“What is true is that he said, ‘If you were to be Tintin it would be about five years of your life. Are you comfortable with that?’
“To me, as a 16-year-old, five years was a really long time. [He’s 24 now.] So I didn’t want to be the naïve actor and say, ‘OK, I’m fine with that. I wanted to really consider it. I don’t even think I said I’d think about it, I just didn’t give a definitive answer.
“For me it was more important to be sitting down at a table with him.
“Just sharing a Hollywood meeting with him was awesome. To me, as a child, he was otherworldly. He was a Houdini character who made dinosaurs live and boys fly on bicycles.”
Bell, who first won hearts as the lead in coming-of-age-dance movie Billy Elliot, says getting to make the movie with Spielberg has “remarkable synergy” because “Tintin was one of his favourite childhood things.”
Originally, he simply enjoyed the characters, he says, but there was something special that set the stories about the young detective apart from other kid’s comics.
“It was different from all the other cartoons. I felt respected, as a kid, by Tintin. That allowed me to gravitate toward him and go on his adventures.
“I was a very inquisitive kid,” he says.
“I used to watch a lot of political satire comedy shows. I’m sure I had no idea what they were talking about, but they were funny to me. Grown-ups making fun of other grown-ups was hilarious.
“So when I read Tintin and he was travelling around the world solving political corruption, I just knew what was going on.”
The film grabs the spirit of the beloved books, bringing some of the intensity — and mild violence — of the original Hergé books to the screen.
“If Tintin wasn’t the beacon of excellence that he is,” says Bell, “if he wasn’t the guy with the correct moral compass, if he wasn’t so innocently earnest all the time, I think that could be an issue.
“But because the character at the front is such a great, natural and instinctual heroic character, I think you kind of get away with it.”