A miraculous horse named Joey is winning audiences’ hearts in Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of War Horse, including that of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was moved to tears when she attended the London premiere this weekend.
But behind the scenes of the epic movie was a crew of more than 100 horses led by animal trainer Bobby Lovgren, who worked on 2003’s Seabiscuit. Here are five things you should know about the talented equine cast that gave Joey life.
1. Fourteen horses played the main hero, Joey.
A carefully selected team of horses played Joey from birth to adulthood, including Lovgren’s own beloved horse, Finder, who also starred in Seabiscuit. Another horse named Civilon was the film’s main riding horse, while a 2-year-old male horse named Andy embodied younger Joey. “They were all so important,” Lovgren tells PEOPLE. Coordinating the three-month shoot during which the horses lived in temporary, mobile stables “was challenging but very rewarding.”
2. The most Oscar-worthy member of the equine cast is Finder.
“He is a true Hollywood show off,” says Lovgren of Finder, who is one of three horses he owns. “He has a lot of personality and attitude. The more people there are, the more he shows off and plays. He enjoys being in front of the camera.”
3. Horse treats were a no-no on set.
“We don’t use anything like that while we’re filming because we don’t want that distraction,” Lovgren says. “Just someone walking by at the wrong time with an apple from craft service becomes a safety problem. My biggest reward for my horses when they do something good is I leave them alone.” Some of the horses transformed into night owls so that they could film war scenes in the English countryside after sundown. “We changed their feed schedules,” he says, “So that their feeding habits were at the right time.”
4. No animals were harmed in the filming of this movie.
Eleven-year-old Finder was front and center in key parts of the film, including a scene on the war-field where the horse becomes entangled in barbed wire. “I was right there next to him, very close,” says Lovgren of that intense scene, which was filmed using wire made of rubber. “He could get up at any point in time that he wanted and wasn’t tangled up. A lot of it was camera angles, make-believe to make it look very scary and dangerous, and that’s the object.” The stallion lives on Lovgren’s ranch outside L.A. and jet-sets like a star, too. He was flown to War Horse’s U.K. set on a special plane, stocked with plenty of hay and water!
5. The maned cast members had individual strengths.
“It’s knowing your animals and knowing what they’re good at – and what they’re bad at, more importantly,” says Lovgren of being at the helm of the movie’s equine unit.”[Finder] is my wild child, I guess. Really the only thing he doesn’t do very well is stand still.”
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