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

 Joe Pugliese

In an exclusive interview in Paris, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson reveal the secrets behind their first-time working relationship and the ambitious $140 million project that brings a beloved comics character to the big screen.

As you started working, what surprised you about each other?

Jackson: I was surprised just how excited [Steven] still is about making films. I guess I thought he'd have a sense of, "Well, I'm doing another film." But he walks onto the set every day like it's the first time he's ever been on one.

And on a personal level?

Jackson: I recognize in Steven all of the things that drive me: You're making movies because you want to see them. It's hard work, but you're doing it because you want to sit in the cinema one day and look at that finished result. I'm making films for myself, first and foremost, and then you hope that other people around the world are going to want to see it as well. But it's a kind of personal thing. I've obviously lived with the drive to make films, butI thought Steven would be different.

Steven, do you still have that same drive?

Spielberg: I think the drive has increased with age, actually.

Because of a sense of time passing?

Spielberg: No. It's that my love and respect for the movies being made today -- that I see so many of -- keeps increasing, and the better the movies I see, and the more inspired I become, the more I want to work.

Would you ever consider working in a medium other than film?

Spielberg: There's always a first time, isn't there? I would do theater. I mean, my love of working with actors has just increased exponentially, and that would drive me to do a play someday.

Jackson: My brain's not wired for theater, I think. I grew up as an only child and spent many happy times imagining stories, and my imagination was always in the form of a movie -- it was like literally a movie running through my head. And as soon as I got hold of a Super-8 camera when I was about 7 or 8, I was able to start experimenting with putting the stories onto film.

Steven, what surprised you about Peter?

Spielberg: A sense of humor. The Lord of the Rings movies were very sincere and epic and impassioned, but I didn't really appreciate Peter's humor until I sat down with him and realized that he was going to bring a whole layer of humor to this collaboration because he's really funny and laid-back about things. I get rattled, I get a little bit nervous, and Peter doesn't. Peter's steady, and so he's a great counterbalance to me. I'd go running off, trying to figure something out, and Peter would just say: "Patience. We'll sit down, figure this out quietly over a cup of tea." And he always breaks through the roadblock.

Do you get nervous about the process?

Spielberg: Not nervous so much. I just have a sort of burning energy when I get to the set. You know, I like to make movies quickly, because the faster I make a film, the more I can objectify the experience and see the picture from the center aisle as opposed to waiting for hours and hours and then I have to imagine what the day is going to bring. If I get five shots a day, I lose sight of the entire movie. If I get 25 shots a day, I get to experience what the audience is experiencing in a 12-hour work cycle.

STORY: What James Cameron Showed Spielberg and Jackson

How did you prepare for that experience when you'd never shot motion-capture before?

Spielberg: Our friend Jim Cameron asked me to come over to the Avatar performance-capture "volume" stage near Marina del Rey, where he was capturing all the Na'vis. I watched for a while and Jim let me play with -- you can't even call it a camera, it looks like a game controller, with a little television screen and an X and Y control to move the camera around. When you walk, the camera dollies; when you go forward, the camera moves in. I was able to play around. Then Peter and Weta devised an entirely new system that was the most remarkable I had ever seen. I could actually get in the volume, because as long as I wasn't wearing a motion-capture suit, the cameras didn't see me. I could be right in the volume with the actors, three feet away, which directors never, ever got to do.

Jackson: It's an incredible experience to be shooting these movies because you open your eyes and have Andy Serkis or Jamie Bell or Daniel Craig in motion-capture suits in front of you. But when you look at the camera, which has this little screen, you're looking at Tintin or Haddock in their environment because we first had to build the entire world that the story takes place in. It's incredible freedom.

You even operated the camera yourself when it came to your 31-day shoot.

Spielberg: Because I could just walk around with this light little tool, changing angles constantly. On an average movie, I'll get 25 shots a day, but I was getting 70 to 80 shots a day just running around with this controller.

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