NBCUniversal to Acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

2016
Comcast-owned NBCUniversal buys DreamWorks Animation.

The $3.8 billion deal is expected to close by the end of the year. It is subject to regulatory approval. The DreamWorks Animation brand will remain intact as an imprint.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO, will become chairman of DreamWorks Animation New Media. Chris Meledandri, head of Universal’s Illumination Entertainment animation wing, will oversee operations.

DreamWorks Animation was formed by the merger of the feature animation division of DreamWorks SKG and Pacific Data Images (PDI). It was spun off into a separate public company in 2004, with Jeffrey Katzenberg heading the new division – Steven Spielberg and David Geffen remained on board as investors and consultants. 

The studio has released more than 30 feature films, including the franchises of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon.

NBCUniversal to Acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

2016

Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a 3-D fantasy adventure film adapted from Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, The BFG. It is co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media.

Watch the trailer

The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned the script for E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Fittingly, the tagline and typography of The BFG’s poster evoke Spielberg’s masterpiece E.T.

This is the final film written by Melissa Mathison before her death in 2015. It is dedicated to her as a tribute. Spielberg about his collaboration with Mathison:

“I don’t miss Melissa yet because I haven’t had the chance to mourn her, because she is still with me. I’m not saying that in a supernatural way, because Melissa is alive in every single frame of The BFG. She has been with me all through this process and she is as tangible as if she were sitting next to me. What I’m not looking forward to is when I finish with The BFG and I have to face the fact that Melissa is no longer with me.”

“Melissa could do something most of us could not. She observed people without judging them. The only other people I can think of who observe with curiosity and without judgment are children. And I think that’s why she understood them and wrote them better than anyone else.”

The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. In contrast, giants like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater are twice as big and at least twice as scary. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a 10-year-old orphan girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

Spielberg had read Roald Dahl’s book to his then-young children. He recalls:

“They loved the privacy and secrecy of his own special giant-speak. And they also loved that this little 8-year-old girl can tell a 26-foot-tall giant what to do.”

The BFG is the first Disney-branded film directed by Spielberg and the first with a female lead since The Color Purple (1985). Spielberg explains why the story appealed to him:

“It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.”

The film stars Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.  

The BFG marks Spielberg’s second collaboration with Mark Rylance who won an Academy Award for Bridge of Spies. (2015). Rylance plays the title role via motion-capture – a process of recording movement and mimics of actors that Spielberg previously applied in his film The Adventure of Tintin (2011). 

Spielberg tries to convince Gene Wilder to do a cameo in the film, but Wilder declines. He appeared as the title character of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) which is based on another story written by Roald Dahl. 

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Principal photography takes place between 23 March 2015 to 16 June 2015, with filming locations in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as well as in Scotland and England

Development for the film project goes back as far as 1991 when producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy set up a deal with Paramount Pictures. Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan write a screenplay in 1998 (revised by Gwyn Lurie

in 2001), with Robin Williams in mind for the title role. 

In September 2011, DreamWorks picks up the film rights to the book, with Kennedy and Marshall set to produce, and Melissa Mathison as screenwriter. Originally, John Madden is supposed to direct but in April 2014, Steven Spielberg takes the helm (Madden remains attached as executive producer). After Walden Media agrees to co-finance and co-produce the film, Walt Disney Studios joins The BFG as a co-producer and co-financier.

Regular Spielberg collaborators include: Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski, Editor Michael Kahn, Composer John Williams, Production designer Rick Carter, and Costume designer Joanna Johnston. Visual effects are created by Weta Digital

The BFG is produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Michael Siegel, Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov serving as executive producers. 

Roald Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide

Originally created as a bedtime story, “The BFG” was Dahl’s own favorite of all his stories and is made into a live action film for the first time, marking Dahl’s 100th birthday.

Spielberg notes: 

“It was very important for us to be loyal to the language, and the great writer Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, wrote The BFG.”


Roald Dahl created the fantasy language Gobblefunk, which is spoken by the BFG. Here is a glossary of some of his words:

Cannybully … … … . . Cannibal

Chatbags … … … … . Chatterbox

Chidlers… … … … . . Children

Crickety Crackety … … Sound of cracking bones

Delumptious… … … . Delicious

Despunge … … … … Deplore

Earbursting … … … . . Loud

Figglers … … … … . . Fingers

Frobscottle … … … . . Carbonated soft drink where bubbles float downwards rather than upwards

Frumpkin Fry … … … Pumpkin Pie

Giggler  … … … … . . Little Girls

Glummy  … … … …
. Yummy

Glumptious… … … . .
Scrumptious 

Golden Phizzwizard … . A
wonderful dream

Hippodumplings… … . Hippopotamus

Hipswitch … …
… … Hence/Straightaway

Human Beans … … … Human Beings

Humbug  … … … … . Humble

Humplehammers … … Something that is very big

Jabbeling… … … … . Babbling

Jiggyraffes… … … … Giraffes

Majester … … … … . Majesty

Murderful … … … … Murderous

Phizzwizards … … … . Happy dreams

Rummytot… … … … Nonsense

Rumpledumpus . .
… . . Rumpus

Scrumdiddlyumptious . . Scrumptious

Scuddling … … . .
… . Scurrying

Skumping … … … … Worried

Sloshfunking . .
… … . . Like godforsaken

Snozzcumber … … … A
gruesome vegetable
only found in Giant Country

  

Splitzwiggled  … … … Caught

Swalloped … … … … Swallowed

Swigpill … … … … . . Swill

Swizzfiggling … … … . Deceiving

Telly-telly
Bunkum Box  . Television

Trogglehumper… … . . A horrible nightmare

Whiffling
… … … … . Going off to somewhere

Whizzpopper  … … … Fart

Whopsey… … … …
. Adjective similar to little or trifling


The BFG has its world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14 prior to its U.S. opening on July 1. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) also premiered on the Croisette. Just like E.T., Spielberg’s The BFG receives standing ovations.

In his Cannes review, Variety critic Peter Debruge writes: 

“That’s the beauty of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, as brought to life by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance: You believe. No matter how fantastical the tale (and it gets pretty out-there at points), this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic “human beans” once relied upon Disney to deliver.”

Screenshots: © Disney Enterprises, Inc., DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

2015
Newly formed company Amblin Partners co-produces Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One with Warner Bros.

Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures – where his professional career began in 1969. Universal signs a five-year deal to market and distribute films produced by Amblin Partners.

The LA Times reports Amblin Partners has more than $300 million in financing lined up and is expected to produce four to seven films a year.

Amblin Partners – a film, television and digital content creation company – is formed by DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One.

For the first time since the foundation of DreamWorks in 1994, Spielberg decides to invest some of his own money: $50 million.

According to the company’s press releaseAmblin Partners “develops and produces films using the Amblin, DreamWorks
Pictures
and Participant banners and includes Amblin Television, a
longtime leader in quality programming.”

The company will release family friendly movies with the Amblin brand, adult fare under the DreamWorks label and films with a social-justice element under the Participant label.

Upcoming film projects include: Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, and Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s
Purpose
.

Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

2015
Walt Disney Pictures releases first teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy adventure film The BFG (2016). It’s the first time Spielberg directs a live-action 3D film.

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – unite to bring Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG to life. The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982).

The film tells the imaginative story of a young
girl
and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant
Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big
Friendly Giant
and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country, e.g. Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he
is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a precocious
10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious
giant who has brought her to his cave, but comes to realize that
the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a
giant before, has many questions. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen
(Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious situation, but
they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall),
that giants do indeed exist. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

After his impressive portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015), Mark Rylance once again plays a major role in a Steven Spielberg film. Principal photography for The BFG begins just three months after Bridge of Spies wraps.

Filming locations are: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Blenheim Palace, Woodstock (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom), Buckingham Palace, Westminster (London, United Kingdom), Skye, Highland (Scotland, United Kingdom).

The film’s score is composed by John Williams. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators are: Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, as well as producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The stunning visual effects are created by Weta Digital.

The film is a co-production between Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Release dates

2013
Under the Dome
– a science-fiction drama tv series, executive-produced by Steven Spielberg – premieres on CBS. Danish director Niels Arden Oplev produces and directs the pilot.

Produced by Amblin Television and DreamWorks Television, the series is based on Stephen King’s novel and centers around the fictional small town of Chester’s Mill where a massive, transparent, seemingly indestructible dome suddenly cuts the residents off from the rest of the world. With no Internet access, no mobile signals and limited radio communication, the people trapped inside must find their own ways to survive with diminishing resources and rising tensions.

The cast includes Mike Vogel, Rachelle Lefevre, Natalie Martinez, Britt Robertson, Alexander Koch and many others.The pilot episode receives positive reviews, and the initial episodes are generally well received.

Stephen King – who writes the script for the second season’s premiere episode – acknowledges that “the TV version of Under the Dome varies considerably from the book version”, and calls the series “very good”.

The pilot establishes records for the highest rated CBS summer premiere since Big Brother‍ ’​s 2000 season, and the highest drama summer premiere on any network since 1992.The first season receives an average viewership of 11.19 million live viewers, the second season receives an average viewership of 7.17 million live viewers but DVR viewership vastly increases that. For example, the second season finale is watched by 7.52 million live viewers but is watched by 11.27 million DVR viewers.

The series is available for streaming on Amazon Video devices four days after broadcast on CBS. The deal with Amazon helps CBS to mitigate the high production cost of nearly $3 million per episode.

In 2015, CBS cancels the show after three seasons (39 episodes).

2012
Steven Spielberg
’s masterpiece Lincoln covers the final few months of US President Abraham Lincoln’s life, focusing on his efforts to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution passed by the House of Representatives – resulting in the abolition of slavery in the United States of America. Lincoln is teaching us how to reach a consensus and succeed in backstage politics when pressing issues of society need to be solved. So, in essence, it’s a contemporary story told in a historic setting.

The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, the screenplay is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Spielberg on his motivation to do the film:

“The
Lincoln project is something that I have been fascinated with all my
life. Like the kid in Minority Report, I used to cut out the profiles of
Presidents in third grade. Lincoln was my favorite profile. (…) As I
got older, I began reading history books and I became like a history
major. I never really majored in history in school but it was my most
favorite subject. (…) I realized that Lincoln changed the history of
the world.”

Daniel Day-Lewis brilliantly portrays President Abraham Lincoln, leading a formidable cast that includes Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, Lukas Haas, and Tommy Lee Jones

Adam Driver – who will be cast as the villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – plays Washington war-room telegraph officer Samuel Beckwith. Kevin Kline makes a cameo appearance as a wounded soldier.

In preparation for The Unfinished Journey (1999) – a 21-minute short film directed by Spielberg and screened at the 2000 Millennium Gala in Washington DC, right in front of the Lincoln Memorial – Spielberg consults historians such as Stephen Ambrose, and Doris Goodwin. Asked about her current projects, Goodwin tells Spielberg that she is writing a book called “Team of Rivals” about Lincoln and his cabinet. Spielberg buys the film rights on the spot.

In the early stages of development, John Logan signs on to write a first draft. It is rewritten by playwright Paul Webb. He prefers to cover the entirety of Lincoln’s term as President. Due to Spielberg’s dissatisfaction with the script, the filming is delayed. He assigns another playwright who impressed Spielberg with his script for Munich (2005): Tony Kushner.

Kushner finds the Lincoln script assignment daunting because “I don’t understand what he did any more than I understand how William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet or Mozart wrote Così fan tutte.” Kushner’s initial 491-page draft focuses on four months in the life of Lincoln, and by 2009 he rewrites it to mostly cover two months in Lincoln’s life when he is preoccupied with adopting the Thirteenth Amendment.

Initially, Liam Neeson is cast as Lincoln, having previously worked with Spielberg in Schindler’s List (1993). In preparation for the role, Neeson studies Lincoln extensively – but leaves the project in 2010, stating that he realized during a table read that the part was not right for him. Neeson suggests Daniel Day-Lewis as his replacement and personally argues him into accepting the part. Spielberg and Kushner fly to Ireland to meet with Day-Lewis, followed by more rewrites before the actor finally agrees (after some more encouragement from Leonardo DiCaprio).

Financing the film takes nearly three years. Spielberg pitches the movie at Paramount, following the purchase of DreamWorks by Paramount’s parent company Viacom, in 2006, but the studio complains the budget, even pared to $50 million, is too high and its subject too close to Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), one of his least commercially successful movies.

Frustrated by the financing problems, Spielberg admits Lincoln came “this close” to premiering on HBO as opposed to premiering in theaters. When DreamWorks sets up a new distribution arrangement with The Walt Disney Company, the studio agrees to take North American rights. 20th Century Fox takes international rights, putting up half the production cost. To lay off some risk, DreamWorks turns to another frequent partner, Participant Media, and the film can finally be made.

Principal photography is completed in 64 days, most of it taking place in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg, Virginia. A former AMF Bowling plant in Mechanicsville, is used for a set that re-creates the interiors of the White House. “We worked hard to be as historically accurate as possible, all the way to the room where Mary and Lincoln had their scenes,” says production designer Rick Carter. “The wallpaper, rugs, everything was as accurate as it could possibly be.”

According to Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, he and Spielberg agree on the first day to go for dim lighting that would reflect the use of candles and gaslight in the era. “We knew this was a haunted movie about a man carrying a tremendous burden,” says Rick Carter. “We wanted to go with almost a black-and-white photo yet always be able to pick out what was important in the frame.” The low light is a tool to direct the viewer’s eye. “I wanted to create depth of Lincoln’s character through lighting,” says Kamiński. “In group shots in his office, I set the light so your eye would go to Lincoln.” In later scenes, while the amendment is passed, Kamiński seeks to play against Lincoln’s iconic image. The result is an angelic but natural shot of Lincoln bathed in light. “I wanted to create a very intimate image of this man on the most important day of his life: He’s still a father, and he’s still allocating time to be with his family and his son.”

On set, cast and crew act reverential towards the subject at hand: Conversations between scenes are kept to a whisper, and no one talks to Day-Lewis unless it is necessary. Spielberg, whose typical attire when directing is a baseball cap and jeans, wears suits and ties. He not only addresses Day-Lewis as “Mr. President” but also calls many of the actors by their characters’ names as he immerses himself in American history.

Describing his experience playing Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis says, “I never, ever felt that depth of love for another human being that I never met. And that’s, I think, probably the effect that Lincoln has on most people that take the time to discover him… I wish he had stayed [with me] forever.”

“The toughest part about actually making the film,” says Spielberg, “was that it was eventually going to come to an end. After the first day of shooting, I started mourning the last day of shooting. (…) It’s rare that this has ever happened. E.T. might be the only other time.”

Lincoln is shot on 35mm film and cut on Avid, marking the third time that Michael Kahn edits digitally for Spielberg. “Steven saw how efficient it was, how it saved it a lot of time, so we’ve been on Avid ever since,” says Kahn, who was noted for his speed on the Moviola and KEM. He admits that he’s never cut a film comparable to Lincoln before. “This picture has more dialogue, more getting into people’s heads. A lot of editors say dialogue is the hardest thing to make work, and after Lincoln I have to agree. Audiences won’t see our decisions to cut or not to cut, but the decisions are there.”

For his restrained and respectful composition of the film score, John Williams continues to laboriously write his notes by hand with pencil and paper at a piano – rejecting modern technologies and still managing to yield music of his established, superior quality.

Lincoln receives widespread critical acclaim, with major praise directed to the acting, especially Day-Lewis’ performance, as well as the direction and production merits.

Roger Ebert gives the film 4 out of 4 stars and says in his review, “The hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, is calm self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way.”

A. O. Scott from The New York Times states the film “is finally a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize the full and equal humanity of black people” and concludes that the movie is “a rough and noble democratic masterpiece” – a portrait that is “intimate but also decorous, drawn with extraordinary sensitivity and insight and focused, above all, on Lincoln’s character as a politician. This is, in other words, less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson that is energetically staged and alive with moral energy.”

Despite its running time of 150 minutes, the film is also a huge commercial success, proving that a lot of moviegoers approach it as more than just a dull history lesson. In only its first four weekends of wide release, Lincoln grosses more than $275 million worldwide (against a budget of $65 million). Washington insiders see the film as an object lesson in how a president should work with Congress (the film is screened at the White House and the Senate).

The film is nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for Spielberg, winning Best Actor (Motion Picture – Drama) for Daniel Day-Lewis.

At the Academy Awards, the film is nominated for 12 Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning for Best Production Design and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis – becoming the very first actor to win an acting Oscar for a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

2012
Steven Spielberg steps down as director of
Interstellar (2014) and is replaced by Christopher Nolan.

A
scenario for the story is conceived by film producer Lynda Obst and
theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who first collaborated on Robert
Zemeckis
Contact (1997).

Development for
Interstellar
begins in 2006, when Spielberg and Paramount Pictures
announce plans for a science fiction film based on an eight-page
treatment
written by Obst and Thorne.

One year later, Jonathan Nolan is hired
to write a screenplay for the film.

When
Spielberg moves his production studio DreamWorks from Paramount to Walt
Disney Studios
, a new director must be found for Interstellar.
Jonathan Nolan recommends his brother Christopher Nolan, who joins the project
in 2012.

His film differs
significantly from the script that was originally written by Jonathan
Nolan when collaborating with Spielberg. Script differences are
explained by Peter Sciretta on Slashfilm.com.

2012
Smash
– a highly anticipated, big-budget television series about the backstage politics of a Broadway production. Unfortunately, it does not turn out to be a “smash”…

The series is created by playwright Theresa Rebeck and developed by Robert Greenblatt for NBC, with Steven Spielberg serving as one of the executive producers. One might say, Smash  is Broadway meets ER.

Produced by DreamWorks Television and Universal Television, the series features a large ensemble cast, led by Debra Messing, Jack Davenport, Katharine McPhee, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus, and Anjelica Huston.

The show, particularly its pilot episode, enjoys some critical success but is cancelled after two seasons (32 episodes). The character of Ellis, reportedly Spielberg’s favorite part, is cited as one reason for the show’s decline.

The first season receives the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. The series is also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media (“Let Me Be Your Star”).

2011
Steven Spielberg
’s touching World War I drama War Horse is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel of the same name. The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, with executive producers Frank Marshall and Revel Guest.

Michael Morpurgo tries to adapt his book into a film screenplay, working for over five years, but nothing comes out of it. However, the novel is successfully adapted for a stage play by Nick Stafford in 2007. The film cannot be told solely through the horse’s viewpoint (as in the book), so most of the film is based on the narrative approach of the stage play. Unlike the play, which features puppet horses, the film uses real horses as well as practical effects (and extremely limited computer-generated imagery).

In 2009, film producer Kathleen Kennedy attends the stage play in London’s West End and tells Spielberg about it. Eventually DreamWorks acquires the film rights to the book. Spielberg goes to see the stage play in early 2010 and meets some of the London cast, admitting to being moved to tears by their performance.

DreamWorks executive Stacey Snider suggests Richard Curtis to work on rewrites for the drafts that Michael Morpurgo and Lee Hall have turned in. Curtis produces more than a dozen drafts in three months, working closely with Spielberg who is set to produce the film. Excited by the results, Spielberg finally decides to also direct – while he is waiting for the animations of his other 2011-release film, The Adventures of Tintin, to be completed.

After having hundreds of young boys read for the lead role, resulting in some speculation, that Eddie Redmayne might have been cast for it, Spielberg chooses relatively unknown stage actor Jeremy Irvine instead, describing his performance as “very natural, very authentic.” It is his first film role, and he has never ridden a horse prior to War Horse.

The film’s brilliant cast includes British, French and German actors (playing characters of their respective nationalities), among them Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Marsan, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, and Peter Mullan. Robert Emms, lead actor in the London stage play, is cast as David Lyons. In addition to the main cast, some 5,800 extras are used in the film. Michael Morpurgo can be seen in a cameo role at the auction – as he is visiting the set several times.

Principal photography lasts for about 64 days, beginning with the cavalry charge, where the British cavalry, 130 horses in total and many hundreds of extras, charge the German machine gun lines. It is is filmed at Stratfield Saye House in north Hampshire, and results in one of the most devastating war sequences directed by Spielberg.

As Jeremy Irvine remembers: 

“It was terrifying. The smoke and the smell and the taste of the guns firing. It’s not difficult to act scared in that situation. There’s no doubt this was deliberate: not only to have the film look great, but to have that effect on the actors. It was an eye-opening scene.”

Tom Hiddleston recalls Spielberg’s advice: 

“He said, ‘Give me your war face, and the camera’s going to move across, and as you feel it come up in front of you, I want you to de-age yourself by 20 years. So you’re 29, and when you see those machine guns, you’re 9 years old. I want to see the child in you.’ And I just thought that was one of the most astonishing acting notes I’d ever been given.“ 

Emily Watson also praises Spielberg’s directing: 

"On set, he’d come in, in the morning, and say, ‘I couldn’t sleep last night. I was worrying about this shot!’ Which was great! He’s human and he’s still working in an impassioned way, like a 21-year-old, trying to make the best out of everything.”

When Kathleen Kennedy sends Spielberg photographs of the various countryside locations she has scouted for him, he decides to cut other elements of the story to enable more filming in Dartmoor, Devon. Spielberg: “I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.”

After working on James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), production designer Rick Carter, Spielberg’s long-term collaborator, joins the War Horse crew. This time, he does not have to create a new reality, but rather to take a living landscape and make it as much a character in the film as any human being – or horse.

The famous horse’s image from the final scene, shot against the saturated red sky, looks like a nod to epics like Gone With the Wind (1939), but according to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, the resemblance is unconscious: "I didn’t even know there was an image similar to that!” Kamiński acknowledges that he used John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) as a template for his exterior filming, paying particular attention to Ford’s panoramic sky, landscape and terrain.

After having directed six films with World War II themes, Spielberg tackles his first film dealing with World War I. Sequences in the barbed wire trenches recall World War I classics such as Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957).

During filming, fourteen different horses are used as the main
horse character Joey, eight of them portraying him as an adult animal,
four as a colt and two as foals. Up to 280 horses are used in a
single scene. An animatronic horse is used for some parts of the scenes where Joey is trapped in barbed wire (the wire is rubber prop wire). Working with horses – on this scale – is new to Spielberg

“When I’m on an Indy movie, I’m watching Indiana Jones, not the horse he is riding … Suddenly I’m faced with the challenge of making a movie where I not only had to watch the horse, I had to compel the audience to watch it along with me. I had to pay attention to what it was doing and understand its feelings. It was a whole new experience for me.”

Michael Kahn edits War Horse during
filming
in his trailer on set. Kahn and Spielberg cut the scenes digitally on an Avid, rather than on film.

Visual effects for the film are created by London-based company Framestore. According to Spielberg, the film’s only digital effects are three shots lasting three seconds, which were undertaken to ensure the safety of the horse: “That’s the thing I’m most proud of. Everything you see on screen really happened.”

Spielberg comments on the film score composed by John Williams: “I feel that John has made a special gift to me of this music,
which was inspired not only by my film but also by many of the
picturesque settings of the poet William Wordsworth, whose vivid
descriptions of the British landscape inspired much of what you are
going to hear.”

The film opens to positive reviews, with Roger
Ebert
saying the film contains
“surely some of the best footage Spielberg has ever directed”. He writes: “The film is made with superb artistry. Spielberg is the master of an
awesome canvas. Most people will enjoy it, as I did." 

War Horse is a financial success, grossing $177 million worldwide (against a budget of $66 million). The film receives six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture – winning none.

2009
United States of Tara
, a television comedy-drama created by Diablo Cody, follows the life of Tara (Toni Collette), a suburban housewife and mother coping with dissociative identity disorder

The series is based on an idea by Steven Spielberg, who serves as executive producer, and is developed by DreamWorks Television.

While the story is set in Overland Park, Kansas, principal photography takes place in Los Angeles, California. The show runs on Showtime until 2011 (for a total of three seasons, with 36 episodes). In its first season, it averages 2.67 million viewers per week

Initial critical response to the show is positive, with many reviewers praising Toni Collette’s acting. She wins the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award and 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her role; the opening title sequence also wins an Emmy