As you should know, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, is breaking new ground in as many ways possible. Two of the biggest directors around, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have teamed up to co-direct the live animation adaptation of the comic. According to Nick Frost, both directors took part in the film equally although Spielberg was on set and Jackson mainly directed via iChat and a loud PA system that rang out over the set.
Simon Pegg and Frost were cast as the two Thompson twins in the film, (Pegg gets to be Thompson, since he is ‘P’egg) which was filmed in Santa Monica, California back in February. The film is currently in post-production and won’t be released until December of 2011 mainly due to all the special effects that will have to be rendered.
Nick Frost, in his rather easy-going way, filled us in earlier today at the Pirate Radio (formerly known as The Boat that Rocked) junket in London on some of the details of shooting such a technically advanced film, some of the equipment involved, and of course, how it was working with two of the biggest directors of all time at once.
First we began with the obvious, how the hell do two huge directors work together at once? Was one more in control than the other?
Frost: No, Steven was on set and Peter was in Wellington and he had lots of live links via iChat. I’ve never been directed before via iChat, which was an odd and not totally unpleasant way of doing business, just kind of a bit strange. Steve would come on and give a note and then through the PA system you would hear Peter say [does Jackson impression] “Hi guys! Could you try this” and then they would turn the camera around so that we could see him. It was strange you know?
It’s one thing to work with one of them, but how was it having to bounce between the two and how did it feel to be on a project of this size?
Frost: It was the most pressure I’ve ever felt doing anything, not just acting, anything. Everyday it was that terrible feeling that they’re going to find out that I’m a waiter that I’ve stumbled onto the set. I never wanted to be an actor really, I just kind of fell into it…
Tintin was so far out of my comfort zone it felt like I had gone from a Junior in school to doing a Master’s Degree and missed out on everything in between. It was very stressful, cause I just wanted to do a good job you know? And you couldn’t fuck up in front of three more powerful people than Steve Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and Kathleen Kennedy [producer on the film]. Peter kind of re-wrote the scripts most evenings because he was in New Zealand, and so you would go in, in the morning with three or four pages of new dialogue and they were like “we are shooting this in 30 minutes, so GET READY!”
Did he do that deliberately?
Frost: I don’t know. I think because of the time difference Peter would stay up all night and tinker and get in the sort of position that he was ready to shoot.
Although we could go on about working with the directors, another huge part of this film is how they decided to do it. Instead of making it easy on themselves, they decided to film the movie in motion capture, much like Polar Express and Christmas Carol. As Frost talks about it below, they had hundreds of cameras on set that recorded every moment and even allowed the actors to watch themselves from any angle as they were acting. Here’s Frost’s take on the situation….
How did the technology affect the shoot?
Frost: I think it’s so advanced technically. There would be 50 men on set with computers and a giant monitor where you could see what the characters were doing in real time as you did it. Which is amazing. I would pick up a cup as Thomson and you would see Thomson picking up a cup of coffee. It’s amazing to watch.
Was it hard to act with so much going on?
Frost: It’s a weird way to act because you’re in a suit and you have a camera here and you’re in an area where they have 200 cameras on the ceiling which track every movement… and 10-12 cameramen on set pointing cameras at you for reference.
Were you able to act at all with the other actors or were you mainly by yourself?
Frost: All of the actors were in the room, and they all had those terrible tight fitting black motion capture suits. Which is fine if you’re Daniel Craig, cause I’m sure his was handmade and looked beautiful but I looked like a big Tyrannosaurus Rex’s egg. It was like rehearsing a play, but you were shooting it.
And just for you fans of the series out there, Snowy the dog did make it into the film, although on set he didn’t quite look like himself. And even though Frost was not a fan of the series as a child he gained a fair bit of respect for the books… or at least the violence in them.
Were you a fan before?
Frost: [Sigh] No… yes! I went out to W.H. Smiths and bought all the books and I was surprised at how adult they were. I read one where Tintin and Haddock were on a plane and Haddock gets drunk and hits Tintin on the head with the bottle… crazy! Heroine in his bag.
How did the incorporate Snowy the drunk dog?
Snowy was an odd little thing on set, because he was just a wire frame dog with a broomstick sticking out of him and someone on set would follow us around, moving him on set.
That’s all for now on Tintin! Check in later for our 1:1 video interview with Frost where he talks about reaching out to his fans, Pirate Radio and then towards the middle of the interview chooses to lie down in front of the camera to give a more relaxed feel to the interview. Interesting.
I will say, both he and Simon Pegg who I had the opportunity to meet a few weeks ago, both have to be two of the most relaxed, down to earth, nice guys that you might ever meet in show business.
Are you guys excited to see what they’re able to do with Tintin?