Exclusive: War Horse Cast Announced

Best of British in Spielberg's next film

Steven Spielberg has rounded up a clutch of quality British acting talent to head up the cast of War Horse, his first film to reach the screens since 2008’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch have all signed on the dotted line, but taking the lead (or the reins) is young actor Jeremy Irvine, who has earned his stripes with both the National Youth Theatre and the RSC.

War Horse traces the friendship between Joey, a farm horse sold into the British army and sent off to serve on the battlefields of France during World War 1, and Albert (Irvine), his young owner. Watson and Mullan play Albert’s parents. Cumberbatch, so good as the quiz captain in Starter For 10 and the oily confectionery magnate in Atonement, will play military man Major Stewart.

Rounding out the internationally diverse cast are Niels Arestrup (A Prophet, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) as the grandfather of a young French girl (Celine Buckens) who takes Joey in, plus Nicolas Bro, David Kross, Leonard Carow, Rainer Bock, Robert Emms and Patrick Kennedy. Also in talks to join the cast are Tom Hiddleston, who is on villain duties as Loki in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, and Stephen Graham, This Is England’s powerhouse last seen on the big screen in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies.

Adapted by Lee Hall (best known for Billy Elliot) and Richard Curtis from Michael Morpurgo’s novel and Nick Stafford’s stage adaptation, the story has the scope for the kind of epic action and intimate, heartrending drama that is Spielberg’s forte. On paper, this touches base with Spielberg’s underrated Empire Of The Sun, a rite of passage in the theatre of (a very different) war, and that is a mouth-watering prospect.

Jeremy Irvine (Albert)
Jeremy Irvine (Albert) Peter Mullan (Dad)
Peter Mullan (Dad) Emily Watson (Mum)
Emily Watson (Mum) David Thewlis (Lyons)
David Thewlis (Lyons) Benedict Cumberbatch (Capt. Stewart)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Major Stewart) Benedict Cumberbatch (Capt. Stewart)
Stephen Graham (Sgt. Sam Perkins) Tom Hiddleston (Capt. Nicholls)
Tom Hiddleston (Captain Nichols) Niels Arestrup (Grandfather)
Niels Arestrup (Grandfather) Celine Buckens (Emilie)
Celine Buckens (Emilie) David Kross (Gunther)
David Kross (Gunther) Patrick Kennedy (Capt. Waverly)
Patrick Kennedy (Lieutenant Waverly) Rainer Bock (Brandt)
Rainer Bock (Brandt) Nicolas Bro (Friedrich)
Nicolas Bro (Friedrich) Leonard Carow (Michael)
Leonard Carow (Michael) Robert Emms (David Lyons)
Robert Emms (David Lyons)Produced by Spielberg and long-time producing partner Kathleen Kennedy, War Horse starts shooting in the UK in August, the first time the director has shot here since Saving Private Ryan. This gives Spielberg exactly a year to get the movie ready for its August 10, 2011 US release. No word yet on a UK date.