The Making of the Tintin Movie – The Story So Far
Spielberg has been a keen fan of The Adventures of Tintin comic books, which he discovered in 1981 when a review compared Raiders of the Lost Ark to Tintin. His secretary purchased him French-language editions of each book, but Spielberg did not need to understand them: he straight away fell madly in love with its art.
In the meantime, the comics’ creator Herge, who hated the prior live action film versions and the cartoon, became fascinated by Spielberg.
Michael Farr, writer of Tintin: The Complete Companion, recalled Herge “thought Spielberg was the sole person who could ever do Tintin justice”. Spielberg and his production partner Kathleen Kennedy of Amblin Entertainment were scheduled to rendezvous with Herge in 1983 whilst filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in London.
A three-year long option to film the comics was finalised in 1984, with Universal as distributor. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) writer Melissa Mathison was chosen to script a film where Tintin battles ivory hunters in Africa. Spielberg saw Tintin as “Indiana Jones for kids” and wanted Jack Nicholson to play Haddock but was unhappy with the script, Spielberg continued with production on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989 ). After the three years were up Spielberg lost the rights.
Warner Bros. bartered hard and long for the rights, but they could not guarantee the “creative integrity” the Foundation found in Spielberg. In 2004, the French mag Capital reported Spielberg was intending a trilogy primarily based on Secret of the Unicorn / Red Rackham’s Treasure, The Seven Crystal Balls / Captives of the Sun and The Blue Lotus / Tintin in Tibet ( which aren’t single stories, but both feature the Chang Chong-Chen personality ).
In the meantime, Peter Jackson, who had long been fascinated with 3-D filmmaking, was incredibly excited by current advances in the format. By luck they came together and Spielberg and Jackson concluded a live action adaptation would not do justice to the comic books and motion capture was the most effective way of representing Herge’s Ligne Claire style of Tintin.
A week of filming occurred in Nov 2007 in Playa Vista, LA, California, on the stage where James Cameron shot Avatar. Andy Serkis had been cast, while Jackson stood in for Tintin.
The film was broadcast to Weta Digital, who produced a twenty-minute test reel that demonstrated a photorealistic outline of the characters.
An official statement about the collusion was made in May 2007, though both filmmakers had to attend to film it: Spielberg was preparing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which was due for May 2008) and Jackson was planning The Lovely Bones
(October 2009 ).
In October 2007, Steven Moffat was announced to have been brought in to pen the screenplays for two of the Tintin films.
Moffat asserted he was “love bombed” by Spielberg into accepting the offer to draft the films, with the director promising to shield him from studio interference with his writing. Moffat finished the 1st script, but could not complete the second thanks to the 2007/2008 Writers Guild of America strike. He then became producer of Doctor Who, leading Spielberg and Jackson (the latter of whom is big fan for the show) to permit him to leave and fulfil his requirement to the series.
It’ll take 30 days to shoot each film; Spielberg will film his in LA whilst Jackson will film his in New Zealand. An online connection between Weta in New Zealand will permit Spielberg to view the animated version of his film whilst shooting in LA.
But in August 2008, a month before principal photography would have started, Universal turned down their option to co-produce the film, quoting the low ticket office of Monster House and Beowulf and the directors’ common request for 30% of the gross. Paramount Pictures (DreamWorks’ distributor) was hoping to partner with Universal on the project having spent $30 million on pre-production.
Spielberg was uncomfortable that Paramount would have to fully fund the Tintin Movie, because he was leaving the studio. He gave a ten-minute presentation of footage, hoping they would approve for filming to begin in October. Paramount offered to produce if the directors opted out of their gross percentage deals: Spielberg and Jackson declined and looked for new options. By October 31, Sony was in negotiations to co-finance and distribute the first film. Filming was rescheduled to February 2009.