‘Tintin’: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tells tales from Steven Spielberg’s new-tech set

March 14, 2011 | 10:07 a.m.

Rebecca Keegan catches up with “Paul” stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to talk “Tintin.

nick frost simon pegg Tintin: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tells tales from Steven Spielbergs new tech set

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are experiencing a Spielbergian moment in their careers. Their new movie, “Paul,” an alien road comedy, is a love letter to Steven Spielberg films like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” But the two British comedians also got a chance to watch Spielberg work up close as actors in the director’s upcoming film “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.”

On Sunday morning, hours before the  premiere of “Paul” at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival, Pegg and Frost talked about the unusual work environment  on the “Tintin” set, which relied on much of the same performance-capture technology that James Cameron used on “Avatar.”

“Steven, he did a lot of his own camera work,” Frost said. “He’d get a movement he really liked, punch the air and do a little dance. It’s intoxicating. You want to perform for him. You want to be around that kind of enthusiasm.”

Spielberg first enlisted Pegg and Frost when Pegg was meeting with him about a writing job. Instead of the writing gig, Spielberg asked the pair to play Thompson and Thomson— two bumbling detectives from the classic comic series by Belgian artist Hergé. On the set, they were among the first to see Spielberg — who had never even shot in digital on a film — as he learned to use new technology.

“It was like he had a new train set,” Pegg said.”There was a genuine sense of novelty to him.”

tintin Tintin: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tells tales from Steven Spielbergs new tech set

Thompson (Simon Pegg) and Thomson (Nick Frost) escort Silk (Toby Jones) back to his apartment in "Tintin."

Often Peter Jackson, who is producing the film, watched from a monitor in New Zealand. “Peter would do a bunch of rewrites at night while we were asleep,” Frost said, “and then we’d come in in the morning and be given the script.”

Pegg and Frost wore performance capture suits on the set, where a bunch of gray-painted chicken-wire would stand in for a setting like a marketplace.

“It was like rehearsing a play, like when you’re a kid and you’re pretending that thing over there could be the Millennium Falcon,” Frost said. “You have to concentrate. Peter Jackson is on the monitor, Kathy Kennedy is there producing. Daniel Craig — who looks amazing in a motion capture suit, by the way — is there. It’s like a big idiot’s dream.”

Pegg and Frost were visiting the set on one of their off days when they showed Spielberg a photo they had taken on a road trip to prepare for “Paul.” The photo–of an alien bust next to Devil’s Tower, the distinctively shaped Wyoming mountain that Spielberg used in “Close Encounters” — outed them to the director as Spielberg diehards.

“He very casually said, ‘Well, maybe I can be in it?'” said Frost. “We looked at one another and made a weird fangirl squee and then ran home and wrote him a cameo straight away.”

— Rebecca Keegan (twitter.com/@thatrebecca)


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6 Responses to ‘Tintin’: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tells tales from Steven Spielberg’s new-tech set

  1. Dum Dum Dugan says:

    I dont have high hopes for "Paul" it seems like they just took Seth Rogans roll in "Monsters versus Aliens" and threw it into a setting similar to "The Hangover".

    Not my cup of tea.

    However – A Tintin movie sounds fantastic!

    • SusanE says:

      My 14 year old grand-daughter and I saw it this weekend and as a die-hard SF fan it was the most fun I've had in a very long time. The humor and spoofs were pitch perfect (although a lot of the f word so not good for little kids). I've never seen the Hangover so can't comment on whether there is any connection but I don't see any similarity to Monsters versus Aliens. Very cleverly written

  2. Harriet Bee says:

    Wow, what a crappy photo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost accompanying this article. First, the way the shot is set up it looks like there's a black box or a thick mortar board sitting atop of Nick Frost's head. And then just above it you can see the ghostly reflection of another smallish face – the photographer's? Who would sign off on such sloppy work?

  3. joshua says:

    Looks fantastic wow I can't wait to see it. unbeleivabubble

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