Buzz sits down for an exclusive chat with Thomas Sangster, Spielberg and Jackson’s Tintin…
Daniel Radcliffe was 11 when he was struck by Harry Potter’s wand; Elijah Wood was 18 when Frodo padded his way. And now 17-year-old British actor Thomas Sangster is about to experience the life-juddering thrills that come with being plucked to head up a global franchise: he’s been signed up to play planet-trotting cub reporter Tintin in a trilogy of films being jointly spearheaded by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson based on Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s cult comic books.
“I don’t really get starstruck. I was relaxed,” says the cool-as-an-iced-cucumber actor about his recent meeting with Spielberg and Jackson to test out the motion-capture technology the titanic duo are deploying for Tintin. Fresh from rehearsals for Jane Campion’s new film Bright Star and wolfing down a tuna sandwich, Sangster describes landing the role with youthful nonchalance: “I’ve got a French friend and he was almost more excited than I was!”
That’s not to say the elfin teenager isn’t tickled pink. The son of actors, Sangster’s been thesping since he was 10, his most high-profile roles coming in Love Actually and Nanny McPhee. He landed Tintin after his audition tape for the lead role in Stephen King’s The Talisman ended up under Spielberg’s nose (incidentally, Thomas’ agent decided his client would make the perfect Tintin after reading Buzz’s story in Issue 131) and Sangster flew to LA in mid-March for a week of test action sequences with Spielberg, Jackson and Andy Serkis, who’s on board as Tintin’s volatile sidekick Captain Haddock. “They were just throwing ideas around together,” says the actor, who’s been signed for all three films. “They had a good idea of what it’s going to be like and how they would like it to be, humour-wise.”
“We were put in harnesses to lift ourselves off the ground and climb up stuff just to see how the equipment all works when we’re jumping around,” adds Sangster, who wasn’t told whether he and Serkis were enacting scenes from a script being written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who).
With Spielberg helming the first instalment, Jackson the second and the pair splitting duties on number three if they can’t source another director, Sangster’s in for the ride of his brief life – especially as Spielberg told him that he saw Tintin as “a young Indiana Jones”, so the beard’s ambitions are clearly stratospheric. “It’s taking me a while to get used to it,” Sangster says. “When I was in LA, every now and again I’d have to remind myself that I’m being directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, both at the same time. I’d kind of shut off from what they were saying and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m sitting here...’”