Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg premiered his latest theatrical masterpiece -- "War Horse" -- Sunday night at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Based on the children's novel of the same name by British author Michael Morpurgo, and the subsequent Tony Award winning play, the film stars Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson, David Thewlis and newcomer Jeremy Irvine. The 21-year-old Irvine, whose only other role had been a tree in a Royal Shakespeare Company production, plays young Albert Narracott in Spielberg's drama.
The film is set at the beginning of World War I, when Joey, Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. From there, Joey ventures on an extraordinary journey, serving both the English and German armies, before wandering alone in the desolate No Man's Land.
Along the way, Joey impacts the lives of those he meets, showing that even amidst a deadly war, human kindness is not lost.
Speilberg, Hiddleston, Irvine and Watson all walked the red carpet, but the film's biggest star -- Joey -- was missing. Fourteen horses in all played Joey, with the most prominent being a horse named Finder, which had also starred in 2003's "Seabiscuit."
"I couldn't bring Joey because the other seven horses would have been fighting over who would have come out first," Spielberg joked to the crowd at the premiere.
Working with live animals brings its own set of challenges to the set, but Hiddleston, who plays a young British Army captain, wasn't expecting it to quite be so foul. "They tend to break wind at exactly the wrong moment," Hiddleston told The Huffington Post on the red carpet. "You're trying to mind this incredibly tender scene, where you're having to bite your lip with fear or sadness, and then the horse will just let rip and remind you of the absurdity of what you're doing."
However, not all of the film's tender moments were spoiled by the horses' inability to keep their composure. In fact, their spontaneity often led to cinematic magic. "You never knew what they were going to do," Matt Kline, who stars as Albert's best friend Andrew, told us. "My favorite bit in the film is where Peter Mullan, who plays Albert's dad, is standing there wearing a hat, and the horse just starts to nuzzle his hat off. It's so wonderful. These sort of things you can't plan for when you work with live animals."
Newcomer Celine Buckens, who gives a breakthrough performance as young Emilie, had never ridden a horse before the film, but when we spoke with her, she seemed eager to ride again. "We should have all trotted down the red carpet on the horses we rode! That would have been ideal."
Much like her character, Buckens had bonded with the horses on set -- but that didn't mean they gave her an easy time.
"They started eating the flowers on the set! There's a scene where they're in my bedroom, and it's a crap scene anyway because the horses are so big for such a little bedroom. Everyone was just laughing in hysterics. It was very funny."
There is one star, however, who was relieved that Joey and his friends couldn't make it to the premiere. It seems David Thewlis, who plays proprietor Lyons, doesn't much care for horses.
"I didn't have much to do with them, fortunately. I didn't go near them. I don't like to go near horses ... They hurt me. I've done a lot of films with horses, and they're just trouble on a film set. I'm fine with them, but they don't like me. I'm glad they not here on the carpet. I think at the London premiere they're going to be, and I will not be on one. I'll be in a car."
As for the elusive Joey, who was sadly missing from the red carpet, Kline added: "I think he's already gone in. He's already a couple of drinks down. Off set, he's a maniac. Joey is loving the drinks."
"War Horse" opens nationwide on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
Check out the stars -- minus Joey -- on the "War Horse" world premiere red carpet. All images via Getty.
Watch the trailer for "War Horse" below.