From the moment Steven Spielberg signed on to direct “War Horse,” one thing was clear: He could not tell the story from the point of view of the horse, even though that’s exactly what author Michael Morpurgo did in the award-winning 1982 children’s book from which the film is adapted.
In the book, the innocent equine protagonist, Joey, knows only what he can see and sense. He doesn’t learn the larger stories of the many men and women he encounters as he journeys from the English countryside through the battlefields of World War I. The winding plot gave Spielberg a lot of ground to cover and a limited amount of screen time to devote to each human character. The job of making it work fell to screenwriter Richard Curtis — and to the actors in the cast.
“If you are going to do quite an episodic film, [you must] lavish attention on the episodes almost outside the run of the story,” Curtis told The Huffington Post. “Try and do unnecessary things, so that when you arrive in that story, you think, ‘Oh, wow, I’m arriving in a real world,’ rather than, ‘I’m arriving in a world where all the information I get is the information necessary for Joey’s story.'”