Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson: The Titans Behind 'The Adventures of Tintin'

 Joe Pugliese

Steven Spielberg first heard the name Tintin 30 years ago when a French critic compared Raiders of the Lost Ark to Belgian artist Herge's comic books about an intrepid young journalist.

"I speak very little French, [but] the review kept saying 'Tintin, Tintin' all over, and I asked my assistant, 'Will you get me a translation?' " Spielberg recalls. Intrigued, he began to read the original works about the wide-eyed, boyish reporter and his larger-than-life adventures -- comic-strip books that have sold 350 million copies to date, have been translated into 80 languages and have the sort of vast, cross-generational appeal of today's Harry Potter franchise (except in America, though this movie hopes to change that). Spielberg optioned the rights, and in 1983 he started to develop a Tintin movie with his E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial screenwriter, Melissa Mathison.

Then something went wrong. "Much as I loved Melissa's script, I wasn't certain that we had interpreted Herge to a degree that would be palatable for the rabid global fans," he says, "and I got very involved in other movies, so I let the option drop."

Years later, he returned to the project. Stunned by the motion-capture work of Peter Jackson's Weta Digital effects house, which raised the bar in The Lord of the Rings movies, in 2004 he asked Jackson to create Tintin's dog Snowy before embarking on an extraordinary collaboration with the Oscar-winning director.

PHOTOS: Steven Spielberg's 'The Adventures of Tintin'

Unlike Spielberg, Jackson had been familiar with Tintin. Growing up in New Zealand, he discovered the books at the home of a family friend and then plowed through other, untranslated French language volumes at the local library. "I'd pore through these books, trying desperately to follow the stories," he says, never imagining that one day he'd bring them to life.

Later, as a young director, "I started to read about Steven doing the Tintin film and was waiting and waiting to see it. Then eventually, six or seven years ago, Steven called me."

STORY: 9 Things to Know About 'The Adventures of Tintin'

The result is The Adventures of Tintin, which kicks off when Tintin (Jamie Bell) discovers a model ship with a secret that leads him, with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) at his side and the villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig) in pursuit, on a round-the-world quest to find a shipwreck called the Unicorn. A $140 million joint venture between Paramount and Sony, it premieres Oct. 22 in Paris, beginning a European rollout before its Dec. 21 release in North America. It is, says THR film critic Jordan Mintzer, a "kid-friendly thriller that combines state-of-the-art 3D motion-capture techniques with a witty, globe-trotting treasure hunt." (For the complete review, click here)

It is Spielberg's closest collaboration with another helmer. While Jackson, 49, nominally produced the film and Spielberg, 64, directed (they'll reverse roles for the sequel), their collaboration went much further, as the men explained during an exclusive interview with THR that took place July 19 at Paris' Le Royal Monceau hotel.

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