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Video: Spielberg Talks War Horse at New York Screening

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 27, 2011 at 9:28PM

DreamWorks put Steven Spielberg onstage in New York with moderator Mark Harris at an advance screening of "War Horse" on Sunday, which was simulcast live via satellite at preview screenings in nine other cities--Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Washington, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta-- and streamed at MSN.com. Adapted by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis from Michael Morpurgo's bestselling children's novel and the hit London and New York stage play, "War Horse" opens in theatres on Christmas Day. Spielberg read the book first, which was told from the POV of the horse Joey and gave him the "spine of the narrative," he said, while the play had "spectacular puppetry" and made him see the material's "emotional potential." A script is a "living organism," he said, which  under his watch undergoes constant revisions before and during shooting.
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Steven Spielberg and Mark Harris
MSN

DreamWorks put Steven Spielberg onstage in New York with moderator Mark Harris at an advance screening of "War Horse" on Sunday, which was simulcast live via satellite at preview screenings in nine other cities--Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Washington, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta-- and streamed at MSN.com.

Adapted by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis from Michael Morpurgo's bestselling children's novel and the hit London and New York stage play, "War Horse" opens in theatres on Christmas Day. Spielberg read the book first, which was told from the POV of the horse Joey and gave him the "spine of the narrative," he said, while the play had "spectacular puppetry" and made him see the material's "emotional potential." A script is a "living organism," he said, which  under his watch undergoes constant revisions before and during shooting.

The most difficult "War Horse" sequence to shoot, said Spielberg, was the harrowing scene when Joey, threatened by a tank, runs away in a panic through No Man's Land at night and gets caught in barbed wire. Keeping the horses safe was of paramount importance, so the scene took a long time to complete. The film was mostly shot in Richmond, the Duke of Wellington estate and on the moors around Devon, England. Spielberg selected Brit unknown Jeremy Irvine after six auditions. Finally the director decided "we weren't going to do any better than Jeremy."

John Williams has been Spielberg's exclusive composer for 40 years since 1972's "Sugarland Express." Usually Williams sees the movie, goes away, and then plays themes for the director on his Steinway. On "War Horse" he played three and "I was a goner," Spielberg said. "Three handkerchiefs right there." (More details on the Q and A at In Contention; Spielberg also talked to Michael Phillips.)

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This article is related to: Steven Spielberg, Awards, Awards, Oscars, Interviews , Video, Video


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.