Thursday 19 November 2020

Live action Tintin film reportedly on the way


Live action Tintin film reportedly on the way

Just when I was recently lamenting the lack of a sequel to 2011's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn from either Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg along comes the news of a new Tintin film in the works - but not from the source, nor in the format, that one might expect.  

source - IMDb
No, with the promise of a follow-up to Secret of the Unicorn still not forthcoming from either Mr Jackson or Mr Spielberg the door has potentially been left open for a new production (or a "reboot", to use the modern parlance).  Through that door, according to the accompanying articles, may come the little-known (outside of France) director Patrice Leconte and his plans for a live-action Tintin film - the first time such an undertaking has been mooted since Tintin and the Blue Oranges was released nearly 60 years ago in 1964.

source - IMDb
That film was in fact the second of a planned trilogy of live-action Tintin stories, beginning with 1961's Tintin and the Golden Fleece.  Both films had original storylines not featured in any of the books but featured all the main characters including Tintin, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Thomson & Thompson and of course Snowy(!).  The title character was played by a young (then aged only seventeen) unknown Belgian Jean-Pierre Talbot who, while working as a sports instructor on an Ostend beach, had been spotted by a talent scout who noticed the useful resemblance to the boy reporter.  Introduced to the great Hergé himself the two quickly became firm friends and Talbot's role was assured (although this was to be his only foray into acting; after The Blue Oranges he returned to relative obscurity and later became a teacher.  Now aged 77 and retired, he still lives in his home town of Spa).  He was the only actor to play the same character across both films, with Captain Haddock being portrayed by Georges Wilson in The Golden Fleece and Jean Bouise in The Blue Oranges.  Professor Calculus likewise was played by Georges Loriot in the first film and by Félix Fernández in the second.  Some confusion still surrounds the actor(s) who played Thomson & Thompson in the first film as they were only listed in the credits as "Incognito", while IMDb would have us believe they were both played by the same man - the mysteriously-named "Gamonal" (although there is some suggestion that they may have been Les Frères Gamonal (i.e. the brothers Gamonal).  Certainly they appear to be two separate actors in the film.)  In the case of each movie all the supporting actors were made-up to some extent so as to better approximate the look of their characters while still retaining the live-action æsthetic - the success (or otherwise) of which I will leave for you to decide, both films being currently available on YouTube here and here.

source - IMDb

The Golden Fleece
sees Captain Haddock inherit a ship (the Golden Fleece of the title) from a recently deceased friend, which soon leads to all sorts of adventure in the search for lost treasure (so although ostensibly a stand-alone plot it does seem have been inspired by the two-parter stories The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure).  Following that movie's success the second film, The Blue Oranges, was released three years later and - in an adventure that definitely owes nothing to the books - sees our heroes come to the aid of Professor Calculus and his friend who have hit upon an invention to cure world hunger, which needless to say soon attracts the attention of some villainous types!  A third film was to have been made for release in 1967 but due to the less than positive reviews of The Blue Oranges it was cancelled and so these two cinematic oddities remain for now the only attempts at a live-action Tintin movie.

source - IMDb

source - Wikipædia
Until now, that is, with the exciting news that veteran French director Patrice Leconte has expressed an interest in producing just such a film - this time to be based on one of the actual books, namely The Castafiore Emerald.  Intriguingly this particular story would be very much a set-bound piece, taking place exclusively at Marlinspike Hall - the home of Captain Haddock - and is essentially more of a "who-dunnit" rather than an out-and-out adventure.  How successful that will prove to be remains to be seen (the book itself, a later release published in 1963, was not well-received on account of Hergé breaking with the traditional adventure-style storyline for the first time), especially as M. Leconte is still in early negotiations with Paramount Pictures for the copyright which still lies with Spielberg (look man, if you're not going to do anything with it after nearly ten years at least give somebody else a chance!).  For this reason alone, thrilled though I am at the prospect of a new Tintin film and buoyed by M. Leconte's arthouse credentials (which includes stints as a comic strip writer), I don't hold out much hope for one seeing the light of day any time in the next few years.  I know from previous experience how long it takes for a film that has only just been tentatively announced and may not even be in pre-production to finally make it to our cinema screens and I expect that - if it hasn't died a death in the meantime - I'll still be blogging about its progress well into this decade.  Still, hope springs eternal and despite all this negativity it seems M. Leconte is confident enough to announce some degree of progress - having claimed production has started - although to what level is not clear - and the parts of Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore have already been cast.  I wish M. Leconte every success and will be keeping a close eye on this production in the profound hope that we Tintin fans will not be disappointed by a third director!

As this looks likely to be a French-led production (although Paramount may well demand some input in return for the copyright and distribution rights) one imagines that the cast will probably be a largely European one, unknown outside the Continent - although perhaps with one or two big names to aid its popularity.  With that being the case and with M. Leconte allegedly having found his Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore, my own ideas on casting for a live-action Tintin film seem even more redundant than they did previously.  However I'm not a man to let that stop me so I will plough ahead and finish this post with my casting director's hat on and my thoughts and suggestions for actors and actresses to play the major roles in any forthcoming live-action production.

source - Wikimedia Commons / 
Gage Skidmore
The difficulty in finding an actor to portray Tintin is that they must by necessity be quite young - our hero is a "boy reporter" of only fifteen, don't forget - or still be possessed of petite, boyish looks despite being well into their twenties or older.  Think Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, for instance - although I wouldn't necessarily choose him as I don't think he would have quite the right appearance even with make-up/ prosthetics.  In the case of a series of films this in turn leads to the problem of needing to anchor the character's age over the course of a short period of time in the story arc against the actor's natural aging process during the years of each film's production.  A classic example of this can be seen in the Spider-Man films, beginning with Sam Raimi's trilogy of 2002-07 starring Tobey Maguire, through Andrew Garfield's tenure in The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, to the current incumbent Tom Holland (above).  The character of Peter Parker is in many ways similar to that of Tintin (barring the superhuman strength, ability to stick to walls and web-slinging skills, of course) - a teenage reporter/ photographer getting into all sorts of scrapes and adventures - and so requires the same sort of actor to pull the role off, hence the reason why there have been so many reboots of that particular franchise in little under twenty years.  I happen to rate Tom Holland very highly and for that reason, as well as his matching the criteria I mentioned above, I certainly think he could be an excellent Tintin.

Give him a quiff and you're all set.
source - Wikimedia Commons / 
My first choice for the part of Belgian's famous fictional son, though, would be one of Mr Holland's fellow young British actors - Asa Butterfield (left).  Perhaps best known for his breakthrough role in 2008's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and as the eponymous Hugo in that excellent Thirties-set, Steampunkesque film, young Butterfield has for me just the right look about him for the character and has impressed me in everything I have seen him in.  Like Tom Holland I can see him keeping his fresh-faced appearance well into his thirties (both actors being in their mid-twenties now) which would hold him in good stead for any sequels.

sources - Wikipædia/
Gage Skidmore/
Eva Rinaldi
Having ummed and aahhed a bit my pick for Captain Haddock would come down to two established actors who I feel could really relish in the part.  The first is Kiefer Sutherland, who I feel is now of an age at and stage in his career where he could channel some of his father Donald's eccentricities into a challenging character like the good captain.  Just try and imagine him with a bushy black beard and see if you don't get what I mean.  The second - and again my top choice - would be Russell Crowe.  The gravelly voice, the stocky build, the intensity of his acting ability could all be brought to bear with great success in a more light-hearted role that would still test him.  (Honourable mention should also go to Andy Serkis, I feel, who voiced Captain Haddock in the 2011 Spielberg film.  He's very good at playing a broad range of characters and again with a full beard I could easily see him in the role.)

sources - IMDb/ Wikipædia/ Gage Skidmore

For Professor Calculus only one actor comes to mind - Sir Ben Kingsley.  Frankly, to use a modern expression, I think he would smash it out of the park and after Tintin his is probably the one part I would most like to see essayed.  Calculus is arguably the most difficult character to approximate, having such a unique look about him (he was modelled on the eccentric Swiss scientist and aeronaut Auguste Piccard - another subject for a standalone post, methinks!) so as well as being close in terms of looks and stature, requiring less make-up, I reckon Sir Ben's superb acting skills should be more than up to doing justice to the part. 

sources - Wikipædia/ Gage Skidmore/ iDominick

The characters of Thomson & Thompson are equally difficult to cast, I feel, not only for their distinctive appearance but also for the fact that they look identical despite not being twins (that being the joke).  So does one go with a pair of brother actors like the Wilsons (Owen, Luke and Andrew), the Hemsworths (Chris, Liam and Luke) or the McGanns (Stephen, Joe, Paul and Mark) or two unrelated chaps who resemble one another (and more so with the aid of make-up/ prosthetics)?  On balance I favour the latter option and in this instance I would stick with Simon Pegg, who played one half of the "Twins" with long-standing comedy partner Nick Frost in the 2011 film, but this time pair him with noted Welsh actor Michael Sheen.  Both actors have the comedy credentials to really bring the characters to life and I have a suspicion the two would really spark off each other in the roles.

sources - Wikipædia/ Garry Knight/ Diggies99

Two actresses again spring to mind as "The Milanese Nightingale", aka Bianca Castafiore and Captain Haddock's constant nuisance.  Top of the list would be Emma Thompson, whose great range includes a healthy dose of comedy and whimsy which could be brought to bear perfectly in the role.  Her ability to play character parts (e.g. Nanny McPhee) also makes her a shoo-in for this kind of portrayal I fancy.  Second choice would be Jennifer Saunders, who likewise has many of the same qualities and would be equally adept at applying them to the character of Señora Castafiore.

source - Pinterest
Alas I am not up to speed on my canine actors so dear old Snowy (or Milou in the original French), important though he may be, will regrettably have to be side-lined at least until a specialist doggy talent scout can come up with the goods, which it has to be admitted will be more difficult for a live-action production than a CGI or cartoon one.  Needless to say terriers, as with any other dog, can be trained to appear on TV and in film (I'm thinking in particular of "Eddie" in Frasier and "Jack" in The Artist) and I've no doubt a suitable contender could easily be found.  In the meantime, here's a picture of Tintin's faithful companion and the sort of dog (a wire-haired fox terrier) that could portray him.

Those, then, would be my choices for the main cast of a live-action Tintin flick (and if you're reading this, M. Leconte - no charge).  Regardless of who does play the roles of Tintin & Company I sincerely hope that this latest production has legs and makes a successful transition to the big screen sooner rather than later, bringing everyone's favourite boy reporter back into the limelight - maybe in time for his 100th birthday in 2029.  Bon chance, M. Leconte - I shall be watching the progress of this one with a great deal of interest.

***Would you look forward to a new live-action Tintin film?  What do you think of my Tintin & Co casting choices?  Who would you like to see have a go at essaying Hergé's colourful characters?  Let me know in the comments below!*** 

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