Jeremy Irvine is new to the big screen and makes his feature-film debut as Albert Narracott in “War Horse.” Irvine’s character Albert is a strong willed, sensitive teenager living on a small family farm that’s struggling to survive in the bad economy in England before WWI.
In a recent interview Jeremy spoke about his role in the movie, working with horses and director Steven Spielberg.
Q: Were you familiar with the book before you started shooting the film?
A: My Mum actually read me the book when I was about 10 or 11. I’ve got this very, very battered old copy, which I’ve had on my bookshelf since I was a child. I had not read the book in some 5 years, but when I was auditioning, there were things I remembered so clearly. For some reason, that stayed with me and had a big effect on me as a child. It’s just such a joy to be playing Albert now.
Q: What is your character Albert like?
A: Albert is incredibly innocent, almost in a naive way. He’s never left his village because people didn’t back then, especially in Dartmoor, which is a very remote little village. His world would have been very small and he’s been working on his farm most of his life. His whole future is kind of set out for him. He will inherit the farm from his father and he will work on it until he dies, so I mean that naiveté and that innocence is incredibly important for him.
Q: What about this role can you relate to on an emotional level?
A: I grew up in quite a small village. I think nearly everyone can relate to Albert’s naiveté, which we all go through and we’ve all experienced. We’ve all wanted to escape from things and find something else to put our passion into. For Albert, it’s the horse. For me, it was acting. I just wanted to skip lessons and rehearse my drama school auditions and things like that.
Q: Why do you think Albert has such a strong relationship with the horse?
A:I think it’s about Albert escaping from the troubles with his parents and bonding with Joey. His dad is a very heavy drinker and he’s got to the age where he’s suddenly realizing that maybe his father isn’t everything his mother told him he was. As a child, I think you see your parents like they can do no wrong and then you begin to mature and you kind of realize they’re human like everybody else, with very real human problems.
Q: Talk about your training for the film.
A: We spent two months of really intense horse training with these Spanish stuntmen. It’s incredible when you see them ride, because they look like they’re part of the horse. I had learned to ride on Riding School horses, so I basically had to learn all over again. It was the difference between learning to drive a scooter and being put in an F-1 racecar. These horses are just so sensitive. They’re magnificent. I mean, we’re riding on the original Black Beauty and Seabiscuit. He’s in the film and he’s one of the Joeys.
Q: Talk about the humanity in this story and its large appeal to an audience.
A:You kind of know immediately that it’s not going to be a typical war film. It’s not about soldiers running around with machine guns on each hip, mowing down the enemy. It’s driven by the characters and it’s driven by all the different people who are affected by the horses and have this emotional connection to them and each other. I think the reason the story works so well with people of all ages is that relationship between a boy and his horse.
Q: Do you have an emotional connection to the animals in the movie?
A: It’s funny, because I’m not an animal person and I certainly wasn’t particularly a horse person. Then I started working with them on this film and realized how human they are. They are not like any other animal. They’ve just got these human qualities and it’s just something in us that connects to horses and after you’ve spent a few weeks with them, you start getting very emotional about a horse.
Irvine lives in England and studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has appeared in stage productions, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Dunsinane.” Irvine stars as Pip, in “Great Expectations,” in which the classic Dickens story currently in production from BBC Films directed by Mike Newell and includes Academy Award® winner Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter. Recent projects include the independent feature “Now Is Good,” opposite Dakota Fanning, based on Jenny Downham’s novel “Before I Die.” His next project is “The Railway Man” based on the WWII memoir by Eric Lomax.
DreamWorks Pictures’ “War Horse,” director Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure, is a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set in the beautiful countryside of rural England and Europe during the First World War. “War Horse” begins with bond between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets—British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land. “War Horse” will be released in theaters on December 25, 2011. Fans can “Like” WAR HORSE on Facebook and follow along on Twitter