Actor Jamie Bell said it was amazing enough working with Peter Jackson on 2005's "King Kong," but he never imagined there was be a day he'd find himself under the auspices of both Jackson and the filmmaker's iconic directorial contemporary, Steven Spielberg.
In some ways, Bell said filming the new motion-capture action thriller "The Adventures of Tintin" with Jackson and Spielberg was like being in cinematic heaven.
"When I went on a set for the first time and they were both essentially directing me for the first week, I was like, 'Did I die? It was such of an extreme thing," Bell told me in a recent interview. "But it's actually a very humbling experience because these guys are really great filmmakers and their language is in making movies, but their energy and enthusiasm for doing it is still like they're kids out of film school. I felt so humbled to be entrusted to play a part like Tintin."
Opening in theaters Wednesday nationwide in 2D and 3D, "The Adventures of Tintin" follows the adventures of an intrepid investigative reporter, Tintin (Bell), and his trusted dog, Snowy, as they sniff out clues to solve a mystery that begins with a clue stashed aboard a model ship.
On the run from a diabolical villain, Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who will stop at nothing to seize the tiny ship's secret cargo, Tintin stumbles into the path of Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a salty old sea captain whose involvement in the mystery is far bigger than he could have ever imagined.
With Spielberg in the director's chair (Jackson produced the film), "The Adventures of Tintin" has its fair share of dizzying, perilous action sequences, from the high seas and African deserts to the winding streets in Morocco.
A self-described "massive fan of Indiana Jones as a kid," Bell said being in "The Adventures of Tintin" was as close to being in an "Indiana Jones" film as you're going to get.
"The movie places us in old-world situations. Like 'Indiana Jones,' there isn't anything contemporary about 'Tintin,'" Bell said. "Indiana Jones is very much an old-world kind of hero. He doesn't really have any kind of superpower or relies on any kind of technology to help him out of things. He just had his brains, intellect and a heroic, fearless instinct -- and Tintin is very similar to that. So you could say in terms of a boyhood dream realized, I can go, 'Check.'"
"Tintin" was created by Belgian artist Herge (whose real name was Georges Remi) in 1929. After the character's debut in Belgian comic strips, Tintin's adventures were eventually published in books -- which to date have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide.
The great thing about the film version of "Tintin," Bell said, is that appeals to both younger audiences and adult moviegoers. After all, Spielberg is the kid who refuses to grow up.
"That was always the about the 'Tintin' books -- the demographic was always in the range of 7- to 70-year-olds," Bell said. "It always captured a very wide audience. Steven knew that and that was his appeal in making the movie. It was a film for him, but it was a film for his kids, too."
For Bell, a number of factors came into play in his casting as Tintin, going all the way back to the physicality the actor demonstrated in his title turn in "Billy Elliot" in 2000.
"They knew that I was a massive 'Tintin' fan, and being European, they knew I was well-versed in the character," Bell explained. "Plus, being that they knew I was a dancer, which requires being physical, they figured I would be a good candidate to use for performance capture."
Plus, Bell admitted, it helped enormously that he worked on Jackson's version of "King Kong" in 2005, in which, oddly enough, he had several scenes opposite Serkis (who played Lumpy the cook, as well as well as performed the movements for the title character).
"I think that's the way the industry works -- you build bridges, but there's a lot of loyalty that goes unnoticed," Bell observed. "For example, Peter's loyalty to Andy Serkis is unbelievable. They are two very talented guys who understand their sensibilities very well, and used it to created movie history together with 'The Lord of the Rings' (where Serkis did motion capture for Gollum). I love seeing that kind of loyalty."
Bell said he was glad Jackson recognized a chemistry in his and Serkis' scenes together in "King Kong," and was thrilled that he had a chance to build on that foundation as the co-adventurers in "Tintin."
"We've sort of became the best of friends on 'Tintin,'" Bell enthused. "I really look up to him -- he's the sort of breed of actor that I want to be. You can't really nail him down to anything specific. Everything he lays his hand to he's brilliant at. It's so inspiring to work with people like that. Plus, he's the guy who has really excelled in this technology. When you need a guy to do performance capture, he's the guy you go to."