'War Horse': Behind the scenes facts

Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' has been reigning supreme with its audience and critics alike. Check out these fascinating behind the scenes facts, which chronicle the battles the filmmakers faced:

  • · "War Horse" is brought to the screen by DreamWorks Pictures, with director Steven Spielberg at the helm. Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy produced the film from a screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo and the recent stage play by Nick Stafford, originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain and directed by Tom Morris and Marianna Elliot.
  • · Producer Kathleen Kennedy brought the project to Steven Spielberg after seeing the play in London. Emotionally engaged by the play, Kennedy thought it would make a good film and that Spielberg would be the director to bring its moving story to the screen.
  • · The international cast boasts actors from England, France and Germany, most of whom play their nationality, lending authenticity to the accents, although all the dialogue is spoken in English. The cast features Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell, as well as Celine Buckens, David Kross, Rainer Bock, Nicolas Bro, Leonard Carow, Patrick Kennedy, Geoff Bell and Robert Emms.
  • · Jeremy Irvine's great grandfather, who was a doctor in World War I, actually bought his horse after the war, much like Irvine's character does in the story, and Irvine's family still has the receipt for that sale. Ironically the bill of sale is for £28, the exact amount Albert has to buy Joey back in the film.
  • · Since very little weaponry exists from World War I, all the weapons, including tanks, had to be recreated or borrowed from private sources. Antique firearms dealers, collectors and museums loaned the production guns and swords.
  • · 85% of the costumes were made for the film. Much attention was given to them by Joanna Johnston and her staff to make sure that the military uniforms were accurate and that the rural costuming reflected the economic times as well as the historical period.
  • · World War I was the last conflict to see horses used as implements of war. After World War I, the conflicts were completely mechanized.
  • · The horses used in the film came mostly from England and Spain, though the horse that played Topthorn came all the way from Hungary and one of the horses that played Joey came from the U.S.A.
  • · Most of the horses were Andalusians but there were some warmbloods too. Finder, the American horse, is a thoroughbred.
  • · Fourteen different horses played Joey, the hero horse, as the story moves through different stages of the horse's life: foal, yearling, adolescent and adult.
  • · Finder, who plays one of the Joeys, is 11 years old and belongs to trainer Bobby Lovgren. Lovgren first came in contact with Finder when he trained him on the set of "Seabiscuit", which was produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. When filming ended on "Seabiscuit," Lovgren bought Finder. Finder has made a full circle as "War Horse" is also produced by Kathleen Kennedy, with Frank Marshall executive-producing.
  • · Makeup artists were responsible for putting the markings on all the different horses playing or standing in for Joey to make sure they would all look perfectly like him. That meant painting white socks (patterned after Roger, who played one of the adult Joeys) and positioning a star-shaped white hairpiece made of yak hair on the forehead of all of them when needed.
  • · In the cavalry charge scene, 100 horses were used. Care had to be taken not to tire the horses as they had to run over long distances for several takes. Actors playing cavalry soldiers in the charge had to learn to ride one-handed because their swords needed to be fully extended going into battle.
  • · The film was shot on location in Devon, England-primarily on the moors of Dartmoor, in the village of Castle Combe and on Stratfield Saye, home of the Duke of Wellington. Special permission was granted to the production to film on Stratfield Saye. The cavalry charge, the French countryside with the windmill and the German camp were all created and shot there.
  • · For one scene, where Joey is caught up in barbed wire, Special Effects Supervisor Neil Corbould built a full-size animatronic Joey. Puppeteers, buried beneath the ground, operated the horse but for for the close-up of Joey's face, the real horse, finder, was brought in to convey the trapped horse's feelings.
  • · Legendary John Williams wrote the moving score for "War Horse." Although he was drawn to the film's scope and period, he had little connection to horses. So, to inspire his imagination, Williams travelled to a California horse farm and observed horses up close and personal.
  • · American Humane Association has a unique historical connection to "War Horse." In 1916, the U.S. Secretary of War wrote to American Humane Association requesting aid for animals injured in World War I, which led the forming of Red Star Animal Relief. Still in existence today, Red StarAnimal Emergency Services provides care for animals that are victims of disasters and other unforeseen events.
  • · The American Humane Association's Film and TV Unit logged 1,100 hours on "War Horse" sets in England and California and safeguarded more than 100 horses. "War Horse" earned American Humane Association's highest certification rating, Monitored: Outstanding. "No Animals Were Harmed."

War Horse is in UK cinemas 13 January. Check out trailers, clips and stills here.

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