Iconic director Steven Spielberg is yet again nominated this year for Best Picture for his film War Horse.
The book turned film shows the relationship of a young boy, played by Jeremy Irvine in his debut, and his horse Joey during a time of war.
Spielberg sat down with GlobalGrind to tell us why he took this story and transformed it to cinema and how it was to work with horses on set, as well as his choices for actors in this heartfelt film.
Check out our exclusive below!
GlobalGrind: How was it taking War House from a book to a film?
Steven Spielberg: The first thing I pulled from the book and certainly was inspired by, then seeing the play, was this idea that a family under the boot heel of a very strict and unforgiving landlord needs to by time to succeed as a farm. The father, in a drunken state, buys the wrong horse to pull the plow to save the farm. And the one that he buys who we call Joey, that breed of horse, is in no shape to pull a plow. It’s not the kind of horse that does manual labor so to speak. And yet through a tenacious kind of belief in one another, the young son Albert and Joey form this bond and together they are able to at least attempt to save the farm in a possible stony, fertile field.
What made you cast Jeremy Irvine as your star?
Right in the middle of the search process we found Jeremy, and we moved on to see if anyone could match him. Several months later we quickly came back to Jeremy, realizing he was the best person for the part.
How did you work with the horses?
There were times in the movies when I wouldn’t even tell the horses what to do and they’d be in a scene and they would be reacting in the scene in ways I couldn’t imagine a horse would be able to react or act. There were times when you just have to sit back and thank your lucky stars that the horses somehow were cognizant that something was required of them that none of us could tell them, but they intuitively were able to give it to the moment in a scene.
What was the safety protocol for the horses? Because they are involved in a lot of violence in this film.
The thing I kept emphasizing from the very outset was that the horses had to be safe, not even a scratch. If a horse hurts its leg, let’s get a trainer to teach a horse how to limp. By the way, it’s easy to get a horse to limp, you just put a heavier shoe on the right foot or left foot and it’s a slower move with the foot that has a weight on it … very safe. I just didn’t want any horses getting hurt. I didn’t want that sort of debacle hanging over my head for the rest of my life because I love horses, and even though there is a lot of violence in the picture directed towards horses and man, I didn’t want any of the horses to be in harms way. We kept the horses safe.
How did you find and cast Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston?
Both of them were actors I wanted to work with. I had seen Benedict on British television before and really sought him out to play the character. Tom I didn’t know that well, but I saw him in a couple of smaller parts in films and thought he was the reincarnation of Errol Flynn. And thought wouldn’t it be great to have the first person that purchases Joey from the father be this dashing, classy classic British hero?
You’re Steven Spielberg. You can make any film in the world. What made you decide to make this one?
I really wanted to make War Horse because I really think it says a lot about courage. The courage of this boy and what he endures and overcomes to achieve what he needs, not just for himself, but also for his best friend Joey. It’s also about the courage and tenacity of this extraordinary animal. The theme of courage kept coming back from the play, from Michael Morpurgo’s book, and from Lee Hall and Richard Curtis’s screenplay. That was the underlying subliminal theme that informs every frame of War Horse.
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