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War Horse is a 2011 war drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and is intended for release in the United States on 25 December 2011 and in the United Kingdom on 13 January 2012. It is based on both War Horse, a children's novel set during World War I, by British author Michael Morpurgo, first published in the United Kingdom in 1982, and the 2007 stage adaptation of the same name.The cast includes David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, and Peter Mullan. The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, and executive produced by Frank Marshall and Revel Guest. Long term Spielberg collaborators Janusz Kaminski, Michael Kahn and John Williams all worked on the film.In Devon at the outbreak of World War I, Joey, young Albert Narracott's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. He serves in the British and German armies, which takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before being alone in no man's land.Michael Morpurgo wrote the 1982 children's novel War Horse after meeting World War I veterans in the Devon village of Iddesleigh where he lived. One had been with the Devon Yeomanry, and was involved with horses; another veteran in his village, Captain Budgett, was with the cavalry and told Morpurgo how he had confided all his hopes and fears to his horse. Both told him of the horrific conditions and loss of life, human and animal, during the Great War. A third man remembered the army coming to the village to buy horses for the war effort: horses were used for cavalry, and as draught animals, pulling guns, ambulances and other vehicles. Morpurgo researched the subject further and learned that a million horses died on the British side; he extrapolated an overall figure of 10 million horse deaths on all sides. Of the million horses that were sent abroad from the UK, only 62,000 returned, the rest dying in the war or slaughtered in France for meat. The Great War had a massive and indelible impact on the male population of the UK: 886,000 men died, one in eight of those who went to war, and 2% of the entire country's population.After observing a young boy with a stammer forming a fond relationship with and talking fluently to a horse at a farm run by Morpurgo's charity Farms for City Children, Morpurgo found a way to tell the story, through the horse and its relations with the various people it meets before and during the course of the war: a young Devon farmboy, a British cavalry officer, a German soldier, and an old Frenchman and his grand-daughter.Morpurgo tried to adapt the book into a film screenplay, working over five years with Simon Channing-Williams, but in the end they had to admit defeat. The book was successfully adapted for a stage play by Nick Stafford in 2007. To work dramatically, the story could not be told solely through the viewpoint of the horse (as it was in the book), and so the film version with a screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall is based on the narrative approach of the stageplay more than that of the book. Unlike the play with its puppet horses, the film uses real horses.From 2006–2009, Morpurgo, Lee Hall and Revel Guest worked on a proposed film version of War Horse, which Morpurgo and Hall would write and Guest produce. Lack of finances meant that it was an informal arrangement, with the film rights not formally sold by Morpurgo to Guest's production company. In 2009, film producer Kathleen Kennedy saw the critically acclaimed production of War Horse in London's West End with her husband, fellow producer Frank Marshall and their two daughters. They were very impressed by the story and Marshall has recalled how he was amazed that no-one had already bought the film rights to the book. Steven Spielberg was told about War Horse by several people, including Kennedy, who was his colleague at Amblin Entertainment. After discussions with Revel Guest, it was announced on 16 December 2009 that DreamWorks had acquired the film rights for the book, with Spielberg stating: "From the moment I read Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse, I knew this was a film I wanted DreamWorks to make ... Its heart and its message provide a story that can be felt in every country." Spielberg saw the London production of the play on 1 February 2010 and met some of the cast afterwards. He admitted to being moved to tears by the performance.Hall commented that "Weirdly the week that we finished it, Spielberg expressed an interest, we sent him the script, and within a couple of weeks he'd decided he was going to make the film – it was one of those situations that never happens in the world of film."DreamWorks Studio executive Stacey Snider suggested Richard Curtis to work on rewrites for the screenplay: she had worked with Curtis during her time at Universal Studios, and his work on the World War I-set BBC television series Blackadder Goes Forth meant he was already familiar with the period. Curtis was initially reluctant to take part, but on meeting Spielberg they got on so well that Curtis rethought and committed to work on the script. Curtis has stated that the screenplay is closer to the book than the play, and that 'the existence of the play itself helped him "be brave" about his own adaptation.' Curtis produced more than a dozen drafts in three months, and has spoken of the close collaboration he had with Spielberg while working on the script.Having previously only been slated to produce the film, Spielberg decided to direct "the second I read first draft. It happened faster than anything else we've done together." It was announced that Spielberg was to direct the film on 3 May 2010; the cast was announced on 17 June 2010. Speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2011, actor Peter Mullan said that he took the part not just because Spielberg was directing, but also because of the 'beautiful script, really nice script'.According to an account of the book, play and film's development by Michael Morpurgo, within weeks of hearing from Kennedy about the London theatre production, Spielberg had "seen the play, met the cast, visited the Imperial War Museum and decided this would be his next film. In the weeks that followed he worked with Lee Hall and Richard Curtis on the script, and within months the film was being made". Spielberg was able to act so quickly because he was on a hiatus, waiting for the animation on his other 2011-release film, The Adventures of Tintin, to be completed.Spielberg has directed six films set during or just before World War II (1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan), and has produced two others, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, as well as producing two major television miniseries set during this period, Band of Brothers and The Pacific. In contrast, War Horse is Spielberg's first foray into World War I storytelling, as Spielberg admitted that prior to learning about the War Horse book and play "I had never been that interested in World War I". Kathleen Kennedy elaborated on the appeal of the story: "In cinema we've told very few stories about World War I and I think that's one of the things that attracted us to this ... It's a forgotten war in the United States, and that had a very powerful effect on Steven and I."Dr. David Kenyon and Andy Robertshaw of Battlefield Partnerships were military advisors on the film.
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