One of the biggest blockbusters out this holiday period is without a doubt “The Adventures of Tintin”, the 3D adventure directed by Steven Spielberg in one of his finest works.
Hugh Humphreys had a chat to one of its stars Simon Pegg, who plays one half of the bumbling policemen “Thomson and Thompson”.
Tintin is such a popular cartoon, so many people have watched it or seen it in some form. What was it like for you, stepping into a role that everyone knows?
It was fun. It was nice to be able to work alongside Nick [Frost] and have Nick as the other Thomson. It’s two sides of the same character really; the Thomsons are just a split personality. They’re desperate to be individuals but really they’re the same guy. So to walk into it with my best friend in real life was a nice comforting feeling. Because we were going to work for arguably the greatest director alive, and we were sort of very aware of that. So it was good to do it with a friend. But I’m glad that I knew Tintin and had gown up with Tintin and felt comfortable with the source material.
So it was something you had enjoyed yourself?
Oh yeah, absolutely.
Who was your favourite character?
In Tintin? Probably Tintin himself. Because when I was a kid it was about being that boy, being that boy reporter out there in the big bad world. I mean that’s what Tintin is – this curiously parentless action figure who the young children could relate to.
And Steven Spielberg. How was it working with him to put the film together?
Brilliant. He’s obviously a master of his craft and it was a joy to really watch him work, you know. He refers to Nick and me as “his boys” which is infinitely pleasing. And the chance to be in his presence while he does what he does was brilliant.
Talk me through the motion capture and the way that all worked in regards to the filming.
Well it’s actually a really interesting process that is quite hard to explain. But as you probably know, we wear these suits that can be captured by the computer; they’re covered in reflective markers, which the computer can pick up on and reproduce inside the computer. So what happens is, we as the actors shoot the whole film like a live action film in an area called “the volume”, which is an area of the studio which can be captured as a 3D environment. And then after we complete that the animators take what we’ve done – which is essentially the bones of the film – and they map the animation on top of it. So what you see with the entire film is what we shot, but coated with this beautiful animated veneer.
Thomson and Thompson are very comedic characters, was that something you enjoyed and relished doing?
I like slapstick comedy, and I’m certainly a fan of the likes of Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton, but it’s not particularly my comfort zone, so it was fun to get out there and play a pretty broad slapstick. I mean, the Thomsons are pretty much bumbling oafs, they fall over a lot and make mistakes. So that was essentially the limit of our duties in the movie, so it was good fun. We got to work with Cirque de Soleil, Terry Notary who’s a brilliant movement artist, who got us into our rhythm as a unit, as a twosome. And we used to just come to set and arse around.
You can’t ask for much more, really.
Not at all!
Does the motion capture make you change the way that you act in putting the film together compared to a normal film?
A little bit, I mean you have to kind of find your level of performance. It’s not quite as minute as you can be when you’re doing live action filming because you have to project yourself through what will eventually be the character. But you can’t be as big as you are on stage because that would look too much. It’s a sort of middle ground you have to occupy. And that’s fun in finding that, that’s the art of it. That’s what Andy Serkis has got down pat now.
And you seem to be doing some major blockbuster films at the moment – a lot of them being sequels. “Mission: Impossible”, there’s sequels flagged on the cards for Tintin, and of course “Star Trek”. How are you enjoying being in these huge films?
It’s pretty good! Absolutely. It’s fun. I enjoy doing these films as much as doing smaller films, you know. Myself and Edgar Wright will make another film next year if all goes well. I’ve just completed a low budget film called “A Fantastic Fear of Everything”, which is going to be out next year. It’s a beautifully mad little movie, which I’m inordinately proud of. You know, I will always be able to go back and do little films like that, as well as participating in these grand films. I don’t favour either, there’s as much enjoyment and artistic value in something as huge as “Mission: Impossible” as there is in something smaller, it’s all about enjoying the process, really.
“The Adventures of Tintin” is at the movies now.