SAN DIEGO — Steven Spielberg finally made a pilgrimage to Comic-Con on Friday, arriving at the convention for the first time in his long career to promote his upcoming movie, “The Adventures of Tintin,” with a little help from a surprise guest: the film’s producer, Peter Jackson.
The stakes were high for Spielberg — it was his first opportunity to present footage of “Tintin,” which is to roll out in U.S. theaters around Christmas — to a large stateside audience. Although many Americans may be unfamiliar with the Belgian comic series about an intrepid young reporter and his faithful dog, upon which the film is based, the Comic-Con crowd has a bit more knowledge of the source material, penned by the artist Herge starting in the late 1920s.
After a montage of the director’s film clips, Spielberg was greeted like a war hero by the crowd of 6,500, who delivered a thunderous standing ovation. “How many here have ever read a Tintin book?” he asked, drawing a cheer. “That makes my job easier.”
Spielberg and Jackson, director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, presented several minutes of action-heavy footage, in which Tintin (played by Jamie Bell), pursues a story about a shipwreck with help from his terrier, Snowy, and a boozy seaman, Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). In the scenes, which demonstrated Spielberg’s first use of motion-capture technology, Tintin wages a gunfight, a fistfight and gives chase on rain-slicked cobblestone streets.
“It’s a dense detective story, a murder mystery, it’s very funny when it needs to be,” Spielberg said. “We wanted the movie to look like the drawings in the Herge albums. We wanted to honor Herge by using animation to get as close as we could to the characters he invented.”
Directors share observations
Few people in Hollywood understand what the Comic-Con audience wants better than directors Guillermo del Toro and Jon Favreau, a point the two filmmakers proved in a conversation Thursday in the San Diego Convention Center’s Hall H. Del Toro was touting the upcoming film “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” which he produced; Favreau was there to hype “Cowboys & Aliens,” which he directed.
Here are some things revealed in their chat:
They’re both obsessed with Walt Disney. Each director has a project in development based on classic Disneyland attractions, Favreau’s “Magic Kingdom” and Del Toro’s “Haunted Mansion,” and they share a reverence for the animation innovator. “This is a guy that was highly experimental,” Del Toro said. “Talk about a risk-taker. This guy didn’t do anything that was safe.”
They share a waistline issue, particularly in the heat of finishing a film. When a fan offered to give Favreau an “Iron Man” T-shirt he’d made, and asked his size, Favreau confessed, “In post-production, I’m 2XL,” while Del Toro one-upped him, saying, “I’m Triple XL — pornographically fat.”
Even directors need friends. “Often directors don’t hang together,” Del Toro said. “Because we’re jealous (jerks).” He and Favreau have often been attached to the same projects — including “John Carter of Mars,” but the two relayed a story of finding kinship after their first meeting, over spaghetti and meatballs at writer-director-producer Frank Darabont’s house.
They reward the faithful. When one fan came up to the microphone in a “Cowboys & Aliens” T-shirt, Favreau leaped out of his seat to give him two tickets to Saturday night’s San Diego premiere. Del Toro, meanwhile, said he had hired artists he’d met at Comic-Con, including two working on his new monster film, “Pacific Rim,” who had stopped him at the convention and presented their portfolios.
With the greatest of ease
With all the caped crusaders prowling San Diego, audiences finally saw some heroes who could actually fly, as two Cirque du Soleil acrobats performed a scene from their Las Vegas MGM Grand show, “Ka,” on a 90-foot facade of Petco Park on Thursday night.
Suspended by winches affixed to the stadium wall, the performers climbed, swooped and battled on the vertical stage like bedazzled Spider-men. As dramatic, percussive music cut through the ambient city sounds of freight trains and shouting pedicab drivers, comic-book-style images projected on the ballpark wall told the story of two twins pitted against an enemy warrior tribe.
A mellow crowd gathered for the free event, sprawling on the asphalt curb in front of the Omni Hotel. The performance lasted less than 10 minutes. But there were immediately other distractions — a futuristic car from the “Total Recall” reboot had just arrived on the scene, and former L.A. Laker Rick Fox paused outside the Nobu sushi restaurant to pose for photos with fans.
“Who is that?” a purple-haired girl wondered. “The guy from ‘Dancing With the Stars,’” her friend said. (Fox did appear on the show.) Purple hair shrugged, and they headed for a bus.
Not afraid of Superman either
Nearby in the Gas Lamp district, thousands of attendees — costumed Jedis, medieval wenches and the like — mingled on the narrow sidewalks with ordinary pedestrians and shop owners eagerly awaiting the additional business.
At one point, battle for the ages broke out: a Superman-costumed septuagenarian bounded down the street, eager to impress younger comic book nerds. He added red boxing gloves to his costume, perhaps in an effort to appear more formidable.
As he took off across an intersection, jabbing the air and doing his best Rocky impression, he stood in front of a homemade Ghostbusters wagon, complete with three “we ain’t afraid of no ghosts” fighters and some faux computer equipment.
A crowd gathered briefly as the Ghostbusters and old-man Superman exchanged playful threats. Then the light changed, and the boxing Superman danced down the street, perhaps to find other enemies to spar.