REEL DEAL Movies and Television: Andy Serkis SPOTLIGHT

Andy Serkis plays Captain Haddock in  Spileberg’s The Adventure of Tintin

To play Haddock, Jackson suggested an actor he knew had what it would take to embody all the dynamics of the role:  Andy Serkis.   “Knowing Andy as well as I did, I knew he’d be absolutely terrific, so I arranged for him to meet Steven, who saw right away what he could bring to it,” he says.  

Spielberg adds: “Andy and Jamie had fantastic chemistry as this iconic pairing of a youthful, moral straight shooter and an old, reprobate sea captain.  They’re complete opposites, yet Captain Haddock brings many lessons to Tintin’s life, and Tintin really gives Haddock a chance to redeem himself.”

Serkis, who has been a fan of the comic since childhood, decided to give his character, whose origins are open to interpretation, a Scottish brogue that sets the tone for his journey.   “It seemed appropriate that Haddock should have a kind of rawness and emotional availability,” Serkis explains.  “He’s a great seaman and has great potential as a human being, but he’s kind of lost in self-pity, and it is Tintin, this boy, who helps him realize that he can connect with other people again.”

Did you grow up on Tintin?  Were you aware of Tintin? 

Oh, yeah, for sure.  I mean, my memories, my earliest memories, of Tintin were when I was about eight or nine.  I used to, although I was brought up in West London, my father was from Baghdad, from Iraq, so we used to spend our summer holidays there and I always used to read Tintin when I was there.  So, I’ve got very, very fond, evocative memories of that, you know.  

How excited were you when, well aside from getting a part in the movie, but when you found out that Steven Spielberg, you know, and another incredible iconic director, Peter Jackson, was gonna produce the film?  Why do you think that team was gonna be able to bring Tintin to the screen after all those years trying to do that? 

Yeah, I mean I heard about the project through Peter.  Peter told me about it and he said, “I think this is gonna happen now.”  And I knew that Steven had been thinking about making a live action version, ooh, you know, going back as far as the ‘90s, you know.  And to me it just, when Pete said, “I think we’re gonna be using performance capture,” I just thought, ‘That’s just the most incredible best news,’ because I don’t think there could be a more appropriate use of performance capture.  This is a really, really great idea to have, you know, all the energy and the urgency and the dynamism of a live action shoot combined with beautiful, kind of, you know, beautiful rendered but photo realistic but slightly painterly, you know, very true to Hergé’s palette and style and sensibility.  To bring those two together, I just thought it would be magic.

How does it work in tandem with the performance capture?  

Well, as I say, the emotional kind of heart and the truthfulness and the sincerity of the performances, and also the comedy and the slapstick and the pathos and, all of those things which are, because they’re acted between people there’s that real connectivity.  You know, combined with beautiful lighting and the, you know, and animation and, you know, the kind of the way it’s rendered it does look at times you think, ‘Is this real or is this cartoon?’  It’s just, just on that cusp where you’re not quite sure.  So, it really feels like something very fresh and unique. 

And, you know, the thing that’s fascinating, of course, you’re playing Haddock.  You know, I’m doing research and, of course, I grew up here in France, but I know he is the most popular character before Tintin.  And how do you explain that?  

I think it’s ‘cause he’s such a deeply flawed character, you know, and there’s, you know, there’s something enjoyable about, you know, moments of recognition with another flawed human being.   I mean, the thing about him his, the thing that is forgiving about him, is that he is, you know, he is, he has no filter.  What you see is what you get with Haddock.  You know, if he’s feeling angry he’s angry.  You know, if he’s self-pitying he’s fully self-pitying.  If he’s emotional he’s emotional.  So, I think there’s…  And so he’s quite naïve and childlike in that respect.  And there’s something quite, you know.  It’s painful but funny to see a man, to see a man reduced to that.  And also he’s kind of, the way he objurgates responsibility and, you know, then all the physical humour and the swearing and the kind of the bombastic nature of the man.  I think, you know, he is appealing, there’s no question.  You know, he’s sort of very… all the rough edges that Tintin as a character doesn’t have ‘cause Tintin is very pure and has a very strong moral compass and, you know, a very strong sense of direction.   And Haddock’s the complete opposite of that.  

Watching you guys working on the set, with Steven and the other cast members, Jamie and Daniel Craig and all those great actors, I mean the energy was awesome and Steven loves that.  Tell us a bit about that experience, not only in front of the camera with the other actors, but also working with Steven as a lover of actors almost doing theatre almost.

Absolutely.  I mean, the thing about this technology is it does allow a real intimacy between, an interface between the director and the actors in a way that sometimes…  The energy on a live action set can be so… there are so many obstacles and so many things you have to think about which put performance last, because you’re thinking about time, you’re thinking about lights, you’re thinking about changing.  You know, if you change a lens now, how much time is that gonna take?  You know, I need to get this shot before lunch.  With performance capture, because you’re working at a very quick rate, I mean you come in in the morning and you’re on set and you are literally working those scenes through as many times as is required, but each time building, changing, you know, sort of slightly honing the performances and Steven was right with us.  And, you know, although he was looking into the virtual camera, he was able to get an immediate response and we were able to come up with, creatively invent stuff.  And so it was a very, very collaborative and creative atmosphere. 

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