Monday, March 12, 2012

An Interview With Director Peter Jackson About The Adventures of Tintin

Q: There was a lot of excitement when it was announced you were teaming up with Steven Spielberg to make The Adventures of Tintin. Steven directed. You produced the film. What was it like for you working so closely with such a master and what is something you didn't know about him that you discovered while working on Tintin?
A: Well, the thing that really surprised me I guess is, thinking about Steven’s huge body of work and the incredible films that he’s made that have affected all of us, I thought that Steven would have a process. I was imagining that there would be a way in which Steven would make the movie and I was looking  forward to seeing it. But, what I discovered, which was delightful in a way, is that Steven walks onto the set and it’s like the first time that he’s ever walked on a film set. I mean, he’s literally childish. I mean that in a positive way. There’s a childish excitement that Steven brings to it and an enthusiasm that I wasn’t expecting and it’s very inspiring.

 Q: You are a big fan of the Tintin books. So is Steven. What was it like making a Tintin movie?
A: The problem is: How do you adapt these books that both Steven and I have loved for a long, long time and do them justice? That’s a problem because there’s obviously a million ways that you could not do that and so the problem is how to you do it and that’s what we’ve sort of worked on. It’s been fantastic.

Q: Filmmakers have had mixed success using motion-capture technology in recent years. What is it about motion-capture that excites you as a filmmaker?
A:  Motion-capture is not a genre. I mean it’s not a spaghetti western, for instance. Motion-capture is a tool and technique and what we tried to do is to really use both motion-capture and traditional animation. Steven and I are much more adept to live-action filmmaking. I mean, we can’t use computers. Either of us. I can hardly send e-mails. But, we wanted to be able to walk into this sort of virtual world that we created with the characters of Tintin and the locations and sets. We wanted to be able to pick up a virtual camera and shoot a live-action movie inside this strange, hybrid, photo-real world. It wasn’t the photo-real world that was important, it was the way in which we shoot a movie inside that world that we think the result is really interesting.

Q: One of the great characters of the Tintin stories is Professor Calculus. We don't see him in this movie. Will we see him in future sequels you do?
A: Calculus doesn’t yet make his appearance in the cinematic version of Tintin. But, obviously if we are lucky enough to do more Tintin movies, there’s a lot of stories that Calculus features in so we absolutely look forward to seeing him hopefully in the future.

Q: Can you talk about the importance of a character's eyes, whether it is Tintin, Gollum in Lord of the Rings or one of your other films. It seems that the key to making a character real starts with the eyes.
JACKSON: Well, when you’re casting a movie and when you’re shooting a film, the eyes are the most important feature of any performer. Any great actor knows how to use their eyes. As a filmmaker, I love shooting huge close-ups because its those eyes that mean so much to me. Way back when we were doing Lord of the Rings and we created Gollum and other characters in the computer, we built the eyes in a very scientific way. You study real eyes, you study how the light reflects in them, you study the back of the eye, you study the way irises reflect emotion. You go into great scientific detail, so with Gollum, and King Kong was another character who didn’t do a huge amount with his face but his eyes told you everything of what he was thinking, it was critical.  Obviously with Avatar the eyes were critical in there. So, our company (Weta) has really put a huge amount of research and development into the eyes. With Tintin,  just like with any other film, we had to create a cast and they had to be as expressive in the eyes as a live-action film.

Q:  Tintin is relentless. Would it be true to say to be a successful filmmaker you also have to be relentless?
A: It’s all about his determination. You never, ever, give up once you start something, once you’re on the trail of something you don’t stop and that’s what you have to go through when you’re making a movie too. Once the train is rolling you have to stick with it.

Q: When you make complex movies like Tintin or Lord of the Rings do you know how everything will unfold or are you constantly coming up against surprises and challenges in attempting to get your vision on the big screen?
A: I find that in the process of making a film you’re constantly discovering things that you never even imagined would work at the beginning. When I start a film I can sort of shut my eyes, sit somewhere quiet and imagine the movie finished. I can imagine the camera angles. I can even imagine the type of music without knowing the tune. But, in the process of making the film, you’re constantly discovering new things all of the time. I mean, actors come into the film and do things you never even imagined. Production designers come in, the director of photography lights it in a way that you never imagined. So, it’s always evolving, always exciting. In fact, with Tintin the process was even more stimulating because it begins with a very crude pre-visualization which is like a very simple piece of animation and then you slowly begin layering it and layering it. So, even though Tintin has taken Steven and I five or six years to get from the very beginning of the process to get where we are now, it’s been five or six absolutely dynamic years because literally every week we were seeing new things and new versions of shots that came to life and made us go, 'Oh, my God'. It’s exciting, it’s really exciting.

Q: How do you feel about the re-emergence of 3D?
A: I think the 3D situation is kind of interesting at the moment because, after Avatar, it survived for a while as this premium experience with higher ticket prices, but I think the audiences have now come to realize that there are bad movies that can be in 3D as well and, on top of that, you’re being charged an extra five dollars to see a movie that was as bad as when you saw it in 2D. I think that is being driven to some degree by the increased ticket prices, which is a shame and it’s kind of starting to backfire a little bit. I certainly believe that, with the right movie, 3D can enhance the experience. Absolutely, it can make a good film a great film. It can make a great film a really amazing film to see and that’s what I hang onto. But, certainly there’s the projection which is why this issue needs to be addressed. If 3D is to have a long-term future in cinema in the sense that it’s at all like when the CinemaScope was introduced in the 1950s and the surround sound and everything, these technological things are not new, it’s just another step forward, then something certainly has to be done about it in the pictures we are experiencing at the moment.

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