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'War Horse' Author Michael Morpurgo's 'Private Peaceful' Heading To Big Screen

by Oliver Lyttelton
August 19, 2011 1:45 AM
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Rising Stars Jack O'Connell, George MacKay & Alexandra Roach Lead Cast, Mark Knopfler To Write Score



It's not out until Christmas, but already "War Horse" is widely seen as an awards front-runner: it is, after all, directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a beloved novel, follows hot on the heels of a much-praised stage version that's been a smash hit both in London and on Broadway, and combines both a gruelling war tale and a touching journey to track down an animal, so it will have to be a real disaster to not leave audiences teary-eyed at the end. And it looks like people are banking on its success, as another novel with a World War One setting by Michael Morpurgo, writer of the original book, is heading to the big screen.

Baz Bamigboye reports that a film adaptation of "Private Peaceful," Morpurgo's 2003 novel, is gearing up for production, backed by relative newcomers Fluidity Films. Irish helmer Pat O'Connor ("Circle of Friends," "Inventing The Abbots") is directing, from a script by Simon Reade, who wrote a successful stage version of the book, which follows two brothers, Charlie and Tommo Peaceful, both in love with the same girl, who both leave to fight in the war, only for one to be court-martialled for cowardice and threatened with execution.

O'Connor and producer Guy de Beaujeu have assembled a cast who, while mostly not household names, are firmly on the up. Jack O'Connell, a graduate of TV's "Skins" whose credits include "United" and the recently-wrapped "Tower Block," will play Charlie, something made possible after the Bryan Singer-produced thriller "uwantme2killhim?" was delayed. George MacKay, meanwhile, who first appeared in 2003's "Peter Pan," and has since racked up credits in "Defiance," "The Boys Are Back" and the upcoming TV version of "Birdsong," will play Tommo, and Alexandra Roach, who's playing the younger version of Margaret Thatcher to Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady," will be Molly, the girl they both love.

There are more familiar faces as well: stage veterans Richard Griffiths and Frances De La Tour, best known for "The History Boys" and the "Harry Potter" films, are also on board: Griffiths will play a colonel, while De La Tour will be a local shopkeeper. Furthermore, Samuel Bottomley ("Tyrannosaur") and the incredibly named Hero Fiennes-Tiffin ("Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince") will play the younger versions of Tommo and Charlie. There's some impressive behind the scenes talent too: Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, composer of seminal 80s scores like "Local Hero" and "The Princess Bride," is writing the music, his first full film score in over a decade.

There's no word on an exact start date, but it's expected to get before cameras in Suffolk, England, before the end of the year. It's likely to be fighting an uphill battle without any A-listers on board, but the cast are all hugely talented, and we're sure if "War Horse" performs as expected, this could end up riding that film's wave.

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