For ‘War Horse’ star Jeremy Irvine a stampede of ‘firsts’
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Before he was cast in the crucial role as young Albert Narracott in Steven Spielberg’s stately “War Horse,” British actor Jeremy Irvine had never been in a movie – and had never even ridden a horse.
“I was in a theater show with no lines pretending to be a tree at the time that I was going up for ‘War Horse.’ And I was really struggling as an actor,” Irvine said. “I wasn’t getting recalls for commercials, let alone for movies.”
During press interviews hosted by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures at the Regency Hotel, Irvine described the long, arduous audition process that eventually landed him the coveted role.
“It was probably over two months, I think, and I was going on tape with a casting director and knowing that what I was taping in London was being shown to Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles that night,” Irvine said. “The thing is, I never even had the thought that I’d get this role. As far as I concerned it was just a good audition experience, and I was getting to spend time with a wonderful casting director. That was my main thing.
“And as you do when you’re struggling as an actor you put 100 percent into every audition,” he said. “I was teaching myself to ride and helping out at local stables and things. And then one night about 10 o’clock in the evening I get a phone call saying, can you come meet Steven Spielberg the next morning for tea at Claridge’s (Hotel)? And I think I did what every actor would do – I freaked out.
“But it’s funny, because one of Steven’s best assets as a director is that within five minutes of being in a room with him all your nervousness is gone,” the actor continued. “He puts you so easily in your comfort zone, and you feel very comfortable around him and therefore you do your best work.”
That work involved a rigorous pre-production schedule of riding lessons and stable chores designed to help Irvine and fellow cast members become easy and natural around horses.
“I’d never been on a horse in my life or acted in a movie. So I had quite a lot to learn really,” said Irvine, a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. “We all had these two months to really have it beaten into us and for anyone who’s ever had to learn to ride from scratch, it’s pretty uncomfortable for a little bit, especially for guys. There’s a reason that John Wayne walked like he did. It was tough, but at the same time but in a way it was the most fun, learning to ride.”
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