintin’s faithful canine companion Snowy – Milou in the original French version – is a completely animated character. But the rest of the cast, their features digitally altered to resemble the original characters drawn by Hergé, act their roles as well as lending their voices.

This is cutting-edge technology, and when it is done well the mind is tricked into believing it is seeing something real – although Jackson is on record as saying neither he nor Spielberg are very good with computers. “I can barely send an email” quips Jackson.

LEARNING CURVE

Spielberg filmed Tintin in this virtual world as if it were a live-action film, telling the Los Angeles Times: “It made me more like a painter than ever before.” He’s enthusiastic about the experience, describing it as a steep learning curve: “I just adored it,” he says, although says he believes that how a movie is made should be the least of an audience’s concerns. “I think five minutes into watching this movie people will soon see that the medium is not the message, that the characters and the story and the plot are.”

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Passionate about his work, Spielberg – 65 in December – says he’s only really happy when he’s either watching films, or making them. A screenwriter, film producer, video game designer and studio executive as well as a multi-award winning director, Spielberg started making films as a young teenager. Rejected by film school, he started his movie career as unpaid intern at California’s Universal Studios. To date, his films have grossed in excess of $8.5 billion and his personal wealth is said to be in the region of $3 billion.

TRUST

“TINTIN DOES NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER, AND THAT’S THE STORY OF MY LIFE”

With an extraordinary talent for filmmaking and a string of some of the greatest movies of all times to his credit – including Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, ET, The Color Purple, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can – a Spielberg trademark is his use of music composed by John Williams in nearly all of his films, leaving viewers with a lasting impact of the sound of the film. The soundtrack to the Tintin film, another Williams masterpiece, is no exception. Spielberg also has a preference for working with actors and production crew he trusts from previous films.

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Having once said failure is inevitable and success elusive, Spielberg says he thinks conquering fear is one of the most important things anyone can do – to overcome fear, block out negativity and push themselves to the limit. He admits he didn’t think he pushed himself beyond what he thought he could do until he made Schindler’s List. As far as the Tintin film is concerned, Spielberg says he identified with Tintin’s character right from the start: “He does not take no for an answer, and that’s the story of my life.”