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War Horse - Jeremy Irvine interview

War Horse

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JEREMY Irvine talks about working with Steven Spielberg on his first film, War Horse, and some of the training he underwent in order to feel comfortable around horses.

He also talks about the benefits it has already brought to his career, why he doesn’t feel qualified to compare his experience of making the film to real-life soldiers, and some of his forthcoming projects.

Q. How was taking the lead role in a Steven Spielberg film for you?
Jeremy Irvine: [Laughs] I don’t know. I kind of woke up this morning and really had to kind of work out whether last night [the royal premiere] was all a bit of a dream. I really did come from having no lines in a theatre show straight to this. So, I’m still trying to take it all in. Just having lines is a privilege, to be in a movie is even bigger, but to be in a Spielberg movie is, I think, just more than I can relate to.

Q. How good were you with horses? You’ve touched upon it but did you, or have you ever, fibbed to get a role?
Jeremy Irvine: I remember doing my first auditions and trying to convince them that I was this master horseman and I was doing a scene with a horse, which was a very emotional speech to this horse. And just when I was meant to get the tears up, this horse stamps on my foot. They’re quite heavy. I was desperately trying to convince them that I didn’t have a horse standing on my food and that the tears were real at that time. What I learned very quickly having never been on a horse before, or having never been around horses, is that you can’t fake those relationships that hopefully you see on-screen. They have to be real. There’s no way around that. With the 14 horses that played Joey, I had to have those real relationships or you’re going to get on camera and those horses aren’t going to be interested. So, you’ve got to be able to do a scene where you’re talking to the horse and it’s interested and concentrating on you and that does take time. You can’t fake it.

Q. Were you ever panicked by the size of the film?
Jeremy Irvine: [Laughs] Yeah! I was terrified and rightly so. But I kind of had to stop myself thinking like that. I really had to force myself not to think about being on-set with Steven Spielberg or having such a wonderful cast around me who would sit me down and tell me it was OK. Steven was also very kind and paternal with me. I remember Tom [Hiddleston] telling me one day when I was probably feeling very freaked out: “It’s just a job, just like any other job, and you turn up to work every day, you do the best job that you can while you’re there and then you go home… and that’s when you can freak out.”

Q. To land your first starring role in a film by Steven Spielberg is incredible. Where do you go from here?
Jeremy Irvine: Well, one of the loveliest things to have come from this is that I can now get work [laughs]. And work where I have lines. Just a couple of weeks ago I finished playing Pip in Great Expectations, a new movie that’s coming out later this year. I’m sharing the screen with Ralph Fiennes. I have another movie coming out in May called Now Is Good, with Dakota Fanning. And my next project is called The Railway Man with Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz. We’re shooting in Australia in a couple of months, so more weirdness.

Q. How much has making the movie given you an appreciation of what soldiers go through in real life?
Jeremy Irvine: I’d be very careful here to say that… I don’t think that any of us could ever say that we could relate to what these young boys and men have experienced. I think it would be insulting to say that we could. I can’t really speak for scenes that I was in because I don’t think I can be objective about that. But I remember turning up on t he day they were filming the cavalry charge and being moved to tears when watching Benedict [Cumberbatch] when he is captured. Having spent time with Tom and Ben, and becoming great friends with these guys, you could imagine these people who would have been just like us and seeing their friends die in their millions. I think what the film does is it sums up the futility of it and I think that’s what I find so impressive.

Read our review of War Horse

Read our interview with Michael Morpurgo and Richard Curtis