By Ryan Sartor | The Playlist November 2, 2011 at 1:43AM
A lot has been made of the Oscar potential for Steven Spielberg’s still-unseen WWI epic “War Horse,” but the majority of that chatter has been for the Picture, Directing, Screenplay, and technical categories. Hardly anyone has mentioned the young lead of "War Horse," Jeremy Irvine, as a Best Actor contender. But, as Kristopher Tapley and Anne Thompson pointed out on their excellent Oscar Talk podcast, if "War Horse" is a hit with the Academy, the film’s actors could ride a tidal wave of goodwill right onto Nomination Shore. Stranger things have happened: See Ian McKellan’s Best Supporting Actor nomination for “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” His performance in that film was good, but it wasn’t anything Sir Ian didn’t do in “X-Men.” The point is, when a film gets thirteen nominations—and if any film does this year, it could very well be "War Horse"—one of those nods will probably be for acting.
While Irvine’s publicists wait to hear how awards-friendly his "War Horse" performance will be, the youthful actor is keeping busy, signing on to a play a young Colin Firth in “The Railway Man.” The film is based on a memoir by Eric Lomax about his time being a British spy during World War II, working on Japan's Death Railway and loving a woman. Later in Lomax’s life—likely Colin Firth’s section of the story—he attempted to track down one of the men who tortured him during the war. The film is being directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, whose most recent effort, “Burning Man,” got some very good reviews at TIFF ’11, especially for Matthew Goode’s "breakout performance."
Moving from one WW battle film to another, there’s an outside chance that Jeremy Irvine could get typecast as Tragic War Figure. This seems unlikely, though, as Irvine is currently filming Mike Newell's “Great Expectations,” alongside Ralph Fiennes and Helen Bonham Carter. He also has “Now is Good” in the can, co-starring Dakota Fanning, Olivia Williams, and Paddy Considine. So plenty on the horizon for the young actor on the rise, who you may be hearing a lot more of after "War Horse" gallops into theaters. [THR]