Anchors aweigh for 'Tintin'

Cast comes aboard, principal photography begins on 3-D Spielberg pic

"Tintin" is on the move. On Monday, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment began principal photography on their Steven Spielberg-directed motion-capture 3-D feature "The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn." Jamie Bell has been cast as the title character, a globe- trotting young reporter, and Daniel Craig will play the villain, Red Rackham. Bell and Craig recently co-starred in "Defiance."

The 2011 feature — the first of two, possibly three, planned installments — is being produced by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Peter Jackson, who will direct the sequel. Jackson's Weta Digital effects house developed the performance-capture technology the directors will use.

Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook round out the voice cast. Nick Rodwell, Stephane Sperry and Ken Kamins are executive producing.

The screenplay, written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, is based on a character created in 1929 by Herge (the pen name of Georges Remi). Tintin's adventures played out through two dozen books.

The original "Unicorn" book is the first of a two-part tale involving pirate treasure. It focuses on Capt. Haddock's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, and his fight against the nefarious seaman Rackham. The follow-up was "Red Rackham's Treasure."

"Unicorn" featured two gun-toting siblings known as the Bird Brothers and a butler named Nestor. But new characters have been created for Spielberg's film to flesh out Tintin's world; they include a rival reporter, a bellowing editor and an American Interpol inspector.

Serkis, well known for having embodied Gollum in Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is playing both Haddocks. Pegg and Frost are playing Inspectors Thompson and Thomson, respectively. Elmaleh is playing Ben Salaad and Jones is playing a character named Silk.

The "Tintin" film project has been in the works for decades. Spielberg first optioned the material in 1983, and he and Jackson spent much of 2008 running animation tests and developing the script, which Paramount and Universal originally were going to co-produce.

When Universal, which is now in place to distribute the new independent DreamWorks' films, declined to provide its half of the proposed $130 million budget back in September, Paramount offered to fund the entire production. As Spielberg's DreamWorks was at that moment extricating itself from the Melrose studio, the director eventually sought out Sony as a new financial partner.

As a result, Paramount will release the film domestically and in all English-speaking territories and Asia, excluding India. Sony Pictures Releasing International will distribute the film in continental Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, India and the rest of the world. (partialdiff)
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