Steven Spielberg directing first film of series

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Paramount Pictures are in talks to co-finance “Tintin,” Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s digital 3-D pic based on the Belgian “Tintin” comics.

After resolving the Paramount-DreamWorks divorce, putting together a studio deal for “Tintin” was next on Spielberg’s agenda. After Universal balked at partnering on what’s hoped to be the first installment in a franchise, with Spielberg to direct, Par offered to fully back the movie with a reduced backend at $135 million for the two gross participants. When the filmmakers held out for a better deal, a partner became a viable alternative.

While neither Sony nor Paramount would comment, both confirmed talks are under way for one film.

Spielberg had hoped to be in production by fall. However, when financing fell apart at U on the eve of the DreamWorks/Par divorce, he lost the participation of his lead actor, Thomas Sangster. Nonetheless, “Tintin” is expected to be completed in time for a 2010 release. The original plan was for Jackson to direct the sequel.

In the deal being negotiated, Paramount is planning to distribute in North America and some other English-speaking territories, while Sony would handle the foreign release. “Tintin” would no longer have any association with DreamWorks.

Spielberg and Jackson were originally teaming to direct and produce three consecutive features based on Georges Remi’s beloved comicstrip hero Tintin. Spielberg and Jackson selected three stories from Remi’s “The Adventures of Tintin” series, which encompassed 23 books published between 1929 and 1976 about an intrepid junior reporter and his dog Snowy, who track down stories to the ends of the Earth.

The director of the third film in the planned trilogy was always up in the air, and a script was never written.

Kathleen Kennedy joins Spielberg and Jackson as a producer on the three films, but the deal under discussion appears to be for the first one.

“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. Jackson also has long been a fan of the comicbooks. His 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.

The films are expected to be lensed using photorealistic performance-capture techniques.

With Sony on board and a second Jackson lensed film not yet financed, it is unclear what Weta Digital’s involvement will be on the “Tintin” franchise.

Jackson has delivered to Paramount his DreamWorks film “The Lovely Bones,” based on Alice Sebold’s bestseller. It’s set for a fall 2009 release.

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