Dialogue: ‘Tintin’ Star Jamie Bell on Steven Spielberg and His ‘Holy Sh*t’ Moment

Dialogue: ‘Tintin’ Star Jamie Bell on Steven Spielberg and His ‘Holy Sh*t’ Moment

Dec 23, 2011

Jamie Bell

Based on the internationally beloved characters created by Hergé comes The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson. In a collective and creative partnership Spielberg and Jackson set out to tell the story of a curious young reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his loyal dog Snowy as they discover a model ship carrying an explosive secret.  With the help of Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and the bumbling detectives Thompson & Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), Tintin travels half the world from the high seas to the sands of North African deserts in an attempt to outrun his enemies.

In an exclusive interview with Movies.com actor Jamie Bell talks about his first encounter with Steven Spielberg, confesses to being more of an “armchair traveler,” and admits being blown away by The Adventures of Tintin.

Movies.com: What do you think made you the right candidate to play Tintin?
Jamie Bell:
I think for me it was about the love for Tintin and understanding the way Tintin is, it becomes very crucial to the character. I know he’s not too familiar on these shores. I grew up with Tintin, every European grows up with Tintin, it’s impossible to avoid. It’s ingrained in the culture so having that appreciation and understanding Hergé and what he was trying to do is important. The technology we were using required a lot of physicality and expressions, so I think the combination of those three had something to do with the final decision of who would play Tintin.

Movies.com: This project has been in the works for years, after investing so much of your time do you find that you share similar characteristics with Tintin?
To a degree. I think of myself more as Hergé. I’m not a particularly adventurous person, really. I’m more of an armchair traveler like Hergé was. Hergé was a guy who really didn't travel the world that much at all. He would buy Nat Geo magazines and sit in his armchair and draw it. I see Steven Spielberg as Tintin and Peter Jackson as Captain Haddock. [Laughs] It’s kind of funny.

Movies.com: Speaking of Spielberg, there are so many actors still waiting for their turn to work with the director--what was your experience like?
Steven has always been a director that I always admired. He’s someone who has given me the language on film. He has given me a way into movies, just from my own experiences from his films. I am forever grateful for everything that he has done. I think I have seen all of his movies, like every single one, from Sugarland Express, 1941, The Color Purple, all of them so for me this is a major moment.

Movies.com: Do you remember your first conversation with Spielberg?
Yea, I was about 15-16 years old and we talked about Tintin. He said, “Are you ready to be Tintin for the rest of your life?” I didn’t want to jump straight to him and be like one of those actors that say, “Yes!! Mr. Spielberg! Yes!!” I didn’t want to do that. I honestly wanted to appreciate the question and understand what that meant. I’m not too sure how I responded but it was just an honor to be in his presence. The meeting only lasted about 10 minutes but meeting him was everything to me at that time.

Movies.com: There aren’t that many motion capture films being made now in days. Was the process challenging or easy to adjust?
I loved it. Going into it of course I wasn’t sure what to expect just in terms of how everything works. I think that when you realize that you’re involvement is to do your job the same way you do it all the time, I became relaxed. [Laughs] I realized there was no trickery to it. It was really about doing your job—act and perform. To do it on a level where you have to be more immersive, slightly more imaginative, and creative and more physical than you would ever be became a lot of fun. It never scared me. I got used to it really quickly and I felt very confident in that world.

Movies: Being so immersed in the project were you surprised with the end result?
Blown away. It was one of those things like, “h@ly sh*t.”  I knew these guys were pioneers in technology but I had no idea that technology had gotten this good, the rendering, the believability of the characters especially their eyes, there were lots esthetically about the look of the movie that just blew me away. As a very avid Tintin fan it was a really beautiful moment when I saw these characters that I grew up with come to life right in front of me.

Movies.com: Spielberg says there will be another Tintin movie with Peter Jackson directing. Are you excited about what’s to come?
Oh, of course. There are so many books; I think about 23 books so there is lots of good material to choose from in terms of the next adventure. I think it will all be decided by the people and whether or not they embrace the character. We’ll see where we are at after Christmas.

Movies.com: It seems like work continues to pour your way. When do you get some downtime?
That’s a very good question. Next year is already stacking up to be a very busy year, which is always great, definitely not complaining about that. Man on a Ledge comes out in January with Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks. I’m shooting a movie in January with James McAvoy called Filth so I don’t know! It’s always good to keep your muscle flexed and trained and to keep working consistently is really great.

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