Brace Yourself for “War Horse” with Some Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits

Posted on 4 min read 55 views

The video below is from the Wall Street Journal website, via Susie Blackmon’s tip:

If you can’t see the above video from the Wall Street Journal website, please click on this link.

Ever since I saw an advance screening of “War Horse,” I’ve fielded a variety of questions about the movie’s emotional intensity.

Can I take my children? has been one question. Another has been, There aren’t any dead horses in it, are there?”

The vibe out there is, I want to see it, but I don’t want to get too upset.

People are worried. They’ve got enough upsetting them in real life, maybe too much to let a sad movie send them over the edge.

Yet, this is an emotional movie about animals – horses – used in war.

So, let’s get some information. Let’s take some glimpses behind the curtain of movie magic. Knowledge is power. Maybe a little knowledge can give us the power to keep us from losing it in public?

If you’re a purist and you don’t want to know any “spoilers, you’ve probably seen too much already. Still, I hope what little you’ve seen already has piqued your curiosity about the movie.

Still, I don’t think you’ll lose the magic by reading this. You might come away with a new appreciation of the achievement on the screen.

So, consider this another Sad Movie Survival Tip:  learn how movies are made. Especially movies with real horses.

Starring as the title character? Finder!

Although fourteen equine actors portrayed Joey, one stands out among the rest. You’ve seen him as one of the many Seabiscuits and with Zorro (yes, with a black vegetable dye job) and fretting near  that out-of-control train in “Unstoppable.”

He’s a bay off-the-track thoroughbred now named Finder. I wonder what his Jockey Club registered name was? Apparently, Finder didn’t like racing, although he made a convincing enough movie racehorse.

His movie trainer and owner Bobby Lovgren met him on the set of Seabiscuit and bought him from the producers. They’ve been working together ever since. They even flew out from California to Great Britain for “War Horse.”

The London Daily Mail tracked down Lovgren and Finder back home in California and the article has Lovgren describing Finder’s personality. Apparently, he’s got a mind of his own, according to this article in The Sun.

As an actor, Finder has range, as you’ll see in “War Horse.” (Spoiler ahead) Finder plays the horse trapped in fake rubber barbed wire. (Yes! It’s rubber! The Wall Street Journal says so!) Finder even plays Joey’s mother, as this interview with Lovgren says.

As the New York Times Carpetbagger says, some horses need their own IMDB page. (Internet Movie Database page.)

And I say, what with his steadily growing list of credits? Finder needs a fan club. Yet, he does have the modern equivalent in a Finder’s Key (his full name) Facebook fan page.

For the humans, a director. For the horses? A horse master

In Britain, where the movie was filmed, they’re called “horse masters.” In the US, probably thanks to Hollywood being out west closer to cattle drives than fox hunts, that job on the movie set is called “lead wrangler.”

Either way, they’re the guys who train the horses and give them cues for ways to react on camera. The Wall Street Journal article tells how, off-camera, wranglers/masters would prompt reactions out of the horses for benefit of the camera.

Want to get a horse to look a certain way? Have you ever taken a posed photo with a horse and had somebody doing something off camera to attract the horse’s attention?

The same idea works in the movies. See the Wall Street Journal article.

Plus, the Guardians

The American Humane Association was on set every day, Lovgren said, as well as a veterinarian. The horse doctor was never needed.

What’s more, Lovgren said in the London Daily Mail that he won’t work on a movie in which the animals aren’t independently monitored.

Fran Jurga says on her War Horse News blog that the AHA gave “War Horse” its highest level of certification.

I’ll say it again: all the animals on “War Horse” were safe.

It’s all pretend. Even if the music and the pacing and the acting and appearances may appear otherwise.

Now you know more

Knowledge is power. Still …

“War Horse” is meant to be emotionally powerful. There’s no getting around that.

Newsflash: Fran Jurga’s “War Horse News Blog” is now Live.

More Sad Movie Survival Tips:

Yeah, crying makes our eyes swell up and our noses run and maybe even gives us the queasies, but maybe the catharsis might be good for you? Like, the catharsis of tears from watching “War Horse?” Like I said in this post?





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  • Laura Moore
    December 19, 2011

    Fascinating post, Rhonda!
    I’ve been worried about sobbing for two hours straight in the movie theater (as I did through the play) but now you’ve gotten me so interested in Finder I may brave War Horse. I will go armed with a box of Kleenex, though.
    What is about animals in distress that turns on the waterworks? I started crying on p. 5 of The Art of Racing in the Rain and didn’t stop until the end.

  • Rhonda Lane
    December 19, 2011

    Thanks, Laura. I can’t say that you won’t cry at all. You may still be on edge while watching the movie. I didn’t cry, but I was wired and tense. Years working in news may have helped me short-circuit my emotional wiring.

    Still, more “good news” for you is that the play is much more grim, but the movie has all those live equine actors who are supposed to tug at our hearts.

    Good luck – and please let me know how it goes after you see the movie.

  • Lisa Kemp
    December 19, 2011

    Rhonda, I’m really enjoying your coverage of WAR HORSE! Great finds on the resources, great story angles and all kinds of info. I hope people of all kinds, including the equine community, will get out and support this movie. Keep up the good writing and reporting!

    • Rhonda Lane
      December 19, 2011

      Thank you, Lisa. There’s a lot of interest out there in the movie, but there’s also a lot of people out there afraid to see it because they’re terrified, or absolutely certain, they’ll Lose It in the theater.

      The sad part is, a lot of horse people may decide not to see it to save themselves the stress. Then, they’d miss out on the experience of seeing “War Horse” on a big screen as it’s meant to be seen.

  • Perk
    December 22, 2011

    Beam in that incredible horse to CNN and make sure he’s wearing a straw hat that says No Horse Slaughtering In The USA For Human Consumption. Saddle up for S1176 ! Five Miles Til’ The Crow Flies and Happy Holidays. See if Finder likes the song, “Down Home Shake Down” and call Congress ! No Horse Slaughtering Allowed In America !

    • Rhonda Lane
      December 22, 2011

      No doubt, Perk, Finder is one of the lucky ones. Thanks for stopping by.