Legend has it that when Steven Spielberg offered Jamie Bell the lead role in “The Adventures of Tintin,” the actor looked the Hollywood legend in the eye and said, “I’ll have to think about it.”
“What is true is that he said, ‘If you were to be Tintin it would be about five years of your life. Are you comfortable with that?’ To me, as a 16-year-old, five years was a really long time,” says Bell, who’s now 24. “So I didn’t want to be the naive actor and say, ‘OK, I’m fine with that.’ I wanted to really consider it. Just sharing a Hollywood meeting with him was awesome. To me, as a child, he was otherworldly. He was a Houdini character who made dinosaurs live and boys fly on bicycles.”
Bell, who first won hearts as the lead in coming-of-age dance movie “Billy Elliot,” says getting to make the movie with Spielberg has “remarkable synergy” because Tintin was one of his favorite childhood stories.
Originally Bell simply enjoyed the characters, he says, but there was something special that set the stories about the young detective apart from other kids’ comics.
“I felt respected, as a kid, by Tintin. That allowed me to gravitate toward him and go on his adventures. I was a very inquisitive kid,” says Bell. “I used to watch a lot of political satire comedy shows. So when I read Tintin, and he was travelling around the world solving political corruption, I just knew what was going on.”
The film grabs the spirit of the beloved books, bringing some of the intensity — and mild violence — of the original Herge books to the screen.
“If Tintin wasn’t the beacon of excellence that he is, if he wasn’t the guy with the correct moral compass … I think that could be an issue,” says Bell. “But because the character at the front is such a great, natural and instinctual heroic character, I think you get away with it.”