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Only in Hollywood
Spielberg may co-direct next with Peter Jackson

By Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:27:00 05/18/2008

Filed Under: Cinema, Entertainment (general)

LOS ANGELES?Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson directing together?

Just the thought of the two hugely talented and successful filmmakers combining forces to make a movie is enough to quicken the pulse of millions of moviegoers around the world. The film that would make this exciting prospect possible is the third installment in a planned back-to-back feature series adapting the beloved comic book series, ?The Adventures of Tintin.?

Speaking to our group of reporters in an exclusive interview a week before he left LA to debut his ?Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? in Cannes, Steven announced that he was already shooting the first film in the three-feature series based on the popular books written by Remi, a Belgian who used the pen name, Herge. The popular series chronicles the around-the-world adventures of a junior reporter, Tintin, and an assortment of characters that includes his white dog named Snowy, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, the Thompson Twins, Bianca Castafiore, Nestor and Jolyon Wagg.

In a wry reference to how long it took to come up with a screenplay for ?Crystal Skull,? Steven smiled as he said, ?Just like a lot of my movies, it took many years to get a screenplay [for ?Tintin?]. We finally got a script and we?re ready to go.? Steven Moffat reportedly wrote the screenplay.

The much-lauded director announced, ?We?re actually shooting the movie now. Peter Jackson and I are partners. Along with Kathy (Kathleen Kennedy, his longtime collaborator), Peter and I, we are going to make three Tintin movies back to back. I?ll direct the first one. Peter will direct the second one. We?ll probably co-direct the third one.?

Brilliant artwork

Spielberg narrated how the process began to adapt Herge?s books, which have sold over 200 million copies and are still finding new fans despite the fact that the last complete book was published in 1976: ?Kathy and I have been trying to make this movie since 1983. In 1981, when ?Raiders of the Lost Ark? came out, I was reading a review in a magazine. The review compared the story of ?Raiders? to ?Tintin.? I never heard of ?Tintin.? I asked my assistant to go find out what this is all about. What is Tintin? My assistant came back with five ?Tintin? books and they were all in French. But I didn?t need to read the captions. I could understand the entire story by looking at the pictures. I thought the artwork of Herge was brilliant.?

He continued, ?I called Kathy and sent her some of the books. Kathy said, ?Let?s go talk to Herge himself.? We were shooting ?Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? in London at the time. Kathy arranged for us to fly to Belgium on a weekend to meet the great Herge. Sadly, he passed away that week. But a week after his funeral, his widow, Fanny, said, ?Please come. I?d like to talk to you about your interest in Herge?the work of his life, the love of his life.? So Kathy and I went to Belgium and met with the widow. We made a deal with her to make the Tintin movies.?

Motion capture

Responding to a question, Steven confirmed that ?the three movies would be made using motion capture technology.? He added, ??Polar Express,? ?Beowulf??the philosophy is, you actually get actors to perform their roles. You hear their words. The characters don?t ever look like the actors who play the parts except Angelina Jolie, who looked quite a lot like Angelina Jolie in ?Beowulf.? But Ray Winstone didn?t look like Beowulf at all although it was his voice and performance that were captured. That?s how we are doing Captain Haddock, Tintin, Professor Calculus, Madame Bianca Castafiore and all the characters.?

With a twinkle in his eyes, the still boyish-looking filmmaker confirmed a question about Snowy, Tintin?s alcohol-loving canine companion: ?Yes, the dog will be totally animated.? Andy Serkis, memorable as Gollum in Peter?s ?The Lord of the Rings? trilogy, is reportedly cast as Captain Haddock.

Steven will jump from an animated dog to America?s most beloved President, Abraham Lincoln. In a move that reflects his versatility and range as a director, Steven will go from adapting a comic book series to bringing Doris Kearns Goodwin?s ?Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln? to the big screen.

He disclosed, ?The Lincoln project is something that I have been fascinated with all my life. Like the kid in ?Minority Report,? I used to cut out the profiles of Presidents in third grade. Lincoln was my favorite profile.? The BA English graduate from the California State University, Long Beach said, ?As I got older, I began reading history books and I became like a history major. I never really majored in history in school but it was my most favorite subject.?

Sharper focus

The 61-year-old director explained, ?The Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln?s entire life suddenly came into sharper focus as I was getting older. I realized that Lincoln changed the history of the world based on those five years. During the Clinton administration, they asked me to design and direct an event that would happen just seconds before the millennium celebration, before the fireworks went up in Washington. I designed a half-hour concert where we put together a whole history of the 20th century on film. John Williams composed an original score that was 30 minutes long. We performed it on the Mall right under the Lincoln Memorial.?

He said, ?I remember thinking, I couldn?t do this alone so I brought in consultants like Ken Burns, Stephen Ambrose, Doris and her husband, Richard Goodwin. I asked Doris at one point when we were having a coffee break what she was working on. She said, ?I?m writing a book called ?Team of Rivals? about Lincoln and his cabinet.? I bought the film rights to the book from her right there, while we were sitting. I said, ?I want to buy the book rights now.? She said, ?But it?s just an idea. I haven?t written anything.? I said, ?That?s okay. I want to buy the book rights now. You?re going to write a great book.??

?I began working on this back in 2000 with her,? he added. ?Doris published her book. Tony Kushner is working on the screenplay. I?m hoping to make and release the movie by end of November 2009, Lincoln?s 200th birthday.? Liam Neeson, Steven?s terrific Oskar Schindler in his Oscar and Golden Globe-winning ?Schindler?s List,? will play Lincoln. Sally Field is rumored to be cast as the President?s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Steven revealed that also on his plate is ?The Trial of the Chicago 7,? which tackles the contentious court proceedings of the anti-Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. ?I?m still waiting for the second [screenplay] draft from Aaron Sorkin,? he stated.

The acclaimed director, asked why he would be the suitable filmmaker to depict the trial and the clashes between activists and the police that made the period one of the defining moments of the 1960s, replied, ?Having never been a hippie, never having taken any drugs and not really being a part of that acid generation, I probably had the most objective view of that period than any one of my friends who were right in the middle of it. I was off to the side, just watching. I think that a movie about this subject is just ripe for today, for showing that young people, especially kids on campuses, had something to say about the world. They had a lot to say about the Vietnam War. They protested and helped stop the war.

?There?s more apathy today and the Iraq War has gone on for such a long time. The students have not been as vociferous as they were back in the ?60s. So I thought this was a good story to tell today.?

Making news

What recently made news about the film project is the casting of Connor Cruise, son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Connor, who will make his screen debut in a small role, joins Sacha Baron Cohen in the cast. Rumored to be considered for roles in the movie are Will Smith, Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Spacey, Taye Diggs and Jeff Daniels.

E-mail the columnist at rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com and read his blog, "The Nepales Report,? on http://blogs.inquirer.net/nepalesreport.

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