Spielberg: That 'War Horse' Horsefly Bit Me!
Steven Spielberg is firing on all cylinders this holiday season with not one but two event films -- War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin – and the Academy Award-winning director is courting Oscar buzz once again with his adaptation of War Horse, the celebrated children's novel by Michael Morpurgo.
"I loved the book, and the book gave me the impetus to travel abroad to the West End in London, and I watched the play for the first time, and then … that horsefly bit me," says Spielberg with a laugh. "I just wanted to make this into a movie so desperately."
There's an old adage in the entertainment industry: Never work with children or animals. Of course, Spielberg is known for his many films starring children, and he can now cross a horse off his list as the story's protagonist.
"The challenge, of course, with working with any animal is will they pay attention when you're ready for them to pay attention," explains the director, "and these horses were so brilliantly trained by these incredible horse whisperers … there were multiple times during the shooting days when the horses added flavor and moments; just like actors sometimes improvise, these horses threw improvisations our way that the actors had to catch and throw back, so it really became sort of as very fluid kind of rapport between people and animals."
One of the film's stars, Tom Hiddleston, agrees: "What I found was the horses would shame the artifice of the actor with the authenticity of their behavior, so I got a lesson in naturalism from these animals."
In theaters Christmas Day, War Horse is an epic adventure that chronicles the remarkable friendship between a young man (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War. The film also stars Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell.