THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN
The Intrepid and the Treacherous
Behind each of the carefully crafted images is an inspired and skilled
performance. A major part of the lure for the actors chosen for the film was
Herge's inimitable characters, each with their own memorable quirks and foibles
that had never been so deeply inhabited before. They include:
Tintin and Snowy
To play the iconic role of the intrepid, boyish reporter who has mirrored
countless dreams of adventure, the filmmakers chose Jamie Bell. "Jamie's
performance in Billy Elliot was astonishing to me, not just the subtlety of his
acting, but the tremendous physical performance he gave," Spielberg notes.
"Peter and I both thought he had all the right qualities for Tintin."
Growing up in England, Bell had been a Tintin fan since childhood. "There's
something about Herge's art that leaves an imprint on you. It's unforgettable,"
he muses. But now, he had the chance to imprint the character with tangible,
human emotions and that thrilled him.
Screenwriter Joe Cornish says that Bell captures Tintin in the mold of the
classic Spielberg Everyman - an ordinary kid who finds how extraordinary he can
be when life demands it. "To me, he's like a child's idea of what it's like to
be a teenager," Cornish says. "He can do amazing things, yet he maintains
an innocence and an insatiable curiosity about the world, a sense that he's
looking for a way to do the right thing in any situation. You feel like anyone
can aspire to be Tintin because all you need is the knowledge, the interest and
the pureness of heart that takes him through these adventures."
For Bell, this aspirational quality was the way into the character, taking
him far beyond the forelock quiff in his hair that is his trademark. "When you
see a young person who is so fearless and so adventurous the way Tintin is, it's
everything you want to be yourself," he says. "Tintin is a very driven
character, a very moral character, and I admire that. He will get to the bottom
of things no matter what. But sometimes he's wrong and that's when he has to
trust in Snowy."
Snowy, of course, is Tintin's trusty terrier and sometimes savior. Cornish
calls Snowy "almost an embodiment of Tintin's subconscious" and the trick was
animating the character to be both that and just a smart, funny little dog.
Though Herge often ascribed thought bubbles to Tintin's canine friend, Spielberg
felt they could bring Snowy to life in a richly expressive way without that
"I think sometimes Tintin makes a great sidekick to Snowy, rather than the
other way around," Spielberg remarks of the much-loved character. "But we
decided that if there's any reality to Tintin at all, it's that the dog doesn't
When Tintin buys a model of the lost ship The Unicorn at a local market, he
finds within it a secret that will land him on a hijacked sea freighter called
the Karaboudjan, and, ultimately, introduce him to an unlikely but lifelong
friend: Captain Haddock, a crusty ocean veteran with seawater in his veins and a
bottle of whiskey never far away, who will become at once a foil for Tintin and
his rough-and-tumble partner in adventure, through thick and thin.
The Captain has long been a favorite of Tintin fans - the gritty contrast to
Tintin's idealism with his endlessly colorful utterances ("Blistering
barnacles!" "Thundering typhoons!" ) and most of all, a generous, die-hard friend
to Tintin. "Haddock appears at first to be the last guy in the world you'd want
tagging along on a dangerous escapade," says Jackson. "But Tintin sees
something else in him. I think Tintin sees the goodness in this man and
understands who he can become."
To play Haddock, Jackson suggested an actor he knew had what it would take to
embody all the dynamics of the role: Andy Serkis. "Knowing Andy as well as I
did, I knew he'd be absolutely terrific, so I arranged for him to meet Steven,
who saw right away what he could bring to it," he says. Spielberg adds:
"Andy and Jamie had fantastic chemistry as this iconic pairing of a youthful,
moral straight shooter and an old, reprobate sea captain. They're complete
opposites, yet Captain Haddock brings many lessons to Tintin's life, and Tintin
really gives Haddock a chance to redeem himself."
Serkis, who has been a fan of the comic since childhood, decided to give his
character, whose origins are open to interpretation, a Scottish brogue that sets
the tone for his journey. "It seemed appropriate that Haddock should have a kind
of rawness and emotional availability," Serkis explains.
"He's a great seaman and has great potential as a human being, but he's kind
of lost in self-pity, and it is Tintin, this boy, who helps him realize that he
can connect with other people again."
A Sakharine Villian, Thompson & Thomson and More...
Captain Haddock's turn-about comes as he and Tintin try to evade the threat
of the film's irascible villain: Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, who believes Tintin
has unwittingly stolen the secret of The Unicorn and its long-lost treasure.
Taking on the nefarious role is Daniel Craig, best known to filmgoers in the
role of the far more noble British spy James Bond. Craig, who has garnered equal
acclaim for his dramatic work in a wide variety of films, previously
collaborated with Spielberg in the political thriller Munich. But he had never
taken on a character quite like Sakharine before.
He relished the chance to cut loose with the mercurial bad-man. "I had a lot
of fun with Sakharine, and tried to make him as evil and twisted and strange as
I possibly could," he says.
Adding further antics to Tintin's adventures are Thompson & Thomson, two
detectives distinguishable only by the shapes of their moustaches and the letter
"p" in one of their names. To play the pair of ham-handed investigators the
filmmakers immediately had one common thought in mind: the comic team of Simon
Pegg and Nick Frost, who have brought their irreverent sensibilities to such hit
films as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
"Peter and I knew we wanted to cast a team as Thompson & Thomson,"
Spielberg says. "Then Peter suggested Simon and Nick, who are uniquely funny
together and a wonderful addition to the cast."
Pegg and Frost realized they could have a blast with the detective duo. "We
have a certain kind of synchronicity that fed into playing these two bumbling
partners," Pegg allows. "They're in the great tradition of silent movie
stars like Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. They're fastidious but
ultimately faltering, and though they consider themselves to be the greatest
detectives in the world, they're clearly the worst. So, we got to do a lot of
They also had an opportunity to do what they do best: let their natural comic
rapport unfold in the moment. "The difficult thing as actors was thinking about
what the Thom(p)sons would do in between each panel," Frost explains.
"That's where lots of characterization came in for us."
Throughout the film, the Thompson & Thomson are in the throes of what is, for
them, hot pursuit of a pickpocket, Aristedes Silk, a role taken by Toby Jones,
who played Dobby the House Elf in the Harry Potter series. Silk, says Jones, is
in it for love rather than evil. "He's someone who enjoys the art of
pickpocketing because he loves wallets. There's something very moving, in a way,
about his passion for pickpocketing. He's the classic example of the Herge idea
that someone may look like a terrible person, but not be one at all," he
Also figuring into the plot is Nestor, the loyal butler at the storied manse
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