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.
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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