From director Steven Spielberg comes an emotional epic on a classic scale. It is the story of a miraculous horse in wartime—a stirring journey that explores a bond of friendship, loyalty and courage. Within the tale of a boy and the feisty colt he never stops believing in, there are sweeping battles, desperate escapes and an evocative odyssey through a world at war. But no matter where they go or what they experience both boy and horse keep forging ahead, driven by devotion and the hope of returning home.
Adapted from one of the great modern stories of friendship and war, the film is drawn from the novel that sparked a rousing stage hit, garnering five Tony Awards®, including Best Play. Now, Spielberg unfolds this heartwarming tale for all ages with a return to the territory where big screen cinema and intimate storytelling meet.
Says Spielberg: “To me, ‘War Horse’ is a timeless story about the sacrifices of love—about the sacrifices a boy makes in a time of war to find his horse and the sacrifices the horse makes just trying to survive this dark episode in history. Throughout it all, their destinies are entwined.”
The journey begins on the cusp of WWI, as an English farming family buys a fiery hunter colt at auction despite not having the funds to pay for him. Named Joey, the horse seems to be nothing but a loss for struggling Ted and Rosie Narracott (Peter Mullan and two-time Oscar® nominee Emily Watson), but their son Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) is determined to tame and train him, making the most of Joey’s enthralling spirit, speed and affection. The two are inseparable, but when war breaks out, they are pulled apart as Joey is sold from under him and heads to the front as the mount of a dashing British cavalry officer.
Thus starts Joey’s labyrinthine trek through joy and sorrow, hardship and wonder, as this simple horse becomes a remarkable hero, touching lives on all sides of the war with his innocence, purity of motive, and unconditional devotion to his human friends. He pulls battlefield ambulances, whisks away German soldiers on the run, fires the imagination of a French girl and hauls colossal cannons up mountains. As the film builds to its powerful climax, and Albert heads into the trenches on his own perilous mission, Joey finds himself ensnared in the haunting No Man’s Land between British and German territory. But even when it seems there can be no return, he sets in motion a momentary chance for peace and holds fast to a dream of reunion and renewal.
To do justice to the story’s broad scope, Spielberg assembled a distinctive mix for the cast, delighting in bringing several newcomers to the fore, including Jeremy Irvine as Albert, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Kross, Patrick Kennedy, Toby Kebbell, Celine Buckens and Robert Emms, along with a host of award-winning veterans including Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup and David Thewlis.
DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment present an Amblin Entertainment/Kennedy/Marshall Company production of a Steven Spielberg film, “War Horse.” Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, the screenplay is by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis. The film is produced by Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, and the executive producers are Frank Marshall and Revel Guest. Spielberg’s close-knit artistic crew, most of whom he has worked with through several decades, includes editor Michael Kahn, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, composer John Williams, production designer Rick Carter and costume designer Joanna Johnston.
Joining them on “War Horse” was an extraordinary team of horse trainers and riders, all overseen by American Humane Association representative Barbara Carr, as they forged safe, respectful but unprecedented drama and action with equine actors as expressive as their human counterparts. Says Carr: “Everything was done in the safest, kindest ways for the animals. You could see in Steven that he truly cared deeply about the animals, and that was reflected in the entire production.”
A HORSE’S ODYSSEY HOME
How do you unfold a world-wandering tale of love, war, fortitude and hope when your main character is an innocent village colt in search of kindness, friendship and a way home?
That challenge instantly compelled Steven Spielberg when he encountered Michael Morpurgo’s novel “War Horse.” The book presented an inspiring legend, but it was cut from a different cloth than most. All manner of stories have emerged from war—stories of romance, of heroism, of moral dilemmas, of divided families transcending hardship. But here was a story of wartime as it had never been experienced: through the journey of an animal propelled into battle with no malice or side to take, fueled only by the burning desire to live and return to the ones he loves.
To do the story justice would be a creative and technical feat, one that hooked into Spielberg’s penchant for chronicling the human condition. It was one that, for all its scope, would have little to do with special effects and everything to do with a more hand-crafted cinematic style, working humanely and intelligently with remarkable animals and engaging human performances, and guiding a devoted crew to overlay a triumph of the spirit atop an unforgettably rugged landscape of conflict. “War Horse” is about classical movie storytelling, weaving a chain of individual stories into an intricate canvas portraying the power of hope in the toughest of times.
The novel had been told with the simple power of allegory. The play, which Spielberg first saw in London at the urging of his long-time producer Kathleen Kennedy (who has produced four decades worth of Spielberg’s seminal films), was emotionally transporting with its whimsical use of towering yet bare-boned horse puppets. But Spielberg immediately understood he would have to find his own visual path to bring the story fully alive on the screen. He took off at a galloping pace.
“The puppets were magnificent on stage, but I knew that if we were going to tell the story, it had to be with real horses,” Spielberg says. “I loved the book also, but it is told from Joey’s point of view and you even hear Joey’s thoughts. I knew that was not an avenue that would work for the film, though it allowed me to understand the importance of telling the story from different viewpoints.”
Following a different track, Spielberg envisioned the film emerging from the tradition of the odyssey—the mythic journey that propels a youthful hero into the dangerous world only to return with hard-won wisdom and a fresh view of life. Only this time, the traveler would have the perspective of a different species silently, yet soulfully, witnessing humanity at its most troubled yet inspirational.
Structurally, the film became a study in shifting moods that lead into one another—the rough-hewn, almost storybook village of Joey’s youth gives way to the shock and adrenaline rush of a brave new mechanized battlefield, which gives way to an idyllic French farm full of pastoral pleasures, which unravels into the pandemonium of the trenches and the desolate mists of No Man’s Land, all of which only reinforces the driving memory of the village where Joey’s journey began, and to which he strives to return.
Courage is what keeps Joey and Albert going through four danger-filled years apart, and it is courage that becomes a theme woven through the entire texture and fabric of the film. “I think ‘War Horse’ has a lot to say about courage—and about doing things not just for yourself but for the sake of those you love. That theme comes through in many different ways,” Spielberg notes.
He continues: “Albert and Joey have a tenacious belief in one another. It all begins when they attempt together to plow this impossibly stony, infertile field in Devon, before the war. That creates such a synergy and empathic collaboration between horse and boy that when they are separated by the war, I think the audience senses that at some point there is going to be a date with destiny. And when that date occurs, you see that out, of the chaos, something wonderful happens.”
Indeed, everywhere that Joey winds up in his journey, he finds people and animals giving everything they’ve got to the possibility of survival. From the start the idea of moving seamlessly from one compelling story to the next, all through Joey’s experiences, was intriguing to Spielberg. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked before in this kind of episodic format, with miniature stories all coming together into a larger tale,” he observes. “Characters come and go as Joey passes through all these lives, and we get to see how each of the characters imprint themselves on Joey—and how Joey affected them.”
Whether those characters are British, French or German, Spielberg was interested in the basic humanity at the root of their actions. “War Horse” never concerns itself with identifying an enemy as people from every side find solace and connection with Joey. “The film doesn’t take sides as to who is right or who is wrong,” says Spielberg. “It’s really about how the characters relate to this horse. Horses have no politics; their main concern is for the care of their charges. And that is a very important thing that gives the story its humanity amidst the war.”
Another source of fascination for Spielberg in the story are the mysteries of the powerful human bond with nature. He himself lives with horses and has seen firsthand how close they can get to their human companions. Now, he wanted to expose the hearts of horses as they had not been seen on screen before—in all their pure, primal feeling and nobility.
“I have lived with horses for 15 years, and I’ve gotten to know how expressive they are,” the director says. “But movies don’t often spend time on what horses are feeling. In the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies, for example, my job was to focus on Indiana Jones, not his trusted steed. But in the course of making ‘War Horse,’ I was amazed at how the horses were able to emote so tremendously. In the play the puppets were really able to bring the emotion of the horses to the audience because they were puppets, but I wanted to do that with real horses in the motion picture.”
A long-time history buff, Spielberg was well aware that the tests faced by both horses and soldiers in WWI were some of the most harrowing in history. Known as “the war to end all wars” because no one could imagine going through it again, it marked a seismic shift from the chivalry and honor of warfare past to the dehumanization and mass casualties of modern weaponry. But Spielberg determined from the beginning that he would use a truthful restraint that would keep the film anchored in history without ever becoming graphic. “What was on my mind was to make a very honest story,” the director comments. “But I was careful to pull back in ways I would not have on ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or on our miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Pacific.’ I wanted the journey of Albert and his horse to be an authentic, shared experience for families.”
Creating that shared experience would also become a reunion for Spielberg with a community of collaborators who have helped to make his wide-ranging productions so culturally influential. “All my stalwart family members, across so many years and covering so many movies, came together to make ‘War Horse’ with me,” he says. “It was a great part of this experience.”
For cast and crew it was the perfect marriage of artist to story. Sums up co-screenwriter Lee Hall: “This is a story where the main character has no words, and Steven has the amazing gift of being able to tell the grandest story through the simplest means and make you care. Throughout all his work there are characters who are larger than life, who are different from us, but who we pour our hearts and identification into.”
There was also a strong sense of history—and its forward trajectory—that permeated the production. “There was a real sense of respect for the fact that people lived through these events,” says Richard Curtis. “There was so much integrity to the design and I think Steven wanted to be as honest and emotionally true as possible, not romanticizing it, but trying to create an authentic experience, yet always with the possibility for Joey and Albert to make it back home.”
Adds five-time Oscar®-winning composer John Williams, whose music has been inseparable from Spielberg’s movies since 1974: “My reaction to ‘War Horse’ was how could anyone other than Steven direct, stage, photograph and edit a story like this with such precision and power?”
FROM PAGE TO STAGE TO SCREEN
From modest beginnings “War Horse” has become a part of contemporary culture, a story from a century past that speaks to that which matters to the world right now. It first became a well-loved family book, then an innovative stage play that took audiences by storm and now it sees another incarnation in its most visceral medium yet.
It all started with novelist and children’s author Michael Morpurgo, who always wanted to write a tale set against the Great War. World War I is perhaps the least talked-about conflict of the 20th century, leaving in its wake a world forever changed and a generation tasked to rebuild from ashes. For a long time Morpurgo had looked for an original way to write about the war. But it wasn’t until he met an aged veteran in a bar that he found his way in—inspiration sparked when he heard the man talk with passion not about his fellow soldiers but about the incredibly heroic horses with whom he served.
Like most people, Morpurgo had never given much thought to horses in wartime, but this old soldier opened his eyes to a vast, unexplored world: the bonds between humans and animals that even battle could not tear asunder, and that kept so many going when they might have given up. “Here I was listening to this old man who had tears in his eyes talking about a relationship he had with a horse on the Western Front decades ago,” the novelist recalls. “I learned that these horses were doing so much more than simply carrying soldiers or gun carriages. They deeply mattered to people.”
That initial conversation led Morpurgo into his own personal hunt for research, in which he discovered that a remarkable 1 million horses valiantly went into battle with the British during WWI and only 62,000 animals returned. He learned how vital horses were on all sides of the war, giving soldiers from every country an invisible but common thread. He explored poignant paintings and read historical accounts of how horses sacrificed, suffered and committed acts of bravery—just like their human companions. Through it all, he felt this was a story that needed to be told.
Published in 1982 as a story for young adults, the book was quickly embraced by readers around the world and was a runner-up for the prestigious Whitbread Award. In 2007, when the novel was adapted into a mesmerizing stage play at London’s National Theatre, audiences went mad for it and for its themes of human-animal friendship, the power of endurance and the way hope for the future stays with us when all appears lost.
The play also spoke to producer Kathleen Kennedy, who upon seeing it, fell in love with Joey and his unwavering determination to find his way home. “I couldn’t get the story and the emotions it evoked out of my head,” she recalls.
She instantly thought of Spielberg. She knew he had all the creative resources to find the way to bring this astonishing story to moviegoers in a universal and contemporary way. “Steven wasn't interested in making a war movie,” explains Kennedy. “Rather, what he loved about ‘War Horse’ was the relationship between the boy and this horse and their journey. Everybody can identify with Joey’s primal emotions and, as a result, cannot help but care deeply for what happens to him, and by following Joey’s experience, Steven could show the goodness to be found in people fighting on either side in the war.”
Even before production started, Kennedy anticipated that the power of Spielberg’s approach would be his ability to key into the ordinary relationships that allow people to do extraordinary things.
When Spielberg took on the project, Morpurgo could hardly believe it. He was thrilled with the direction, which was as unique to the screen as the theater version was to its form. “There was an incredible meeting of minds with Steven. We're both storytellers who are fascinated by how stories can expand and grow. Steven told the story in his own way, with more depth and breadth,” says the author.
London-based executive producer Revel Guest, who had endeavored to make a film of “War Horse” since its theatrical opening, was also exhilarated by the match-up. “There is no one I can think of that we would prefer to have direct this film than Steven Spielberg,” she says, “He is a lover of horses and also the best war director of our times, so the two combined is exactly right.”
The filmmakers next turned their attention to adapting the novel. First they brought in British screenwriter Lee Hall, who wrote the triumphant “Billy Elliot,” and then, to add more layers, they brought in another Brit, Richard Curtis, whose films include “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill” as well as the TV series “Blackadder,” a comedy set in the trenches of World War I.
Curtis notes that the story has a strong connection to the world right now. “With the financial recession, and the threat of terrorism, that question of how individuals survive in a big dangerous world is something that we are all more aware of right now,” he notes.
But to bring those links out, he had to find answers to two complicated questions: How could Joey be the very center of the story even though he has no voice; and how could the narrative stay with Joey’s quest for reunion and not get mired in the muck and chaos of the war? “The war had to be a presence which you always know is there, a threat, but not the central subject,” says Curtis. “The challenge was achieving a balance—not diminishing the horror of the war but not eclipsing what is a very moving story about people bound together by a horse.”
As he discussed the nuances of the screenplay with Spielberg, Curtis also was put in mind of another subtle influence. “I think somewhere in Steven’s mind was the cinematic tradition of the Western. You start out in a lovely homestead where they’re pulling the water and there’s a friendly goose, and then suddenly there’s the foreboding sense that something bad is coming just over the horizon,” he observes.
When the darkness of war arrives in Devon, the resulting chaos cleaves Albert and Joey apart, but Spielberg and Curtis discussed coming up with a narrative device to tie the two friends together even as they each go off on disparate adventures. This became the pennant Albert ties to Joey’s reins the day he leaves his side.
For Spielberg, that simple object became a visual through-line. “I wanted to find a way to tie up all of the film’s stories with one thing that becomes a kind of unifying force and that is the father’s war pennant,” he says. “Joey takes with him this memento of their relationship and it goes from story to story until the very end. It was very important to me that there be that kind of visual talisman. The campaign pennant connects Joey not only to all these other stories but it also connects the boy to his father and home.”
Adds Curtis: “Steven is very skilled at weaving visual markers through a far-ranging story, and the pennant is very important because Albert’s father brought it back from his time at war—and now it becomes the one constant all the way through the film until it finally is returned back to where it came from. Our hope was that it would be a little, beautiful, shining thread through all that they go through.”
No matter what tweaks of plot they made, the writers always kept Joey at the heart of things. “He represents all of our innocence thrown into an unbelievable cataclysm,” sums up Hall. “In his perspective all the complexities are stripped back to the simple, and it becomes a very human story.”
DISCOVERING THE CAST
When it came to the casting, Spielberg was motivated entirely by character. He scoured Britain for actors he felt could seamlessly enter the film’s roles, regardless of whether they were known or unknown. “Steven has a great track record of making really wonderful discoveries,” notes Kathleen Kennedy, “and he was very excited by the opportunity this film provided to find the perfect ensemble to fill so many diverse and wonderful roles.”
An engagingly diverse cast was key to Spielberg’s vision. ‘“War Horse’ isn’t just the story of a boy and a horse; it’s also the story of the many different people who encounter them—and this became one of the happiest ensembles I’ve ever worked with,” the director notes. “Most of the characters never appear in scenes with each other, yet you’re left with the impression that they were all in it together. I’m really proud that so many good actors gave so much of themselves to us.”
One of the most essential choices was that of who should play Albert, whose love for the red foal his drunken father purchases carries him through the tribulations of war. In the midst of extensive auditions, one young actor caught the team's eye: Jeremy Irvine, a 20 year-old Briton who had grown up in a small country village, much like Albert.
“For Albert I didn’t want someone bringing in a portfolio of distinguished parts from other films,” says Spielberg. “I wanted a fresh face. Joey was a complete unknown, so let the boy be unknown too. I remembered that Christian Bale was the second person I saw for ‘Empire of the Sun,’ and months later I came back to him. The same kind of thing happened with Jeremy. We were right in the middle of the search process when we first saw Jeremy. So then we moved on to see if anybody could match him. After several more months of searching, it was clear he was the best person for the part.”
A fan of the book since his mother first read it to him at age 10, Irvine sees Albert as not so different from any boy on the verge of being thrust into adult responsibility. “When we first meet Albert, he is just starting to question his father and what sort of man he is—he's growing up, really,” observes Irvine. “But he finds the way to do that through this horse. I think everyone relates to that. We’ve all experienced something we want to escape from, and we’ve all had a relationship with a friend that plays a huge role in our going out into the world and coming of age.”
The WWI theme had a personal poignancy for the actor. “Two of my great grandfathers were in the war,” he explains. “One was at Gallipoli and had a horse called Elizabeth that he was very attached to. I saw the receipt showing that he bought the horse from the army for £28, exactly the same amount Albert has when he tries to buy Joey from the army! It was an amazing coincidence.”
Irvine embarked on a period of intensive training, riding up to 10 hours a day at the Hertfordshire stables, where the horses included stars from such films as “Seabiscuit” and “Black Beauty.” There, he learned to think the way horses do. “The horses were so sensitive,” he remarks. “It was a joy learning to ride with these magnificent creatures. And it’s incredible how quickly you can pick it all up when you’ve got the very best people teaching you.”
Once on the set, the demands of all the riding and battle sequences in the mud-logged trenches took their toll on Irvine, but he says it was all worth it to tell this story. “Some days you’d be under fake rain until you were freezing or you'd be covered head to toe in mud. You might spend 14 hours in dark, desolate locations that looked like the end of the world. But because it all seemed so real, we were able to get a real sense of what these young men went through. Steven never does anything by halves. Everything is done the best way it possibly can. He makes it so powerful.”
As a newcomer, Irvine had the chance to work with two veteran actors in the roles of Albert’s parents, who have known tough times even before WWI breaks out: Peter Mullan, the Scottish actor known for his roles in such films as “Braveheart,” “Trainspotting” and “Boy A,” and Emily Watson, a two-time Academy Award® nominee for “Hilary & Jackie” and “Breaking the Waves.”
Mullan was drawn to the film’s originality. “The way the film feels like a fable about a horse’s journey is genius,” he says. “It seems like it would be impossible to tell a war story differently from any other that has come before, but with this film Spielberg does that. Seeing war through a horse’s eyes is something beautifully simple—yet it reminds you of your own humanity.”
The actor also found Ted Narracott intriguing because he is a character who isn’t quite what he seems. Though he might be stubborn and unruly, he also hides a past of heroism and heartbreak from his own days in the Boer War. “Ted is a fundamentally decent guy in physical, emotional and spiritual pain,” observes Mullan. “His self-esteem might be gone, but I think the bad things he does only come out of frustration and loss. The family lives in a tough, emotionally repressed environment, but Ted genuinely loves his son—and he is deeply moved by what he achieves with Joey.”
The experience of working with Spielberg was exhilarating for Mullan. “Steven is very different from other directors I've worked with. He builds a performance take after take, and it often felt as though we were making a silent movie because we would get direction from Steven as we were acting rather than getting notes after. I loved it because with Steven you have to give yourself up completely.”
Emily Watson was also excited to work with Spielberg for the first time. “The material was so great, and Rosie was a meaty kind of character to get my teeth into,” she says. “I knew Steven was going to make this an epic story we all can relate to. What he always does so brilliantly is to let you see humanity from the unique outside view of a creature. That’s what he did with ‘E.T.,’ isn’t it?”
Watson had first seen the play when she was heavily pregnant and had been overcome. “There's nothing more powerful than a child being separated from his mother and then trying to be reunited,” she says. “The idea of this horse and boy finding their family again, when so many didn’t, was very potent.”
With Rosie, she was able to get to the heart of the story—the strength of those who never gave up hope they’d see each other again. “Rosie is the one holding the family together,” observes Watson. “It's a terribly hard situation, but she's determined to make it work. Her family is always one step away from being evicted, and then her husband spends all their money on a useless horse. But when she sees her son come alive with this animal, she, too, falls in love. Training Joey turns her boy into a man.”
Like many involved in the film, Watson had a personal connection to WWI. “We all have stories about the men who left for war,” she says. “My grandmother’s older brother, whom she worshipped, was killed at Ypres. She never talked about it until she was 80, and then she sobbed and sobbed as she told us she’d slept every day of her life with his letter from the trenches by her bed.”
Another key character from Albert’s village of Devon is David Lyons, the son of the Narracotts’ landlord who starts out as Albert’s rival only to become his commanding lieutenant in war. To play David, Spielberg chose Robert Emms, who also garnered critical acclaim for his performance as Albert in London's West End production of “War Horse.”
Emms says that no matter which character he plays, the story always moves him. “The themes of war and of friendship are timeless, and that’s why all kinds of people connect with this story,” he says. Spielberg gave Emms insight into David’s relationship with his father. “He talked about David sitting on the fence, not sure if he wants to be like his father or just one of the boys like Albert. I hadn’t thought about it that way and it really put me on track,” he recalls.
Playing David’s upper-crust father is award-winning English actor David Thewlis, perhaps best known for his roles in the “Harry Potter” films. He was drawn to playing an archetypal character from film history. “When Steven approached me to play Lyons, he pointed out that this is a classic character who goes back to silent films—the evil landlord—and I was glad to have a go at that in a very different way under Steven’s guidance,” says Thewlis.
As Joey heads to war, he becomes tied to the fates of three young British cavalry officers: Captain Nicholls, the debonair horseman who promises to take care of Joey for Albert; Major Stewart, who rides the noble black steed Topthorn; and Lieutenant Waverly, Captain Nicholls’ best friend.
Tom Hiddleston, the young British actor recently seen as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” took the role of Nicholls after winning over Spielberg. “I had seen him in some smaller parts and thought he was the reincarnation of Errol Flynn,” Spielberg comments. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have the first person who purchases Joey to be this classic dashing British hero. So we threw caution to the wind. Instead of casting against type, I went a bit on the nose with a suave, sophisticated but very mindful young soldier.”
Once he took the role, Hiddleston wanted to do Captain Nicholls, and all those young men like him, justice. “Nicholls is someone who has a real sense of how awful this war is going to be,” he observes. “His way of coping with that fear is to make these beautiful sketches of Joey, so I felt I was not just playing a soldier but a soldier with an artist’s spirit.”
Though he is an experienced rider, Hiddleston had to learn the more refined skill of wielding a sword on horseback in the style of British cavalry. He says: “Working with swords requires a lot of precision, practice and discipline—especially working swords around horses! From day one, we had to start learning to ride one-handed. It was all about practice and making sure we were safe.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, who has played historic roles ranging from Stephen Hawking to Sherlock Holmes, took the role of Major Stewart—and the reigns of Topthorn. He says of the role, “Stewart is young as many of the commanding officers were in the First World War. But he has an authority and certainty that are inspirational to his men. He knows the risks and the uncertainties of their task but to lead 300 men you have to give them a belief and purpose to create courage and loyalty.”
Playing Lt. Waverly is Patrick Kennedy, whose films include “Atonement.” Kennedy describes Waverly as “the joker in the pack. I don’t think he’s a particularly serious soldier, but he’s very well meaning. And I think a lot of his gregariousness and humor comes from the fact that he’s scared.”
On the German side, David Kross, who played Michael Berg in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of “The Reader,” took on the role of Gunther, the German soldier who goes AWOL with Joey to try to save his underage brother. Kross says that for someone like Gunther a horse such as Joey was a spectacular thing to behold. “Gunther’s background is as a working class farm boy who has only ever dealt with working horses. So when he sees this Joey, who’s so beautiful and strong, I think it’s like seeing a Ferrari out there. He falls in love and realizes he has found his chance to escape.”
The German boys and Joey flee to a French farm where, hidden within a spinning windmill, Joey finds his first true respite from the war. Here, he meets Emilie, a frail but spirited little girl and the grandfather who hopes to shield her from the war as much as he can. Coming out of battle, they remind Joey of home. “The bond Emilie makes with Joey is very similar to the bond that Albert and Joey had,” notes Spielberg. “It’s as if the horse remembers Albert through this little girl who is taking such good care of him.”
Celebrated French actor Niels Arestrup, recently lauded for his role as a prison kingpin in Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” takes the role of the grandfather. After extensive auditions Spielberg cast London newcomer Celine Buckens, who learned to speak in a French accent for the film, as Emilie. Buckens had never spent much time around horses, but she understood deeply why Emilie becomes so attached to Joey and Topthorn. “She is very isolated during the war, but the horses become a source of hope for her, a connection to the world beyond her grandfather,” she says.
The film was a life-changing experience for Buckens. Not only was it her first movie, and a dream chance to work with Spielberg, but despite knowing little about them before, she developed what she believes will be a life-long passion for horses. “Now, I love horses,” she says. “I’ve realized what beautiful and gentle creatures they can be. The horses I got to know were so amazing.”
Another character who bonds with Joey in a profound way lies at the center of a scene that Spielberg says he is most proud of in “War Horse”: when a Geordie goes “over the top” of the trench, risking his life in No Man’s Land, to rescue a horse that has somehow clung to life in a smoky maze of barbwire. When the Geordie meets his German counterpart in this broken land around this horse in need, a hushed, tenuous human peace is momentarily struck.
In the role of the Geordie soldier is English actor Toby Kebbell, recently seen in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” Kebbell says the scene hit him hard. “When I finished it, it affected me far more heavily than I thought.” he recalls. “There was something so actual about going down into the trench, climbing out of the trench, climbing across No Man's Land. But that is why I act: for the experiences that come with it. It all became real to me.”
THE EQUINE CAST (AND THEIR TRAINERS)
If the human cast of “War Horse” was vital, the film’s cast of equines was even more so, for it was they who had to bridge the species gap to take audiences into a perspective unlike any other. The awe-inspiring allure of horses has captured the imagination of filmmakers since the genesis of the movies—indeed, some of the first moving images ever shot were of horses galloping. In the last century the horse has continued to play a rich role in movies, often in the background in Westerns, but taking the lead in such classics as “International Velvet,” “The Black Stallion” and “Seabiscuit.”
But never before “War Horse” had a film been attempted that was so dependent on the expressive abilities of horses or that accurately depicted the untold story of their sacrifices in war. So it was essential to Spielberg to find the perfect combination of devoted trainers and sensitive animals that would allow for both the safe undertaking of what he envisioned and genuine, soulful performances from the horses.
Ultimately, a large equine unit was forged, comprised of over 100 horses under the aegis of horse master Bobby Lovgren, who had also worked with the horses on “Seabiscuit” and is known for taking the art of horse training to new levels. Lovgren in turn recruited trainers from Australia, Spain and the U.S., as well as a team of groomers, handlers, transporters, a vet and even an equine hair and makeup unit, all diligently overseen by representative Barbara Carr from the American Humane Association.
“Bobby and his team literally performed miracles with the horses on this film,” says Spielberg. “The thing I emphasized from the outset was that the horses had to be safe. I love horses and I didn’t want them to ever be in harm’s way. Bobby did that. Another essential person was Barbara Carr, the American Humane representative, who was there for every single shot. I gave her full power to pull the plug if she ever felt any of the horses were not up to the challenges or if she thought they could be injured in any way. I wanted her to be part of all the action and stunts the horses perform, to watch the rehearsals where we moved in slow motion one step at a time, and to say ‘I think this is safe’ or not. It was a vital collaboration between me, Bobby and Barbara.”
When Lovgren saw the screenplay, he was moved by its rare portrait of animals in war, and by Joey’s steadfast heart, but he knew his work would be cut out for him—and for his horses. “At first, it was mind boggling to even think about,” he confesses. “The horses had so many different kinds of interactions with so many different kinds of people in war scenarios that would be very difficult for any animal, including a human being,” he comments. “But we set out to be very, very conscientious about safety, and our trainers were exceptional at what they did. No horse was ever injured on the set. When you see them limping in the film, they were trained to do that.”
Fourteen different horses played Joey in his progression from colt to adult, and they were tasked with stitching together a portrait of a horse that is every bit as naïve but ultimately as noble, loyal and brave as the young man who trained him. The horses included Lovgren’s own beloved horse Finder (whom he purchased after training him for “Seabiscuit”), who took on Joey’s most serious acting scenes. Lovgren says Finder has an uncanny ability to convey his feelings. “Two of the trickiest scenes for a horse are when Joey is caught in the barbed wire fence, which was actually made from plastic so as to be harmless to the horses, and when Topthorn struggles and Joey takes the reins to try to pull him up. It was so important to get the emotion of these scenes, but it’s quite hard to do that with a typical horse. I was really lucky with Finder because he has a personality that connects emotionally with audiences.”
Four different horses split the role of Joey’s wartime friend and rival, Topthorn, but in his most powerful scene, he is played by a special horse named George. Recalls Barbara Carr of American Humane: “George had to lay very still while Finder, who was playing Joey, had to come to his side. The horses were both so well trained and calm through all of this. Steven had the entire set quiet. No movement. He made everyone so aware of what was going on with the animals so that they were never put in any stress at all. And yet, it was so emotional, the whole crew was crying.”
Ali Bannister was instrumental in designing the “look” of Joey, and equine makeup supervisor Charlie Rogers had to make sure that all the different Joeys had that specific look. “Each of the Joeys was trained for specific actions, but they all had to look identical,” she explains. “Each had to have the four white socks and white star on their foreheads. It took 45 minutes to get a horse into ‘makeup’—and they all had different temperaments, so I had to have a lot of patience!”
Carr enjoyed watching Lovgren’s teamwork so caringly with the individual animals. “I was there for all of the horses’ training,” she explains. “I watched them learn to give certain looks and take on certain behaviors that humans can identify with, which are very difficult to train. And I watched them become accustomed to getting shaved to have the white star on their foreheads. In time, the horse became used to all of it.”
Often the horses were as enthusiastic about the scenes as the human actors, especially during the cavalry charges. “The horses were so excited to run,” says Carr. “We had a hard time stopping them because they were enjoying the run together as a giant herd, and it was so beautiful.”
The cast found the horses remarkably attuned to human reactions. “All through the film, I noticed that whatever I was feeling, the horses would reflect back to me,” says Tom Hiddleston, who plays Captain Nicholls. “They sense fear, they sense arrogance, and they can sense a kind of inner peace. When I was calm, they were relaxed and whenever I was nervous, they became excited.” Adds Patrick Kennedy, who plays Waverly: “We all became incredibly attached to the horses. Getting to know these horses and learning to ride them was the greatest privilege I’ve ever had.”
Spielberg was gratified by how much like actors the horses became. “I wanted it to feel like the horses were performing their parts as much as Emily Watson or Peter Mullan,” the director concludes. “And that is what happened. There were times during production when the horses reacted in ways I had never imagined a horse could react. You just sit back and thank your lucky stars that these horses are so cognizant that they are able to give everything to a moment.”
While nearly all of the scenes in “War Horse” are shot with living, breathing horses, Spielberg did commandeer an animatronic horse for portions of the sequence in No Man’s Land, after Joey is tangled in thorns of barbed wire, often a tragic ending for horses in WWI. Special effects supervisor Neil Corbould built a breathtakingly real, full-size Joey for the scene. “He was fully animatronics and sitting on his knees. We dug a 1.5-meter hole, and we had four or five puppeteers basically buried beneath the ground, operating the horse,” explains Corbould.
However, for the close-up of Joey’s face in that scene, Spielberg brought in Finder to get to the depth of Joey’s innermost feelings. Toby Kebbell, who plays the British soldier who helps to free Joey, recalls: “The animatronic horse was so realistic. It had the ability to blow air from the flair of its nose and to jolt its head. It was very close to Joey, but there was nothing like the real thing!”
THE CAVALRY CHARGE
Some of the most intensive work with the horses came in Joey’s first encounter with human warfare as he takes part in one of the last classic cavalry charges against German forces. Cavalry charges had been a staple of war since the days of armored knights but they saw their twilight in WWI as a combination of barbed wire and machine gun fire proved too devastating for mounted troops. In 1914, some 10% of British troops were cavalry but by 1917, the number had dwindled to less than 2%.
To make sure the authentic cavalry charge that kicks off Joey’s war experience went off without a hitch, Spielberg used an unusual amount of pre-visualization. “It was very important that everybody, especially the horse trainers and riders, be able to see what was being required of them. I wanted the Humane Association, the stunt people and the trainers to be able to look at pre-viz and say either ‘Not safe,’ or ‘Yes, we can do that.’ It was about being prepared and keeping the horses safe.”
Spielberg also recruited special cavalry adviser Dr. David Kenyon, who was amazed to see the history he’s studied for years come to life before his eyes. “Having spent so long reading about it in books, to see this in front of me was the greatest thrill around,” recalls Kenyon. “The first time the riders were fully uniformed, all equipped correctly, with the horses reacting just as they would have at that time, it sent a shiver down my spine.”
The sheer number of horses involved was daunting. “The cavalry charges needed in excess of 100 horses,” notes Kathleen Kennedy. “And those were shots that we had to get right in two or three takes because the horses would get tired. It was a real challenge.”
Adding more visual dynamism to the scene, Spielberg had the horses racing through tents. “We used quick releases and bungee rigs inside tents so, as the horses ran past, the tents would collapse without getting in their way,” explains special effects supervisor Neil Corbould. “We also used breakaway tables and chairs made from foam, and with the right sound effects, it was as if the horses smashed right through them. But it did not hurt them at all.”
To show what the cavalry was up against in the newfangled modern warfare, the film’s master armorer, Simon Atherton, procured several vintage Maxim guns—the first self-powered machine gun, also known as “The Devil’s Paintbrush” for its spray of firepower. “We found dealers and collectors who let us borrow guns that worked for real, but obviously, we were firing blanks,” Atherton notes. “In contrast, the British soldiers are outfitted with replica 1908 Patten swords and the officers with 1912 Patten swords. To keep the sabers light, we made them from bamboo and then chromed them.”
While safety was the priority, the cast was swept away by the pageantry. “There is something quite heroic about men riding into battle on horses. It must've been a pretty awesome sight in 1914, with all the incredible sort of purpose and pomp that went with it,” says Benedict Cumberbatch.
It was also a sobering experience for the young actors. Recalls Tom Hiddleston: “Steven gave me the most amazing note during the cavalry charge. He said, ‘Give me your war face at the top of the shot, but as you feel the camera move across your face, I want you to de-age yourself by 20 years. When you see those machine guns, you’re 9 years old. I want to see the child in you.’ I thought that was one of the most astonishing acting notes I’ve ever been given. He captured the loss of innocence that came with that charge.”
“WAR HORSE’S” VISUAL CHARACTER: LANDSCAPE
In “War Horse” there are equine characters and human characters, but a third type of character is equally important: the landscapes, which span from the jaggedly romantic farmlands of Devon to the shadowy skies and battle-scarred earth of the war’s No Man’s Land. For Spielberg each of Joey’s stops on his travels, from farm to forest to trench, offers another chance to bring the audience into the vast breadth of what he experiences—much of which lies beyond words.
To forge a world that is painterly in its expression but starkly real in its impact, Spielberg worked with an artistic team that has long been part of his creative process, including cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter and costume designer Joanna Johnston. “Janusz, Rick and Joanna were really enabled to shine in this film,” says Kennedy. “The extent of the research that Rick and Joanna conducted for the sets and costumes, finding examples that we haven’t seen before in movies, was quite remarkable. And Janusz managed to gradually evolve the look of the film from lush, pastoral beauty to the horrors of war in a brilliant way. The combination of their talents gives the film a unique, authentic look that is very extraordinary.”
Kaminski, an Oscar® winner for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List,” was compelled by the visual ambition of the story, to which he knew Spielberg would aspire to bring the precise mix of stylistic elements most suited to it. “This is a quintessential Spielberg movie,” the cinematographer says, “with great emotion, great action, great characters all combined in an intimate story to which Steven brings a great scope of storytelling. ‘War Horse’ is very much old-fashioned filmmaking, and nobody makes movies like this anymore but Spielberg.”
Having worked together for so long, Spielberg and Kaminski have an unspoken language with each other. “We both have a similar take on how to tell stories,” Kaminski notes. “He works with the actors and the verbal language and I work with the shadows and the non-verbal and it’s a blast.”
Kaminski goes on: “We have very little conversation about what the movie will look like. We briefly talk about certain influences—and in this case we talked about John Ford’s composition and the importance of the characters being part of the land yet also shaping the land, the way that humans do. The style reflects that. I used very big, strong light, because I wanted to see the blue skies, the puffy clouds and the people standing out from the land.”
Throughout, Kaminski worked with the mercurial English weather rather than fight it. “The constant unpredictability of the weather just meant we had to accommodate our shooting style to take advantage of it, using the rain, the clouds, the bursts of sun to make the film better,” he explains.
In Kaminski’s eyes those shifts only highlight the fluctuating moods of Joey’s journey. “For me this movie was a very interesting experience because I was able to create so many different looks,” he concludes. “There are looks that allowed me to be very beautiful with the photography, and looks that are realistic and gritty. At the end when the horse and boy are reunited with the family, I was almost going with homage to ‘Gone With the Wind.’ The skies are very deep red, the colors are storybook, and you sense that their journey has come to a close in a glorious moment of reconnection.”
For production designer Carter, a recent Oscar® winner for “Avatar,” everything hinged on the shifting tones of the land as Joey passes through. “The story of the land parallels Joey’s,” he says. “Devon is harsh and rocky but also idyllic. Then we arrive in Europe and begin to see the war’s degradation of the land until we get to No Man’s Land, which is like the moon—so devoid of life.”
Carter’s first task was finding just the right spot for the Narracott Farm the only true home Albert and Joey know. He discovered it in the coarse, weather-beaten hills of Dartmoor National Park in South Devon, where the bleak but hypnotic splendor of the moorlands has been preserved. “It took a long time to find a location to convey the natural ruggedness,” he notes. “Finally in Dartmoor we found a derelict building in the middle of nowhere that we brought back to life. It had 360-degree views, which give it a sense of being part of something huge and imposing—the expanse of skies, the force of the elements—and that created a beauty beyond what we had hoped for.”
Spielberg was awed by the region’s wildness, which seemed to echo the hard-knock yet close-knit lives of the Narracotts. “I wasn’t prepared for the kind of beautiful desolation of the moors,” he says. “It used to be a forested area of tall trees but it was deforested hundreds of years ago. So now it still looks like a place that could support a proud stand of trees, but, instead, as far as the eye can see, it’s just rocky hills. And then the skies over the moors are every bit as dramatic as our story.”
The director adds: “In this part of the movie, the land is so important. The land meant everything in Devon. The people were devoted to the land, even if the land was not always devoted to them.”
That mix of raw beauty and hardscrabble people is exactly what author Michael Morpurgo says he dreamed of Spielberg capturing in the film. “Steven really understands rural life,” he says. “I think in those early scenes he shows that this was a life that took a lot out of people, physically and spiritually. He shows what people had to endure. So along with the affection and the loyalty, trust and courage, there is also a hardness to the world in the film that keeps it from being sentimental.”
Equally key was finding the right locale for the opening scene in which Ted Narracott bids with wild abandon on Joey. This sequence was filmed in Castle Combe, a preserved medieval village in Wiltshire that seemed to have walked right out of another time. “When I first got to Castle Combe and looked around, I asked, ‘Was this built for tourists?’ But no,” says Spielberg. “It’s such a quaint little village, you’ve never seen anything like it before. It was the perfect place for both the purchase of Joey and the scene of the men going off to war with the faith they will be back by Christmas.”
Tough as life is in Devon, it contrasts sharply with Joey’s experiences in the war, which begin with the cavalry charge. From a design perspective it was one of the most complex sequences, its emotional impact essential to setting Joey off into uncertainty. “Steven had an image in his mind of reeds blowing, out of which suddenly come the soldiers and horses who move from that idyllic backlit image through the field into a dark forest,” recalls Carter. “I think these are the kinds of images that stay with you, maybe because there is beauty amid horror, maybe because it leaves so much to the imagination.”
It was in Bourne Wood, a primeval forest in Surrey County, that Carter found the spot to shoot Joey and Topthorn’s Sisyphean task of hauling a massive German cannon up a steep hill. “Rick found an amazing location,” recalls Spielberg. “It looked like a blasted land, as if it had been denuded by war. It would be one of the most grueling scenes we shot in the whole picture.”
While the original German Howitzers weighed upwards of 8 tons, the production built two lighter replicas that still tilted the scales at about 2 tons apiece. To keep the horses safe, they then added mechanical winches that aided them as they hauled the gun up the precipitous incline.
Another favorite set for Carter was the French farmhouse where Joey is taken in by lighthearted little Emilie and her devoted grandfather. “I actually was thinking of Heidi and her grandfather while designing those scenes,” he comments. “I wanted the farm to be an idyllic oasis that still had the ravages of war around it. It was important that the setting give the characters and audience a moment to catch their breath, restore their sense of hope and enjoy a little freedom from the carnage.”
Wisley Airfield, an abandoned WWII military testing field in Surrey, was another indispensable location, providing the wide-open spaces in which Carter was able to recreate the claustrophobic warren of trenches of the French Somme region, where troops fought some of the deadliest battles in all of history. He and his team upturned the topsoil to forge the haunting No Man’s Land and then used the same soil to build berms for the British trenches and the German encampment. Again, Spielberg was specific in his vision, wanting to evoke both chaos and indelible details. “It was important that it was not just a big mud hole,” explains Carter. “We created it with an underlying structure so that Steven and the camera crew could move around to find just the right camera and lighting positions.”
Spielberg was awed by the transformation. “Rick did the most extraordinary work of all taking that flat, disused airfield and turning it into the Somme and No Man’s Land in 1917,” he says.
Trench warfare advisor Andrew Robertshaw was also impressed by the work. “The first day that I came to this location, I was stunned,” he remembers. “Here was the Great War in three dimensions. I could walk through it. I could smell it. It was really a very great evocation of what it was like. It gave the cast a real sense of what it was like for their grandparents or great grandparents.”
Adds Kathleen Kennedy: “Rick’s ability to transform a piece of land into what we’d only seen in photographs from the period was amazing. We could have done it all in post-production with CGI, but this gave the cast a deeper sense of the reality of what they were portraying. It was an old-fashioned way of moviemaking. And we weren’t trying to do a big effects movie—we were trying to tell a story that would be true to its environment. It was the best way to capture the epic scope of the storytelling.”
The trenches proved treacherous even in modern times. Spielberg shares one of his experiences in them: “It rained constantly, so we were always slipping and sliding, and it was just a mess to shoot in. One day, I was walking into the trenches after a terrible rainstorm, and the water was about 18 inches deep as I was slogging through in my waders. Suddenly, I hit a hole about 8 feet deep and fell right down. I went completely underwater but got pulled out of the hole by my crew.”
Later, all of the film’s diverse locations and moods were unified in the work of three-time Oscar®-winning editor Michael Kahn, who has worked with Spielberg since “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977. “Michael is probably, next to Johnny Williams, my second-longest creative partnership,” notes Spielberg. “He has never lost his sensitivity and his willingness to tell me to back off, and from the start he really felt this movie. Michael really felt this one right to his core, as we all did.”
As they built the film from the most visually and emotionally significant moments, one element seemed to glue all the stories of “War Horse” together for Kahn. Some might call it hope; Kahn calls it love. “I think the movie is about people, and animals, trying to stay together with the ones they love,” he summarizes. “And I felt that strongly throughout the picture. The kind of love and affection you see surrounding Joey is hard to come by. That a horse can inspire that says volumes.”
NON-UNIFORM UNIFORMS: THE COSTUMES
Historical research and rich character details also merged in the work of costume designer Joanna Johnston, another long-time Spielberg collaborator, who cut her teeth in authentic military worlds with “Saving Private Ryan.” Like many on the production, she also had a personal link to WWI. “My grandmother’s brother was in the war, and I had an image of him just before he went on a horse that is looking forward while he’s looking back,” she says. “Right away I sent it to Steven, and it became my personal way into the film and gave me something on which to base the scope of the costumes.”
Ultimately, Johnston and her team made 85% of the film’s clothing by hand, largely based on historic documentation. “Joanna did an incredible job with such meticulous research, to figure out what all the different nationality troops wore,” says Spielberg. “She even found out how German helmets evolved from 1914 when they had those spikes on the top to the more traditional German helmet that developed in the second half of the war. She spent a lot of time at the Imperial War Museum, assuring that each costume was correct right down to the threads they used to sew them together.”
Johnston approached the design as if each different adventure Joey finds himself in was a new chapter in a book. “It was absolutely fantastic for me to do it that way, because each of the episodes in the story could then be defined very clearly. You turn the page and you're on a new chapter. And the different chapters hardly overlap,” she notes. “I wanted to give each section its own sense of design. Historically, everything was created more or less as it would have been except for the scene at the French farm. That I made a little bit sweeter than it probably would have been because I felt that was an oasis in that war-torn time. It’s this one place of safety tucked away in a corner.”
To underscore the Narracott family’s salt-of-the-earth origins, she looked at rural clothing of the period. “They are country people, so I tried to combine texture and simplicity,” she explains. “With young Albert, the thing was to keep him looking very youthful and endearing. Ted is more old-fashioned, wearing a jacket that he’s probably had for at least 15 years. Rosie’s clothes are very practical, but she does her best, always trying to keep standards in their home as good as she can.”
For the military uniforms, Johnston’s research showed that they were hardly very uniform at the time. There was no standard-issue officer’s uniform at all. On the contrary, officers went to personal tailors to have their uniforms put together to their own specifications, which allowed Johnston more leeway as well. She used different fabrics and different shades for British cavalrymen Nicholls, Stewart and Waverly, setting them apart. “My military costume group loved it because there really hasn’t been any movie set in WWI of this scale in a while. It was very thrilling for them,” she muses.
The actors found the costumes adding layers to their performances. “The costumes were so important,“ says Emily Watson. “Rosie has simple clothes, yet every fabric was carefully chosen to be strong and feminine at the same time. Everything was beautifully hand-stitched with incredible detail.”
SOUND AND FURY: THE SCORE AND SOUND DESIGN
One of Spielberg’s longest-running cinematic collaborations has been with five-time Oscar®-winning composer John Williams, whose lush, emotive scores are among the most recognized of all time. In addition to “War Horse,” Williams also scored Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” this year.
“This has been an amazing year for John, because I think these are two of our best collaborations,” says Spielberg. “The scores for ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and for ‘War Horse’ are diametrically opposite musical approaches to two diametrically opposite motion pictures, which just shows that Johnny can fill any vessel and that he is always in a liquid state of genius music-making. I don’t know how he did both in the same year…but he did.”
Williams calls Spielberg a “musical director,” and their storytelling skills have always fit together like two puzzle pieces. But for “War Horse,” Williams would have to go into new territory. He was drawn to the film’s scope and period but admits he had little connection to horses at the outset. To inspire his imagination, Williams began his work by going to a California horse farm and simply observing. “I got in the habit of watching the horses in the morning, and I began to see how they connect to each other and how they became curious about me. That’s when I really began to get the sense that horses are very special creatures. They have been magnificent and trusted friends for such a long time and have done so much for us with such grace,” says the composer.
He also was inspired by the vast geography covered as Joey makes his way through the battlefields of WWI. “This was a very rich opportunity musically because it is both about humans and animals and it takes place in three different countries. It starts out in a more intimate way, on the farm with the bonding of Joey and Albert. Then, the eruption of war changes the scale, and the music does a 180-degree turn. From this bucolic, gentle, even sentimental music, you move into the music of battle surges and gripping struggles. It’s a musical journey full of dimension and emotional content, and I tried also to create an atmosphere reflective of that period, which was lyrical, poetic and tragic.”
As with Spielberg, the landscapes became a source of creative fuel for Williams. “The beauty of Devon and the bigness of it spoke to me,” he says. “We focus musically on the bonding theme in a way that you also feel the power of the landscape. The opening of the film is a flute solo followed by string orchestra, and Steven agreed with me that this very simple, spare opening would say more about the breadth of the countryside than anything else. It just seemed to me beautiful.”
Though Williams found the war sequences shattering, he says the score keeps reminding the audience of the more noble feelings that drive Joey and Albert back to one another. This also came out in the recording sessions, which brought together some 90 skilled musicians. “The score was joyous to record because it’s very performance dependent,” says Williams. “This is a lyrical film that required a lyrical response. So the recording sessions were more like playing a concert than they were like recording a score. We tried to lose gravity, to get all 90 musicians as well as Steven, flying along.”
As always, Spielberg was thrilled to watch Williams in his element. “The score goes from big, symphonic orchestral movements to the most gentle music and back again—and John felt every moment of it. He doesn’t intellectualize his approach to scoring. It’s about what he feels from scene to scene. And that’s why he is who he is.”
Adding more aural details to “War Horse” is the work of sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who makes every hoof beat, every rifle crack and every whinny a part of the all-enveloping experience of the film. Says Spielberg: “Gary went out to find authenticity with his sound design, to find sounds we would have been picking up if we were actually in the film’s situations. He walked the moors with microphones and also made a great contribution to the vocalizations of Joey, Topthorn and all the horses. He found ways to use sound to give them even more character.”
While Rydstrom worked with a whole panoply of sounds, from the explosive thuds of battle to the whistling winds of the Devon moors (and even drove a horse plow through Skywalker Ranch to record the distinctive churning sound), his favorite work was with the horses. “It was truly fun being able to give Joey and Topthorn even more personality through sound,” he explains. “We recorded all kinds of horse vocals from horses of all different sizes. One of the more emotional sources I found was miniature horses that have a slightly different range to their voices. A lot of Joey’s vocals are slowed-down miniature horses. We then spent a lot of time building up the sound of each horse to feel completely natural. When you start adding all these details, the horses come more and more alive.”
Rydstrom’s most subtle work came amidst the film’s most hushed scene—as Joey is cut free of his barbed wire in No Man’s Land. “It’s very quiet, so the sound is really important,” he says. “We wanted to get every detail of cutting the barbed wire and then Joey‘s vocalization that is so powerful.”
Throughout, Rydstrom worked closely with John Williams. “John’s work was a bigger part of the mix than in other films I’ve done with Steven,” he comments. “Steven really wanted to interweave the sound effects with music and dialogue, and I think John’s score unifies it all in a beautiful, thematic way. Every time I hear the music, it makes me emotional. It’s such an operatic story, and the music brings all these disparate parts of the journey together.”
THE LEGACY OF WWI HORSES
Throughout human history, animals have accompanied soldiers into battle, their natural, wild instincts recruited to serve human aims. The first mounted cavalries appeared by 1000 BC in Assyria, the great conqueror Hannibal traveled with a phalanx of armored elephants and the Roman Empire trained “war pigs” whose ferocity was legend. But it was during WWI that literally millions of animals became an integral part of military operations—living, dying and surviving right next to the young soldiers, many of whom had left behind beloved pets and farm animals, on the battlefields.
Dogs and birds carried messages, camels and mules hauled equipment and even house cats were used to reduce the rat population in trenches. Still, the animal species that sacrificed the most in the Great War was the horse – with somewhere between 4 and 8 million perishing on all sides. Horses of all types served in the war, from large draft horses to the show hunters like Joey, favored by the cavalry, but as the war drew on, any horse available was commandeered. Conditions were extremely difficult for them. Just like the men around them, they faced automatic artillery, poison gas, freezing winters, rampant disease, lack of food and sheer exhaustion and shock from being driven so hard. At times during WWI, as many as 1,000 horses a day arrived from Britain to replace those who had been lost. (American horses also served in the war, with 182,000 headed overseas and 60,000 perishing.)
Yet for the soldiers, the horses that kept going day after day became a great source of solace and inspiration. Those who rode or worked with horses bonded deeply with their charges, moved by the animals’ stoic work ethic and willingness to attempt the most unimaginable feats without complaint.
The horse would never again be called upon at such a level in wartime. Horses did continue to be a part of military campaigns in WWII, used as a means of transport in rough terrain and, occasionally, as cavalry. Finally recognizing their contributions, Britain instituted the Dickin Medal in 1943 to be presented to those military animals displaying “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty.”
Today, few military organizations utilize horses in battle (save for the Sudan’s Janjaweed), though cities the world over maintain the war horse’s ancestors: mounted police forces. While the individual horses that gave so much of themselves in WWI will never be known, appreciation has grown of horses’ wartime sacrifices as more people learn about them. In 2004, the Animals in War memorial opened in London’s Hyde Park, including the bronze sculpture of a lone, noble horse staring off into the distance.
Steven Spielberg believes a big part of the appeal of “War Horse” lies in the deep link that remains from those times when horses were so integral to the aims of human societies. “Horses were the primary means of human transportation for centuries. Great armies fought on horses to great achievements. We got around on horseback, horses pulled fire engines and buggies,” he notes. “But with the advent of the motorcar, horses started to be relegated back to the fields or to sports and they no longer had the same relevance to the necessities of society. And yet, today they still feel very special to us. I think somewhere in our DNA, there will always be respect and admiration for horses.”
WORLD WAR I FACTS
ABOUT THE CAST
EMILY WATSON (Rosie Narracott) was born in London, England. She made her feature-film debut in director Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves,” for which she earned wide critical acclaim and an Academy Award® nomination. She subsequently earned a second Oscar® nomination for her role as Jacqueline de Pré in “Hilary and Jackie.”
Among her most notable screen credits are “The Cradle Will Rock,” “Angela’s Ashes,” “Gosford Park,” “Red Dragon,” “Separate Lies,” “The Proposition,” “Miss Potter,” “Synecdoche,” “Metroland,” “Trixie,” “Punch Drunk Love,” “Fireflies in the Garden” and “The Boxer.”
In addition to her Academy Award® nominations, Watson has been nominated three times for the Golden Globe® Award (“Breaking the Waves,” “Hilary and Jackie” and “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”) and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for “Gosford Park.”
Watson is equally acclaimed for her stage performances. For the Royal Shakespeare Company she starred in “The Changeling,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Taming of the Shrew” and “A Jovial Crew.” For the Royal National Theatre she was directed by Howard Davies in “The Children’s Hour.” Sam Mendes directed her in “Twelfth Night” and “Uncle Vanya.”
On television Watson starred in the HBO movie “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and Lifetime’s “Memory Keepers Daughter.” For the BBC she starred in “Mill on the Floss” and “A Summer Day’s Dream.” This year she starred for ITV1 in “Appropriate Adult.”
Watson is also a screenwriter. In collaboration with her husband, Jack Waters, they wrote the script for “Mood Indigo.”
DAVID THEWLIS’ (Lyons) breakthrough feature-film performance came in Mike Leigh’s “Naked,” for which he won awards for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Awards, the National Society of Film Critics Awards, the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards and the Evening Standard British Film Awards.
Thewlis most recently starred in “The Lady,” directed by Luc Besson, and “Anonymous,” directed by Roland Emmerich. His other recent film credits include “London Boulevard,” “Mr. Nice,” “Veronika Decides to Die” and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” Thewlis also played the recurring character of Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter films: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” and “Part 2.”
Among Thewlis’ other film credits are “The Inner Life of Martin Frost,” “The Omen,” “All the Invisible Children,” “The New World,” “The Kingdom of Heaven,” “Timeline,” “Gangster No. 1,” “Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?,” “Besieged,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Seven Years in Tibet,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “Total Eclipse,” “Dragonheart,” “Restoration,” “Black Beauty,” “The Trial,” “Resurrected,” “Vroom,” “Divorcing Jack,” “Short and Curlies” and “Life Is Sweet.”
On television Thewlis played the twin roles of Joe and Harry in “The Street,” for which he was nominated in the category of Outstanding Actor in a TV Series Drama at the 2008 Monte Carlo TV Festival. Other television credits include “Dinotopia,” “Endgame,” “Dandelion Dead,” the award-winning “Prime Suspect III,” “Frank Stubbs,” “Journey to Knock,” “Filipino Dreamgirls,” “Skulduggery,” “A Bit of a Do,” “Road,” “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” and “The Singing Detective.”
In addition to his screen work Thewlis has also starred on stage in Sam Mendes’ “The Sea” at the Royal National Theatre and in Max Stafford-Clark’s “Ice Cream” at the Royal Court and “Buddy Holly,” “Ruffian on the Stairs/The Woolley” and “Lady and the Clarinet.”
Thewlis is also known for his work as a director. His feature film “Cheeky,” which he also wrote and starred in, was released by Guerilla Pictures in 2007. His short film “Hello, Hello, Hello,” which he wrote and directed, was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Short Film.
Thewlis’ many achievements were recognized at the 2008 British Independent Film Awards when he received the prestigious Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film.
In addition to his work in film work, Thewlis is also a recognized author. His first novel, “The Late Hector Kipling,” was published to critical acclaim in 2007.
PETER MULLAN (Ted Narracott) began acting while in college in his native Scotland. Among his early feature-film acting credits were “The Big Man,” “Riff Raff,” “Shallow Grave,” “Braveheart,” “Trainspotting,” “My Name Is Joe” (for which he won numerous honors, including the Best Actor award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival), “Miss Julie” and “Session 9.”
More recently Mullan starred in “Criminal,” “Blinded,” “On a Clear Day,” “Children of Men,” “Dragnet,” “Stone of Destiny” and “The Red Riding Trilogy.” He also appeared as Death Eater Yaxley in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” and “Part 2.” He will next be seen starring with James McAvoy in writer/director Eran Creevy’s drama “Welcome to the Punch.”
Mullan is also an award-winning screenwriter and director. His short films include “Close,” “Good Day for the Bad Guys” and “Fridge.” He made his feature directorial and writing debut with “Orphans” and won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for Best Director for “The Magdalene Sisters.” In addition he directed himself in “Neds” and also won the Sundance World Cinema Special Jury Prize, Dramatic, for Breakout Performance for his role in “Tyrannosaur.”
On television, Mullan starred in “Rab C. Nesbitt,” “Ruffian Hearts,” “Entering Blue Zone,” “Shoe Box Zoo,” “Boy A” and “The Fixer.”
NIELS ARESTRUP (Grandfather) is a film and stage actor. Arestrup was born in Paris; his father was Danish and his mother was French.
Arestrup has won two César Awards for Best Supporting Actor, for “De Battre Mon Cœur s’est Arrêté” (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”) and “Un Prophète” (“The Prophet”), both of which were directed by Jacques Audiard. Other film credits include “Tu Seras Mon Fils” (“You Will Be My Son”), “Sarah’s Key,” with Kristin Scott Thomas, “The Big Picture,” “Je n’ai Rien Oublié” (“Small World”), with Gerard Depardieu, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Farewell,” with Willem Dafoe, Diane Kruger and Emir Kusturica, and “The Candidate,” which he also wrote and directed.
His theater credits include “Diplomatie,” directed by Stephan Meldegg, “Beyrouth Hôtel,” which he directed, “Eva,” directed by Daniel Colas, “Lettres à un Jeune Poète,” which he directed, “Quartett,” directed by Hans Peter Cloos, “L’Homme, la Bête et la Vertu,” directed by Jean-Claude Idee, and “Mademoiselle Julie,” directed by Andréas Voutsinas.
Arestrup resides in Paris.
TOM HIDDLESTON (Captain Nicholls) was born in London, England, and grew up in Oxford. There he was educated at The Dragon School and later at Eton College, where his interest and involvement in theater and film began to flourish. Toward the end of his time at school, Hiddleston applied to study classics at Cambridge University and was offered a place at Pembroke College. Before starting in the summer of 1999, he played Captain Stanhope in a stage production of R.C. Sherriff’s “Journey’s End.”
During his second term at Cambridge, Hiddleston was cast in his first television role in Stephen Whittaker’s adaptation of “Nicholas Nickleby” (2001) for ITV, starring Charles Dance, James D’Arcy and Sophia Myles. During his last two years at Cambridge, he appeared in two television dramas co-produced by HBO and the BBC: “Conspiracy” and “The Gathering Storm,” the critically acclaimed and Emmy® Award-winning biopic of Winston Churchill, starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave, in which he played the role of Churchill’s son, Randolph.
Hiddleston graduated from Cambridge in the summer of 2002 with a “double-first” honors degree and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He graduated from RADA in June 2005 and within a few weeks was cast as Oakley in the British independent film “Unrelated,” directed by Joanna Hogg. He then met Declan Donnellan, artistic director of the award-winning theater company Cheek by Jowl, and was cast as Alsemero in “The Changeling” by Thomas Middleton, starring with Olivia Williams and Will Keen. The production toured Europe for six months in 2006 and ran in the main house at the Barbican for six weeks. For his performance Hiddleston was nominated for the 2006 Ian Charleson Award, which recognizes exceptional classical stage performances by actors under the age of 30.
Cheek by Jowl once again asked Hiddleston to perform for them as the hero, Posthumus Leonatus, and the antihero, Cloten, in Declan Donnellan’s production of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.” The production toured the world for seven months in 2007, playing in New York, Milan, Paris, Moscow, Madrid and London, at the Barbican. Later that summer he shot the period BBC drama “Miss Austen Regrets,” about the last five years of Jane Austen’s life. That production went on to win both a BAFTA Award and a Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Award. He was then cast as Cassio in Michael Grandage’s production of “Othello” at the Donmar Warehouse, starring Ewan McGregor, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kelly Reilly. Hiddleston was nominated twice in the category of Best Newcomer at the 2008 Laurence Olivier Awards for “Cymbeline” and “Othello” and won the category for his performance in “Cymbeline.”
In 2008 Hiddleston joined Kenneth Branagh to film the first series of “Wallander,” based on the detective novels by Swedish author Henning Mankell, which won BAFTA and Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and received Emmy®, Golden Globe® and Satellite Awards nominations. In the same year he went on to star in the Donmar Warehouse/West End production of Chekhov’s “Ivanov,” again opposite Branagh.
As well as shooting the second series of “Wallander” in 2009, Hiddleston also starred in the second series of the highly acclaimed BAFTA and Emmy® Award-winning “Return to Cranford,” starring opposite Judi Dench and Jonathan Pryce.
In 2009 Hiddleston also filmed Joanna Hogg’s “Archipelago,” in which he played the lead role. He was also cast in the role of Loki in Branagh’s hit feature “Thor” for Marvel. In 2010 he filmed a number of projects, including Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and “The Deep Blue Sea,” opposite Rachel Weisz. He is currently filming the highly anticipated “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which is due for release in May 2012.
JEREMY IRVINE (Albert Narracott) makes his feature-film debut in “War Horse.”
Currently in production on BBC Films’ “Great Expectations,” in which he stars as Pip, the classic Dickens story is directed by Mike Newell and includes Academy Award® winner Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter. He recently completed production on the independent feature “Now Is Good,” opposite Dakota Fanning, based on Jenny Downham’s novel “Before I Die.” Irvine will next begin shooting “The Railway Man” opposite Colin Firth. The film is based on the WWII memoir by Eric Lomax, who was captured and tortured by the Japanese and forced to work on the infamous Burma Railway. Lomax will be portrayed by both Irvine and Firth at different ages.
Irvine studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has appeared in stage productions, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Dunsinane.”
He resides in England.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH (Major Stewart) currently stars as Sherlock Holmes in Steven Moffat and Mark Gattiss’ BBC adaptation of the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels and is also filming the BBC production of “Parade’s End.” This year on film he portrayed Peter Gilliam alongside Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy and Colin Firth in director Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” His other film credits include “Starter for 10” with James McAvoy, “Amazing Grace,” “Third Star,” “Stuart: A Life Backward” opposite Tom Hardy, “The Other Boleyn Girl,” with Scarlett Johansson, and, as the dastardly Paul Marshall, director Joe Wright’s Oscar®-nominated “Atonement,” with Keira Knightley and Vanessa Redgrave. In 2012 he will be seen as Smaug the dragon in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.”
Cumberbatch studied drama at Manchester University before training at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Early TV roles included “Tipping the Velvet,” “Silent Witness,” “Nathan Barley,” “Spooks,” “Dunkirk,” “To the Ends of the Earth” and “The Last
Enemy.” However, it was his powerful portrayal of Cambridge University cosmologist Stephen Hawking, in the BBC’s highly acclaimed drama “Hawking,” which brought him to the attention of an international audience and earned him his first BAFTA nomination. His second BAFTA nomination came in 2010 for his portrayal of Bernard in the BBC adaptation of “Small Island.”
On stage Cumberbatch most recently starred in Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed London production of “Frankenstein,” alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein/The Creature with Johnny Lee Miller. He also appeared at the Royal National Theatre in Thea Sharrock’s award-winning revival of Terence Rattigan’s “After the Dance.” He spent two seasons with The New Shakespeare Co. Ltd. in Trevor Nunn’s production of Ibsen’s “Lady From the Sea” and played George in Tennessee Williams’ “Period of Adjustment.” He portrayed Teesman in Richard Eyre’s West End ensemble production of “Hedda Gabler,” for which he received Olivier and Ian Charleston Award nominations. He also portrayed Berenger in Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” and appeared in “The Arsonists” and “The City” at the Royal Court Theatre.
TOBY KEBBELL (Geordie Soldier) first gained wide attention for his performance as Anthony in Shane Meadows’ feature film “Dead Man’s Shoes” (2004), for which he received a BAFTA nomination. He was also nominated for Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards. Kebbell then appeared in Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” (2004) as well as Woody Allen’s “Match Point” (2005).
In 2007 he played Rob Gretton, the real-life manager of the English rock band Joy Division, in Anton Corbijn’s award-winning biopic “Control,” for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the British Independent Film Awards. He was also nominated for the London Critics’ Circle Best Supporting Actor Award.
Kebbell was then cast in the lead role in Jimmy McGovern’s BBC series “The Street,” which subsequently won the BAFTA for Best Drama Series on Television. His other work for the BBC includes a modern retelling of “Macbeth,” which also starred James McAvoy.
In September 2008 Kebbell starred in Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla,” with Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler and Thandie Newton. His performance was a true-to-life imitation of a drug addict’s life, and this role earned him a Best Actor Award in Britain’s top-selling daily newspaper. He also appeared with Michelle Pfeiffer in Stephen Frears’ “Cheri” (2009) and with Jake Gyllenhaal and Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley in the epic adventure “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” In addition he also starred as Drake Stone in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Nicolas Cage.
Among Kebbell’s other recent and memorable roles are playing John Wilkes Booth in Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator” and Miller in “The Veteran.” Kebbell co-stars with Liam Neeson and Gemma Arterton in “Clash of the Titans 2,” which is set for release in 2012.
On stage Kebbell appeared in David Hare’s adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s “Enemies” and at the Playhouse in R.C. Sherriff’s classic “Journey’s End.”
CELINE BUCKENS (Emilie) was born in 1996 and grew up in London in a French-speaking Belgian family. She splits her time between London, her boarding school in Ascot, and Brussels.
Celine has shown a real passion for acting, drama and singing from a very early age. She enjoys performing at school and professionally and has played a variety of roles in school plays, from a wicked teacher in “The Burston Drum” to Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls.” Celine has also achieved grades with distinction in both Guildhall and Trinity drama exams and in the Associated Board of Music’s singing examinations.
Additionally Celine has appeared in several productions with W11 Opera in London, including “Antiphony,” “Chincha Chancha Curoo” and “Shadow Tracks.” Celine also enjoys playing the cello and the guitar.
RAINER BOCK (Brandt) was born in 1954. He started his career working in local repertory theater and has worked in Heidelberg, Mannheim and Stuttgart and at the Residentheater in Munich.
Bock has also worked in television and feature films. In 2008 he starred in Michael Haneke’s masterpiece “The White Ribbon,” and his international career was born. Since then he has appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Unknown Identity.”
Bock’s other credits include “Russendisko,” directed by Oliver Schmitz, “Hansel & Gretel—Witch Hunters,” directed by Tommy Wirkola, “Wer Wenn Nicht Wir,” directed by Andres Veiel, “Polizeiruf 110—Inshallah,” directed by Hans Steinbichler, “Dreileben—Etwas Besseres Als Den Tod,” directed by Christian Petzold, “Für Immer und Ewig,” directed by Christoph Stark, “Stauffenberg,” directed by Jo Baier, “Im Winter Ein Jahr,” directed by Caroline Link, and “Im Schatten,” directed by Thomas Arslan.
PATRICK KENNEDY (Lieutenant Waverly) was raised in London and began his acting career with writer/director Peter Greenaway’s adventure/bio/drama “The Tulse Luper Suitcases.” He subsequently appeared in Steven Spielberg’s historical drama “Munich.” His additional feature films include “Atonement,” “Me and Orson Welles,” “The Last Station,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and Nathaniel Mellors’ “Ourhouse,” which screened at the Venice Biennale this year.
On stage in England, Kennedy has portrayed a wide variety of characters in such classic plays as “Thérèse Raquin” at the National Theatre as well as “The Glass Menagerie,” “Measure for Measure,” “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Suddenly, Last Summer” and “Everything Is Illuminated.”
Kennedy has had many roles on British television programs, including his critically acclaimed performance as Richard Carstone in the BBC’s “Bleak House” as well as appearances in “Cambridge Spies,” “Einstein and Eddington,” “The 39 Steps” and “Consuming Passions.” He will soon be seen in “Black Mirror” and “Parade’s End.”
GEOFF BELL (Sergeant Sam Perkins) is one of the U.K.’s most prominent actors. His long list of feature-film credits include “Route Irish,” “Brighton Rock,” “Wild Target,” “Tormented,” “RocknRolla,” “The Business,” “Freebird,” “Girl With the Pearl Earring,” “Poison Arrows,” “Stardust” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” among many others. He will soon be seen in “Storage 24,” “Comes a Bright Day” and “Comedown.”
Equally prominent on television in Britain, Bell recently completed the Sky Television movie “Treasure Island” with Eddie Izzard. He has starred in many other BBC programs, including “The Virgin Queen” and “The Long Firm.” For BBC1 he starred in “Five Daughters.” He also appeared in “Above Suspicion” for ITV, “The Golden Rule” for Channel 4 and “Making Waves” for Carlton.
LEONARD CAROW (Michael) was born in Berlin, Germany. He attends high school in Potsdam. Leonard made his acting debut at the age of 8 in the German crime thriller “Mord am Meer.”
Leonard also plays the piano and is interested in music. Film scores in particular are his passion, and he writes and performs the scores for school plays and short films.
Leonard’s other film and television credits include “Relativitätstheorie der Liebe,” “Mondkalb,” “Der Kriminalist,” “Sklaven und Herren,” “Polizeiruf 110—Keiner Schreit” and “Löwenzahn-Blut.”
ROBERT EMMS (David Lyons) trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He won the Evening News Best Newcomer Award for his first professional role as Colin in Richard Cameron’s play, “The Glee Club.” In 2009 Emms portrayed Callum Miller in series three of Jimmy McGovern's multi-award-winning BBC television drama “The Street,” opposite Bob Hoskins and Timothy Spall. That same year he starred as Albert in the West End stage production of “War Horse.” He then appeared in Roland Emmerich’s feature film “Anonymous,” playing Thomas Dekker.
Emms will next be seen in Tarsem Singh’s “Snow White,” opposite Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer. He will then begin shooting the feature “Broken,” opposite Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth.
DAVID KROSS (Gunther) became known internationally in 2009 for his acclaimed performance in Stephen Daldry’s multi-award-winning film “The Reader.”
Kross was born in 1990 near Hamburg, Germany. At age 12 he was cast in Oliver Dommenget’s TV movie “Hilfe Ich Bin Ein Junge,” after which director Detlev Buck chose him to play the leading role of Michael Polischka in “Knallhart.” The film went on to win several prizes, including three Lolas, the German film prize, and The International Film Critics Prize in the Panorama section of the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.
In 2008, having established himself as a leading actor, Kross starred alongside Daniel Brühl and Robert Stadlober in Marco Kreuzpainter’s “Krabat,” adapted from Otfried Preußler’s bestselling book.
“The Reader” then followed, providing Kross’ first English-language role opposite Kate Winslet. The film, directed by Stephen Daldry and adapted by David Hare from Bernard Schlink’s international best-selling novel, garnered a swathe of international prizes, including five Academy Award® nominations and a Best Actress Oscar® for Kate Winslet. It also brought Kross a number of personal accolades, including The Las Vegas Film Critics Award for Youth In Film and nominations for The Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer, The Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor and The European Film Academy Award for Best Actor. In recognition of his achievements, Kross was given the honor of representing Germany at the European Shooting Stars event at 2009’s Berlin Film Festival.
Since “The Reader,” Kross has filmed “Same Same but Different,” directed again by Detlev Buck, “Das Blau Vom Himmel,” directed by Hans Steinbicher, “Comrade,” directed by Peter Naess, “The Pursuit of Unhappiness,” directed by Sherry Horman, and “Michael Kolhaus,” directed by Arnaud des Pallieres.
MATT MILNE (Andrew Easton) has appeared in numerous stage productions and is embarking on a prominent motion-picture career. He will next appear in the highly anticipated, soon-to-be-released epic “Wrath of the Titans,” directed by Jonathan Liebesman, also starring Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Rosamund Pike.
On stage in his native England, Milne has performed classic roles in “Orpheus & Eurydice,” “Cymbline,” “Macbeth,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Trainspotting” and “Road.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
STEVEN SPIELBERG (Director/Producer), one of the industry’s most successful and influential filmmakers, is a principal partner of DreamWorks Studios. In 2009 he and partner Stacey Snider joined with The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to form the new DreamWorks. This new entity is a continuation of DreamWorks Studios, which was founded in 1994 by Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
Spielberg is also, collectively, the top-grossing director of all time, having helmed such blockbusters as “Jaws,” “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” the “Indiana Jones” franchise and “Jurassic Park.” Among his myriad honors he is a three-time Academy Award® winner.
Spielberg took home his first two Oscars® for Best Director and Best Picture for the internationally lauded “Schindler’s List,” which received a total of seven Oscars. The film was also named the Best Picture of 1993 by many of the major critics organizations, in addition to winning seven BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe® Awards, both including Best Picture and Director. Spielberg also won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for his work on the film.
Spielberg won his third Academy Award® for Best Director for the World War II drama “Saving Private Ryan,” which was the highest-grossing release (domestically) of 1998. It was also one of the year’s most honored films, earning four additional Oscars® as well as two Golden Globe® Awards, for Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director, and numerous critics-groups awards in the same categories. Spielberg also won another DGA Award and shared a Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award with the film’s other producers. That same year, the PGA also presented Spielberg with the prestigious Milestone Award for his historic contribution to the motion-picture industry.
He has also earned Academy Award® nominations for Best Director for “Munich,” “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Additionally he earned DGA Award nominations for those films, as well as “Jaws,” “The Color Purple,” “Empire of the Sun” and “Amistad.” With ten to date, Spielberg has been honored by his peers with more DGA Award nominations than any other director. In 2000 he received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press’ Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and numerous other career tributes.
More recently Spielberg directed the worldwide hit “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” the fourth “Indy” film. He is a producer of this summer’s success, “Super 8,” directed by J.J. Abrams. His upcoming releases include his direction of the 3D animated film “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn,” based on the iconic character created by Georges “Herge” Remi. It is presented by Spielberg and Peter Jackson and distributed by Sony Pictures in most international territories beginning in October and by Paramount Pictures domestically on December 23rd. His feature film “Lincoln” will be released by DreamWorks Studios in the fall of 2012.
Spielberg’s career began with the 1968 short film “Amblin,” which led to him becoming the youngest director ever signed to a long-term studio deal. He first gained attention for his 1971 telefilm, “Duel.” Three years later he made his feature-film directorial debut on “The Sugarland Express” from a screenplay he co-wrote. His next film was “Jaws,” which was the first film to break the $100 million mark.
In 1984 Spielberg formed his own production company, Amblin Entertainment. Under the Amblin banner, he served as producer or executive producer on such hits as “Gremlins,” “Goonies,” “Back to the Future” (I, II and III), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, “An American Tail,” “Twister,” “The Mask of Zorro” and the “Men in Black” films. Amblin also produced the hit series “ER” with Warner Bros. Television.
In 1994 Spielberg partnered with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to form the original DreamWorks Studios. The studio enjoyed both critical and commercial successes, including three consecutive Best Picture Academy Award® winners: “American Beauty,” “Gladiator,” and “A Beautiful Mind.” In its history DreamWorks has also produced or co-produced a wide range of features, including the “Transformers” blockbusters; Clint Eastwood’s World War II dramas “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima,” the latter earning a Best Picture Oscar® nomination; “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers”; and “The Ring,” to name only a few. Under the DreamWorks banner Spielberg also directed such films as “War of the Worlds,” “Minority Report,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
Spielberg has not limited his success to the big screen. He was an executive producer on the long-running Emmy®-winning TV drama “ER,” produced by his Amblin Entertainment company and Warner Bros. Television for NBC. On the heels of their experience on “Saving Private Ryan,” he and Tom Hanks teamed to executive-produce the 2001 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” based on Stephen Ambrose’s book about a U.S. Army unit in Europe in World War II. Among its many awards, the project won both Emmy and Golden Globe® Awards for Outstanding Miniseries. He and Hanks more recently reunited to executive produce the acclaimed 2010 HBO miniseries “The Pacific,” this time focusing on the Marines in World War II’s Pacific theater. “The Pacific” won eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.
Spielberg also executive-produced the Emmy®-winning Sci-Fi Channel miniseries “Taken” and the TNT miniseries “Into the West.” He was an executive producer on the Showtime series “United States of Tara” and is an executive producer on TNT’s “Falling Skies” and “Terra Nova” on Fox TV as well as an executive producer on “Smash,” which will debut on NBC early in 2012.
Apart from his filmmaking work, Spielberg has also devoted his time and resources to many philanthropic causes. The impact of his work on “Schindler’s List” led him to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation, using all his profits from the film. He also founded Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which in 2005 became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. In addition Spielberg is the Chairman Emeritus of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
KATHLEEN KENNEDY (Producer) is a six-time Academy Award® nominee and one of the most successful and respected producers and executives in the film industry today. As a testament to her standing in the film community, she previously held the position of governor and officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and currently serves as a member of the board of trustees. Among her credits are three of the highest-grossing films in motion-picture history: “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park” and “The Sixth Sense.”
Kennedy heads The Kennedy/Marshall Company, which she founded in 1992 with director/producer Frank Marshall. The company is currently in pre-production on Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” to be released in 2012, and will release “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn” in late 2011. “Tintin” is a collaboration with Steven Spielberg and Oscar®-winning director Peter Jackson. It is based on the iconic character created by Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known to the world by his pen name Hergé.
In 2010 Kennedy/Marshall produced Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter,” a somber look at life, death and what lies beyond, starring Matt Damon. In recent years they have also produced “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” an epic love story written by Oscar® winner Eric Roth and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, and “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” based on the popular children’s books about the unseen world of fairies. Kennedy also executive-produced (with George Lucas) the long awaited fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Frank Marshall.
Kennedy/Marshall has also produced such films as “Seabiscuit” (seven Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture), “Snow Falling on Cedars” and the “Bourne Identity” franchise. With the 2007 release of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” the films became the only motion-picture series to demonstrate a consistent upward trend in both box office and DVD sales. That same year saw the release of the indie hits “Persepolis” (Oscar®-nominated for Best Animated Feature) and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Golden Globe® winner for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director).
Kennedy launched her producing career via a successful association with Steven Spielberg, which began when she served as his production assistant on the film “1941.” She went on to become his associate on “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” associate producer of “Poltergeist” and producer of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” While “E.T.” was becoming an international phenomenon, Spielberg, Kennedy and Frank Marshall were already in production on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which she and Marshall produced with George Lucas.
In 1982 Kennedy cofounded Amblin Entertainment with Spielberg and Marshall. While at Amblin she produced and guided two of the most successful franchises in film history: the “Jurassic Park” series and the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In addition, Kennedy produced or executive-produced a slew of critical and box office hits, including “Twister,” “Balto,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “The Flintstones,” “Schindler’s List,” “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story,” “Noises Off,” “Hook,” “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West,” “Cape Fear,” “Joe Versus the Volcano,” “Always,” “Gremlins,” “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” “The Land Before Time,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, “Batteries Not Included,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Innerspace,” “The Money Pit,” “The Color Purple,” “Young Sherlock Holmes,” “The Goonies” and Frank Marshall’s directing debut, “Arachnophobia.” Other collaborations with Spielberg include “Munich,” “War of the Worlds” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
Kennedy recently completed her tenure as president of the Producers Guild of America, which bestowed upon her its highest honor, the Charles Fitzsimmons Service Award, in 2006. In 2008 she and Marshall received the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Award for Career Achievement.
Raised in the small Northern California towns of Weaverville and Redding, Kennedy graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in telecommunications and film. While still a student she began working at a San Diego television station. Following jobs as a camera operator, video editor, floor director and news production coordinator, Kennedy produced the station’s talk show “You’re On.” She then relocated to Los Angeles and worked with director John Milius prior to beginning her association with Spielberg.
FRANK MARSHALL (Executive Producer) is a producer and director with more than 70 films to his credit. He is also an active participant in public service and sports. Marshall’s credits as a producer include some of the most successful and enduring films of all time, including “Poltergeist,” “Gremlins,” “The Goonies,” “The Color Purple,” “An American Tail,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “The Land Before Time,” the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “The Sixth Sense,” “Seabiscuit” and the “Indiana Jones” and Jason Bourne franchises.
Marshall’s films have been nominated for a multitude of Academy Awards®, including Best Picture for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1982 and for “The Color Purple” in 1985, which he produced with Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and his wife, Kathleen Kennedy. Additionally M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 box office smash “The Sixth Sense” was nominated for six Academy Awards, “Seabiscuit” received seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture, and most recently David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” received 13 Academy Award® nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture.
In 2006 Marshall helmed “Eight Below.” He also directed the thriller “Arachnophobia,” the true-life drama “Alive,” “Congo” and an episode of the Emmy® Award–winning HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.”
Marshall began his motion-picture career as assistant to Peter Bogdanovich on the director’s cult-classic film “Targets.” He was then hired by Bogdanovich to serve as location manager on “The Last Picture Show” and “What’s Up Doc?” He functioned as associate producer on the filmmaker’s next five movies, including “Paper Moon” and “Nickelodeon.”
In 1978 Marshall was the line producer on Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz” and began a two-film association with director Walter Hill, first as associate producer on “The Driver” and then as executive producer of “The Warriors.” Marshall was also line producer on Orson Welles’ unfinished film “The Other Side of the Wind,” which he periodically returns to in the hopes of finally bringing it to the screen.
Marshall’s lengthy and fruitful collaboration with Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy began in 1981 with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Following “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” for which he served as production supervisor, and “Poltergeist,” which he produced, the trio formed Amblin Entertainment. During his tenure at Amblin, Marshall produced such films as Kevin Reynolds’ “Fandango,” Barry Levinson’s “Young Sherlock Holmes,” Joe Dante’s “Gremlins,” Robert Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” Spielberg’s “Always,” “Hook” and “Empire of the Sun,” and his own directorial debut, “Arachnophobia.”
Marshall left Amblin in the fall of 1991 to pursue his directing career and formed The Kennedy/Marshall Company with Kennedy. The company’s productions include such diverse films as “The Indian in the Cupboard,” directed by Frank Oz, “Snow Falling on Cedars,” directed by Scott Hicks, “A Map of the World,” starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore, “The Sixth Sense,” starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, “Olympic Glory,” the first official large-format film of the Olympic Games, “Signs” and “The Last Airbender,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan, “Hereafter,” directed by Clint Eastwood, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” for which director Julian Schnabel received the prize for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, the English-language version of the French animated film “Persepolis,” which tied for the Jury Prize at Cannes and received an Oscar® for Best Animated Film, and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.”
Marshall recently directed “Right to Play,” a documentary for ESPN Films and its “30 for 30” series. The film follows Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss as he brings sports to hundreds of thousands of children in war-torn and poverty-stricken areas across the globe. Marshall is also currently producing the fourth film in the Bourne franchise, “The Bourne Legacy,” written and directed by Tony Gilroy. This film is slated for release in the summer of 2012.
A Los Angeles native and son of composer Jack Marshall, Marshall ran cross-country and track as a student at UCLA and was a three-year varsity letterman in soccer. Combining his love for music and sports, Marshall and America’s premiere miler, Steve Scott, founded the Rock ’N’ Roll marathon, which debuted in 1998 in San Diego as the largest first time marathon in history. For over a decade, Marshall was a member of the United States Olympic Committee. In 2005 he was awarded the Olympic Shield and, in 2008, inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. He is on the Board of Athletes for Hope, USA Track & Field Association, USA Gymnastics, the Governors Council on Physical Fitness, L.A.’s Promise and an executive board member of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. He is a recipient of the acclaimed American Academy of Achievement Award, UCLA’s Alumni Professional Achievement Award and the California Mentor Initiative Leadership Award. Marshall and Kennedy are both recipients of the 2008 Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Award for Career Achievement as well as the 2009 Visual Effects Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The duo has also been honored with the ICG Publicists Motion Picture Showmanship Award.
REVEL GUEST (Executive Producer) has achieved much success during her long and auspicious career in film as producer, writer and director. Her television documentary credits include “London Rock,” “Mailer for Mayor,” “One Lord a Leaping” and “Black, White and Blues” for the BBC, Group W and Metromedia, plus “Domingo, a Year in the Life of an Opera Singer.” Her major series include “In Search of Paradise” for TFI in France, Channel 4 in the U.K. and TV Ontario in Canada; “Four American Composers”; “The Horse in Sport”; “Greek Fire” for A&E; “Horse Tales,” “Three Gorges: The Biggest Dam in the World,” for Discovery Channel plus a series of 14 films of opera and ballet from Covent Garden, including “Sleeping Beauty,” “Roméo et Juliette,” “Stiffelio,” “Salome” and “Otello.” Her 26-part docu-drama series “History’s Turning Points” won the Prix de Basle, Barcelona Bienale for Culture and the Prix Stendahl, and her series “Trailblazers” was the highest-rated series on the Travel Channel in the United States. Her feature film “Making It” was the British entry for the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, and her drama credits include “Man in a Fog,” with Tim Piggot Smith, and “Belzoni” for Channel 4.
After graduating from the London School of Economics, Guest began her career in politics and journalism. She then joined the BBC and went on to become head of the European bureau for PBS. She subsequently formed Transatlantic Films, which has produced over 150 films and series.
Guest is also the author of two books and has been the chair of the Hay Festival for over 15 years.
LEE HALL (Screenwriter) was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1966. He studied English Literature at Cambridge University and has worked as a writer in theater, TV, radio and film. He has also been a writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company and at Live Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Hall wrote the screenplay for “Billy Elliot” and was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay in 2000.
His theater credits include “The Pitmen Painters” at Live Theatre/Royal National Theatre in 2007, 2008 and 2009, on Broadway in 2010 and in the West End in 2011 (winner of Evening Standard Best Play Award, TMA Best New Play Award); “Billy Elliot the Musical” in London in 2004, in Australia in 2006-7, on Broadway since 2008, in Chicago in 2010 (winner of Olivier Award for Best Musical and nine Tony Awards®, including Best Book); and “Cooking With Elvis” at Live Theatre/West End (nominated for an Olivier Award, Best Comedy).
Theater adaptations include “The Barber of Seville,” at the Bristol Old Vic in 2003; “The Good Hope,” Royal National Theatre in 2001; “Mother Courage,” Shared Experience/ Ambassadors Theatre; “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in 2000; “A Servant to Two Masters,” RSC/Young Vic in 1999; “Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti,” Almedia Theatre; and “Leonce and Lena,” The Gate Theatre in 1997.
Hall has also worked extensively in radio. His credits include “I Luv You Jimmy Spud” in 1996, which won the Writers Guild Award for Best New Play, the Gold Sony Award for Best New Play, the Alfred Bradley Award and the Society of Authors Award; “Spoonface Steinberg” in 1997; “I Love You, Ragie Patel” in 1997; “The Sorrows of Sandra Saint” in 1997; “Blood Sugar” in 1997; “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter” (adapted from Vargas Llosa) in 1998; “Gristle” in 1999; “Child of the Snow” in 2000; and “Child of the Rain” in 2000.
Hall’s TV credits include “Toast” in 2010, “Wind in the Willows” in 2007, “A Prince of Hearts” in 1998 and “Spoonface Steinberg” for the BBC in 1997. He has also worked in opera, adapting “Il Pagliacci” for the English National Opera in 2008.
RICHARD CURTIS (Screenwriter) has written extensively for both film and television. His film credits include “The Boat That Rocked”; “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”; “Love Actually,” which was nominated for Best British Film at the 2004 BAFTA Awards and for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Screenplay at the 2004 Golden Globes®; “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which won the British Screenwriter of the Year Award at the London Critics Circle Film Awards in 2002 and was nominated for Best British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTA Awards, for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) at the Golden Globes Awards, for Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards and for Best Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards; and “Notting Hill,” which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and won the Best Film Award at the 1995 BAFTAs, was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards® and for Best Screenplay and Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes and which won Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards, Best Foreign Film at The César Awards, Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards, Best Foreign Film at the AFI, British Screenwriter of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards and Best Screenplay Award from the Writers’ Guild of Britain.
Curtis’ TV credits include “The Girl in the Café,” which won the Humanitas Prize in the 90-minute category and Emmy® Awards for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Writing for a Movie in 2006; “The Tall Guy”; “The Vicar of Dibley,” which won the International Emmy® Award in 1998 and was nominated for Best Comedy Program at the BAFTAs in 1998 and 1999, won Most Popular Comedy Program at the National Television Awards in 1998 and was nominated Most Popular Comedy Program at the National Television Awards in 2000 and Best Comedy Drama at the Royal Television Society Awards in 1998; “Blackadder Back and Forth”; “Bernard and the Genie”; and “Mr. Bean.”
Curtis resides in London.
MICHAEL MORPURGO (Novelist, “War Horse”) is one of the U.K.’s best-loved authors and storytellers. He was appointed Children’s Laureate in May 2003, a post he helped to set up with his friend Ted Hughes in 1999. He was awarded an OBE for services to Literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honors in 2007. He has written over 130 books, including “Kensuke’s Kingdom,” which won the Children’s Book Award 2000 and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal in 2000. His novel, “Private Peaceful,” a harrowing story about the First World War, was published in autumn 2003. It won the 2004 Red House Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Book Award in 2005. His novel “Shadow” about a boy from Afghanistan and the dog he befriends, won the 2010 Red House Children’s Book Award, voted for by children. His latest novel is “Little Manfred,” published in May 2011.
Many of Morpurgo’s books have been adapted for the stage. These include “Private Peaceful,” “Kensuke’s Kingdom,” “Why the Whales Came,” “The Mozart Question” and, most notably, the National Theatre’s production of “War Horse.” This production of Morpugo’s moving and powerful story of survival on the Western Front, which reached number one in the Observer’s top ten theater performances, was also awarded the best design prize in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. This production has now moved to the West End’s New London Theatre. Produced on Broadway, “War Horse” won the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Play.
Morpurgo travels all over the U.K. and abroad, talking to children and adults, telling his stories and encouraging them to tell theirs.
In 1976 Morpurgo and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms for City Children. They help to run three farms around the country, in Gloucestershire, Pembrokeshire and North Devon. Each farm offers children and teachers from urban primary schools the chance to live and work in the countryside for a week and gain hands-on experience.
Morpurgo lives in Devon with his wife, Clare. He has three children and seven grandchildren.
JANUSZ KAMINSKI (Director of Photography) has created some of the most lasting and memorable images in cinema history.
A native of Poland, Kaminski has enjoyed a long and illustrious collaboration with Steven Spielberg, first with the 1993 made-for-television film “Class of ’61,” on which Spielberg was executive producer. Together they went on to combine their talents on “Schindler’s List” (for which Kaminski won his first Academy Award® for Best Cinematography), “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Amistad” (Oscar® nomination), “Saving Private Ryan” (for which he received his second Academy Award), “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Minority Report,” “Catch Me if You Can,” “The Terminal,” “War of the Worlds,” “Munich,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.” He is currently working on “Lincoln.”
Among Kaminski’s other credits as cinematographer are “How Do You Know,” “Funny People,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Oscar® nomination), “Jumbo Girl,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Tall Tale,” “How to Make an American Quilt,” “Little Giants,” “The Adventures of Huck Finn” and “Killer Instinct,” among many others.
Early in Kaminski’s career, he worked with Roger Corman on “Streets,” “The Rain Killer” and “The Terror Within II.”
Kaminski’s directing credits include “Lost Souls” and “Hania” (on which he also served as cinematographer). He is also directing and working as cinematographer on “American Dream.”
RICK CARTER (Production Designer) won an Academy Award® and a BAFTA in 2010 for his otherworldly production design on James Cameron’s mega-hit “Avatar.” He was also honored by his peers with an Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design on a Fantasy Film. Carter received his first Oscar® nomination for his work on Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump.”
Carter most recently completed work on Zack Snyder’s epic fantasy “Sucker Punch.” He has also collaborated with Steven Spielberg on such diverse films as “Munich,” “War of the Worlds,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Amistad” and the blockbusters “Jurassic Park” and its sequel, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”
He has also been Zemeckis’ production designer of choice on the films “The Polar Express,” “Cast Away,” “What Lies Beneath,” “Death Becomes Her” and “Back to the Future Part II” and “Part III.”
Earlier in his career, Carter designed for the television anthology series “Amazing Stories,” which was produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. His work on the show also teamed him with such notable directors as Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, among others.
MICHAEL KAHN, A.C.E. (Editor), is one of the most acclaimed film editors of all time. He won Academy Awards® for editing “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” all of which were directed by Steven Spielberg. With seven Oscar® nominations, he is the most honored editor in motion picture history. Also this year, Kahn edited Spielberg’s combination live-action animated feature “The Adventures of Tintin.” He is currently editing “Lincoln” for Spielberg.
During his more than four decades of illustrious work, Kahn has distinguished himself as the editor of many now-classic films, including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Color Purple,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Always,” “Ice Castles,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
In addition Kahn edited “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” “Munich,” “The Terminal,” “War of the Worlds,” “Catch Me if You Can,” “Alive,” “Arachnophobia,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Goonies,” “Poltergeist,” “1941,” “The Eyes of Laura Mars” and “The Return of a Man Called Horse.”
For television Kahn edited the movie “Eleanor and Franklin.” He began his career editing the popular television series “Hogan’s Heroes.”
JOANNA JOHNSTON (Costume Designer) began her career assisting Academy Award®–winning costume designer Anthony Powell on such films as “Evil Under the Sun,” “Death on the Nile” and Roman Polanski’s “Tess.” Johnston also assisted him with his work on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
She served as assistant designer to Milena Canonero on “Out of Africa,” for which Canonero was nominated for an Oscar®. She also assisted Tom Rand on his Oscar-nominated work for “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and on “The Shooting Party.”
As a costume designer she has enjoyed a long association with Steven Spielberg, working on such films as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “War of the Worlds” and “Munich.” She has also collaborated frequently with Robert Zemeckis on films including “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Back to the Future Part II,” “Back to the Future Part III,” “Death Becomes Her,” “Contact,” “Cast Away,” “The Polar Express” and the Academy Award®–winning “Forrest Gump.”
Johnston’s other features include M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable”; Paul and Chris Weitz's “About a Boy,” for which she was a Costume Designers Guild Award nominee; and Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually.” She has also worked with Bryan Singer on “Valkyrie” and most recently completed work on his “Jack the Giant Killer.”
BEN MORRIS (Visual Effects Supervisor) began his career designing performance control systems for projects such as George Miller’s “Babe” and supervised the creation of CG people for Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.” He joined Framestore in 2000 as part of the VFX team on “Dinotopia,” where he integrated the motion rig and motion-control camera with in-house CG character animation systems, for which he won Emmy® and VES (Visual Effects Society) awards.
The Squirrel Room sequence in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gave him the opportunity to further develop the character pipeline. Morris led the team that created the lead CG characters of Lorek, Ragnar and a host of other armored bears in Chris Weitz’s “The Golden Compass,” for which he won the Academy Award® and BAFTA for Best Visual Effects.
On Mike Newell’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” he created the CG vipers and CG environments for the film’s climactic showdown in the Sand Room.
JOHN WILLIAMS’ (Composer) career has spanned five decades. He has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage, and he remains one of our nation’s most distinguished and contributive musical voices. He has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 films, including all six “Star Wars” films, the first three “Harry Potter” films, “Superman,” “JFK,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Far and Away,” “The Accidental Tourist” and “Home Alone.” His 37-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and successful films, including “Schindler’s List,” “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the “Indiana Jones” films, “Munich” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
His contributions to television music include scores for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking, early anthology series “Alcoa Theatre,” “Kraft Television Theatre,” “Chrysler Theatre” and “Playhouse 90” as well as themes for “NBC Nightly News” (“The Mission”), NBC’s “Meet the Press” and the PBS arts showcase “Great Performances.” He also composed themes for the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He has received five Academy Awards® and 45 Oscar® nominations, making him the academy’s most nominated living person.
Williams has received seven British Academy Awards (BAFTA), 21 Grammy Awards®, four Golden Globes®, five Emmy Awards® and numerous gold and platinum records. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order (the IOC’s highest honor) for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in December 2004, and he received the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U.S. government.
In January 1980, Williams was named 19th music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the title of Boston Pops Laureate Conductor, which he assumed following his retirement in December 1993, after 14 highly successful seasons. He also holds the title of Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.
Williams has composed numerous works for the concert stage, among them two symphonies, and concertos commissioned by several of the world’s leading orchestras, including a cello concerto for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a bassoon concerto for the New York Philharmonic, a trumpet concerto for The Cleveland Orchestra and a horn concerto for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2009, Williams composed and arranged “Air and Simple Gifts” especially for the inaugural ceremony for President Barack Obama, and in September 2009, the Boston Symphony premiered a new concerto for harp and orchestra titled “On Willows and Birches.”