Jeremy Irvine on Spielberg, ‘keeping them on their toes’

War Horse star Jeremy Irvine has revealed that director Steven Spielberg kept the film’s cast on their toes.

Irvine explained to the Huffington Post that Spielberg’s insistence on no rehearsals for his films proved to be a unique challenge for those working on War Horse.

Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) watches his beloved new horse in DreamWorks Pictures' "War Horse", director Steven Spielberg's epic adventure and an unforgettable odyssey through courage, friendship, discovery and wonder...Ph: David Appleby

Your character also makes quite the transition in this movie, from a young idealistic kid to someone who has seen war. Was it difficult to play an idealized, go get ’em young guy?


I made a very strong decision that I wanted to have this innocence with Albert that I don’t think you really find anymore. Unlike 15-year-olds today, he hasn’t been exposed to TV and the internet and mobile phones and he’s only really got one friend, he probably has never left the village of Devon because he’s from such an isolated area and he’s in a time before cars. And when we meet him, he’s 15, he’s still a child really, and when we come back he’s 20, and even though we don’t see much of it, he’s lost that innocence. When you see him at home, he sort of begins to question his father and his drinking problem and again, that comes from his naivete — he doesn’t know why his father drinks. And he goes off to war and looks into that same abyss that his father must have looked into and comes back and is wiser and understands and now he gets it.

Was it difficult not rehearsing, as per Spielberg’s custom, or was it helpful?

It was a more difficult way of working than I was used to, especially in theater shows, you’re used to coming to rehearsal before you actually get on stage, but it’s a different way of working. What I learned very quickly is that you have to be very present and very in the moment and most of it is just reacting. What you see on film might be the first time that ever happened, and I don’t know what the other actor’s going to do because we didn’t really talk things through or anything. You just have to be very present in the moment, and if you’re not very present in the moment, you fall down very quickly. You have to be very on the ball and in a way it raises your game somewhat because there’s no time for mistakes, there’s not that rehearsal time where you can make those mistakes, you have to turn up that day and it has to be good because you know full well that whatever you shoot that day will probably be in the movie, and the DVD for years to come.

You must have worked with a bunch of different horses, given the different times you interacted in the film. Were there any tricks, or any horse that it was particularly to develop a relationship with?

It’s great because all the horses are like the F1 race cars of the horse world. They’re the most highly trained horses in the world, some of them, and hugely more experienced in the film industry than me. One of the Joeys was Seabiscuit, more credits than I have. Some of the younger horses are always much more playful and that can be great. I remember one scene, when Peter Mullen brings the horse home for the first time, and this was going to be a really serious scene, and the stakes are so high, we’re about to lose our farm, we’re about to lose our livelihoods, we’re on the breadlines, and Peter Mullen brings this horse into what is meant to be this big high-stakes scene. And all this horse is interested in doing is nuzzling the back of Peter’s coat, and if you watch it now, it’s one of the funniest scenes in the film. And that’s kind of great, that’s the spontaneity you can tap into — the horse doesn’t care, and it’s not going to be fake.

Check out the complete interview:

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