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Feb 07, 2012 at 05:41pm IST

War Horse: Who thought the horses could act?

New Delhi: Just as the human cast of director Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated film 'War Horse' was vital, equally important was the casting of horses. Never before 'War Horse' had a film been attempted that was so dependent on the expressive abilities of so many horses.

For this DreamWorks and Reliance Entertainment film a large horse unit was forged, comprising of over 100 horses and just for the role of the protagonist horse- Joey, fourteen different horses essayed it as a progression from colt to adult.

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Ask director Spielberg if he was nervous about shooting with so many horses and he says, "The thing is, I haven’t made a lot of horse movies. In 'Indiana Jones' films for instance, a horse is something that Harrison Ford rides on, so my job is to focus the audience on 'Indiana Jones'. You are never supposed to look at the horse. But we live on a little bit of a horse ranch and have lived with horses for the last 15 years. My daughter and wife ride. By just living with horses for so many years, I’ve know that they really do convey tremendous expression, and it’s easy for anybody to read."

War Horse: Who thought the horses could act?

Spielberg said that it was equally important to the casting of horses as it was to cast the right actors.

In War Horse all the horses were trained under the aegis of horse master Bobby Lovgren ('Seabiscuit', 'The Mask Of Zorro', 'Did You Hear About The Morgans' etc.) who is known for taking the art of horse training to new levels.

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With the movie’s release in India on 10th February the audience will themselves witness how the horses appear as expressive about the scenes as the human actors, especially during the cavalry charges. "There were times in the movie when I wouldn’t even tell the horses what to do. They’d be in a scene and would be reacting in that scene in ways I couldn’t imagine a horse would be able to react or act. And there are times you just have to sit back and thank your lucky stars that the horses somehow were cognizant that something was required of them that none of us could tell them, but they intuitively were able to give it to the moment in the scene," adds Spielberg.

This multi Oscar nominated film (including Best Picture) is the story of friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert. The film follows Joey’s extraordinary journey through the war as he changes and inspires the lives of British cavalry, German soldiers, a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land.

While nearly all of the scenes in 'War Horse' are shot with living, breathing horses, Spielberg did commandeer an animatronic horse for portions of the sequence in No Man’s Land, after Joey is tangled in thorns of barbed wire, often a tragic ending for horses in World War I.