Duo pact for adventure trilogy

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi’s beloved Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin for DreamWorks. Pics will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology.

The two filmmakers will each direct at least one of the movies; studio wouldn’t say which director would helm the third. Kathleen Kennedy joins Spielberg and Jackson as a producer on the three films, which might be released through DreamWorks Animation.

Tintin has long been a passion project for Spielberg; he and Kennedy have held various film rights to the comedic adventure book series off and on for more than 25 years. With the rights in place, Spielberg, Jackson and DreamWorks began quietly developing the project. Jackson has also long been a fan of the comic books.

Jackson’s New Zealand-based WETA Digital, the f/x house behind “The Lord of the Rings” franchise, produced a 20-minute test reel bringing to life the characters created by Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Herge.

“Herge’s characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we’ve seen to date with computer animated characters,” Spielberg said.

“We want Tintin’s adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created,” Spielberg continued.

Official word of the three-pic pact comes just weeks after Jackson inked a deal with DreamWorks to direct “Lovely Bones,” based on Alice Sebold’s haunting tome about a 14-year-old girl who watches over her family — and attacker — from heaven after she is raped and killed.

Tintin project, announced by the two filmmakers and DreamWorks co-chair-CEO Stacey Snider, may explain, at least in part, why DreamWorks emerged the winner in the bidding for “Bones,” beating out several other suitors.

Tintin also answers the question of which tentpole Jackson will turn his attention to next.

The Spielberg-Jackson project isn’t likely to languish in development for long. Spielberg could become available this fall after wrapping “Indiana Jones 4.” Jackson will wrap “Bones” by the end of the year. He had been developing another possible franchise, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, set during the French Revolution.

Spielberg and Jackson have selected three stories from Remi’s “The Adventures of Tintin” series, which encompassed 23 books published between 1929 and 1976. The series still attracts 2 million new fans a year.

Series, which has sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, chronicles adventures of a junior reporter who will follow stories to the ends of the earth, even though he often finds his own life in jeopardy. His able assistants include a white dog named Snowy, the lunatic Captain Haddock, the muddled genius Professor Calculus and the Thompson Twins.

Jackson said WETA will stay true to Remi’s original designs in bringing the cast of Tintin to life, but that the characters won’t look cartoonish.

“Instead,” Jackson said, “we’re making them look photorealistic; the fibers of their clothing, the pores of their skin and each individual hair. They look exactly like real people — but real Herge people!”

DreamWorks bought the film rights from Herge Studios in Brussels, Belgium. Company is led by prexy Fanny Rodwell, Remi’s wife when he died in 1983.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to honor Herge’s legacy that this announcement within days of the 100th anniversary of his birth, May 22, 1907,” Rodwell said.

Spielberg and Jackson are currently evaluating whether to release Tintin through DreamWorks Animation. Paramount distributes all DreamWorks Animation films.

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