Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg talk Tintin

Exclusive: “Everybody will see that the medium is not the message”

We caught up with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, the world’s greatest directorial tag team, at Comic-Con to talk about their upcoming collaboration The Adventures Of Tintin.

The pair teamed up (with Spielberg directing and Jackson producing) to bring Hergé’s legendary comics to life. Well, not real-life, but hyperstylised, performance-captured life. So were they daunted about venturing into the unknown?

Jackson told us, “What we’ve tried to do is use both motion capture and traditional animation to build up a system by which Steven or I – who are more adept at live-action filmmaking – are able to walk into this photoreal world, literally pick up a virtual camera and shoot a live-action movie.”

Spielberg added, “I think five minutes into watching this movie everybody will see that the medium is not the message, but the characters and the story and the plot are. It may be a digital era in terms of just telling a good story, that’s the most important thing.”

How did the actors find it working in the the performance-capture environment then?

“Our actors are wearing motion-capture suits and headgear with dots on their faces,” Spielberg said, “but after laughing at each other for 10 minutes and getting that out of their systems, they’re just performing characters.

“I think that’s the secret of great acting – you have to bring your imagination to the party.”

On tackling the ‘uncanny valley’ problem, Jackson said, “The eyes are the most important feature of any performer. Way back, when we were doing The Lord Of The Rings and we created Gollum in the computer at Weta, we built the eyes of our characters in a very scientific way: you study real eyes, how the light reflects on them; you study the way the irises reflect emotion.

“Our company has put a huge amount of research and development into the eyes and with Tintin we had to create a cast that were as expressive in the eyes as a live-action film.”

When we asked about the appeal of the Tintin stories, Spielberg said, “Tintin is an intrepid, tenacious reporter who often becomes more part of the story than just reporting on it. What I identify with in Tintin is that he does not take no for an answer – and that has been the story of my life.”

Jackson added, “He has this dogged determination: once you start something, once you’re on the trail, you never stop. And that’s actually what you have to go through when you’re making a movie – once the train’s rolling you have to stick with it.”

The Adventures Of Tintin opens on 26 October 2011.

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Was performance-capture the right route to go down with Tintin? Or would you have preferred a live-action version? You know where to comment…

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