Monday, March 12, 2012

An Interview With Director Steven Spielberg About The Adventures of Tintin

Q: You, along with Peter Jackson, have been Tintin fans since you were kids. What is it about the character Tintin that has kept you fascinated over the decades and do you identify anything in yourself with him?
A: Tintin is an intrepid, tenacious reporter who often becomes more a part of the story than just a reporter reporting the news. What I identify with Tintin is that he does not take no for an answer and that’s the story of my life.
Q: After working with Peter on The Adventures of Tintin, what surprised you about him?
A: I was quite surprised at how patient and thoughtful Peter is. He doesn’t let anything rattle him to where he becomes locked in indecision. He’s a problem solver. He likes to look at a challenge from several different angles and then, very methodically, he makes the best choice to solve the problem.

Q: Peter says you bring "childish excitement" to a film set.
A: In a sense, Peter is right. I get very, very anxious on the set. I have a thousand ideas and I don’t censor myself. I wind up cutting some of them out in the editing room. If I was more like Peter, I would save myself a lot of footage, needless footage that I shoot and then don’t use later in the process. Peter does have a very good sense of seeing the big picture and finding the most expedient way into that image or that emotional moment. So, we were, in a way, I guess two code-breakers working on the enigma code trying to figure this movie out together and once I realized that we were just two sort of scientists in a lab trying to figure out how to make something work, there’s no ego, there’s no competition. It’s just, we’re both on the same page. Two huge Tintin fanboys just trying to bring this movie to you in a way that you will like.

Q: The motion-capture technology in The Adventures of Tintin is cutting-edge, but I'm sure the most important ingredients in making a movie for you remain the same. It's about the story, the plot and characters.
A: For me, I think five-minutes into watching this movie people will soon see that the medium is not the message, that the characters and the story and the plot is. If the movie is working, you'll forget if it’s 3D or whether it’s widescreen. If the movie doesn’t work, then immediately you start to pick apart whatever it is that has contributed to that. If any movie is working, hopefully how it was made will be the least of your concern. You’ll only want to have a good time.

Q: Do you work with actors in motion-capture differently than what you would on a traditional movie set? And, do you think the motion-capture suits and dots actors wear helps them become the character just as a costume or make-up on a regular movie set would?
A: I’ve always found that whether actors wear stylized makeup or wigs in a live-action movie or big costume drama, or are called upon to act in a western or be chased by dinosaurs, it does give them a sense of great ambience and environment and they kind of feel like they’re in a great court. But, what is most important is it all comes down to the actors looking each other in the eye. That’s where the truth is told and that’s where all the drama or the comedy happens. When you see Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, they’re dressed outlandishly and everything else, you know the truth of those performances is when they’re looking at each other, acting together. Actors just need each other to act together. All of that other stuff is forgotten. Our actors who wear motion-capture suits, they were wearing headgear with a little camera and dots on their faces. After laughing at each other for about 10 minutes and getting that out of their system, they then become performing characters. I think that is the secret of great acting: you have to bring your imagination to the party. You have to have a great imagination and you have to bring it every day when you’re working. Your imagination and your skills as an actor are what see you through, not what you’re wearing or where you are.

Q: How important is new technology to you when you make a movie in this digital era?
A: It may be a digital era in terms of certain kinds of movies, but it’s still an analog era in terms of telling a good story. That’s the most important thing. There’s nothing of greater importance to me or Peter than the story.

Q: You directed The Adventures of Tintin and Peter Jackson produced it. If there is a sequel, will you switch roles?
A: Hopefully, with success, Peter is scheduled to direct the second Tintin adventure which, by the way, does include the character Professor Calculus. I’m really looking forward to working with Peter as a producer and as a collaborator in the same way Peter has worked with me to support me in directing Tintin. He supported me in just about every creative decision from the beginning of this process to the end.

Q: You have been known to make films for yourself and you have been a huge Tintin fan since you were a kid. Is this the reason you wanted to make The Adventures of Tintin?
A: This movie, I made it for everyone. I mean, some movies I make for myself. I do that sometimes when the subject matter is very sensitive and very personal and I really can’t imagine that I’m an audience member. I would lose myself too much if I thought of myself as the audience. There are other types of genre films that I need to be able to direct from the audience, to be right next to you watching the picture being made and Tintin is just such a movie.

Q: 3D is not new, but we have seen an explosion in popularity with 3D in recent years with great 3D films and not so great 3D films. What do you think about 3D?
A: Not every movie, in my opinion, should be in 3D. There are a lot of stories I wouldn’t shoot in 3D. But, you know, there are movies that are perfect in 3D. I think the last great 3D movie I saw that really enhanced the experience for me - you’ll have to excuse me for mentioning a film I co-produced - it was the last Transformers which I think is the most amazing 3D experience I’ve seen since Avatar. But, 3D needs a trained eye. It can’t be done by everybody. People do 3D just for the sake of commercializing their movie another five or six percent and they don’t know really how to do it. They should care how to do it better by bringing other directors and collaborators into their lives to help teach and instruct how you really make a 3D movie because it’s not just like putting a new lens on a camera and forgetting it. It takes a lot of very careful consideration. It will change your approach to where you put the cameras. So, 3D isn’t for everybody.

Q: You have been outspoken about the how audiences are charged higher ticket prices to watch a 3D movie.
A:  I’m certainly hoping that 3D gets to the point where people do not notice it because once they stop noticing it, it just becomes another tool and an aid to help tell a story. Then maybe they can make the ticket prices comparable to a 2D movie and not charge such exorbitant prices just to gain entry into a 3D one, with the exception of IMAX, where we are getting a premium experience in a premium environment. I'm hoping someday there will be so many 3D movies that the point of purchase prices can come down which I think would be fair to the consumer.

Q: The Tintin books feature wonderful adventures, but there's also  a lot of narrative and subplots. Was that hard to include in the film?
A: In the Hergé books, there’s a lot of narrative, there’s a lot of, not only just adventure, but also there’s a lot of subplot. What made it delightful, I think, for Peter and I, is that in the middle of all this forward motion, we take time for the characters to have a relationship with each other. We take time for Captain Haddock to moan about, you know, what brought him to drink and close to ruination and we go back in the first movie to Captain Haddock’s ancestors so we get to know a lot about why Captain Haddock is the man he is today. We’re very concerned about keeping the narrative moving because Hergé was concerned about that too, but also, in honoring Hergé it was very important for this film to take little rest stops to get to know the different people involved.

Q: Do you have moments when you are on a film set and you discover something you thought would work doesn't?
A: I’ve got a lot of examples I can give you about moments where I thought something would work on film and it didn’t work, but I never came to that decision with the film half shot, where I was stuck on a runaway train and couldn’t jump off. On those occasions where I have admitted defeat, that this is not going to work, I haven’t embarked on that project and made that movie.

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