Steven Spielberg On War Horse’s Four-Legged Actors, 3D And Lessons Learned


After being ignored by critics groups and other awards in the runup to Oscar nominations, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse finally burst out of the gate with six including for Best Picture. The others were for Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. A Spielberg collaborator for more than 30 years, Kennedy started out as his secretary. She became a co-founder of Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in 1981, garnering producer credit on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She left Amblin in 1992 to form the Kennedy/Marshall Co. with husband Frank Marshall, whom she met while working on Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the creative partnership with Spielberg has continued. Collaborations over the decades have included Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. While Kennedy has countless credits independently of Spielberg (recently, 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Persepolis) the two always seem to end up back together. Kennedy also produced Spielberg’s  animated The Adventures of Tintin and the upcoming Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. Kennedy talked to AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman about one of Hollywood’s most celebrated partnerships.

AWARDSLINE: What inspired the movie version of War Horse?
KENNEDY: I took our two teenage girls to see the play [in London], having no idea that it would be something I would be attracted to as a film. It was around the same time we were doing the score on Tintin. I was sitting on the scoring stage with Steven and told him I had seen this extraordinary play. I told him, I keep thinking about whether it’s a movie – it was extraordinary to watch the puppeteering, but I couldn’t help thinking how majestic real horses could be. Steven instantly said that sounds like a perfect movie story. He said “see where the movie rights are.” It turned out that Michael Morpurgo had been approached by a number of people but he hadn’t really entertained any movie offers. We were shooting within a year, which is fairly unusual.

AWARDSLINE: War Horse was a Christmas Day film, and Tintin came out a few days before. What is your strategy?
KENNEDY: We talked about this very, very carefully, in terms of how this was going to be difficult. We don’t have a lot of stars in either film. It was going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on Steven. But we also felt that, even if it were a completely different filmmaker, we would have probably made the same choice to release them during the Christmas holidays, because we felt they were the best films. (more…)