The film & book: War Horse (book by Michael Morpurgo)
The Location: Dartmoor, England
Fans of War Horse have cried at the Michael Morpurgo bestselling novel, cried at the hit West-End and Broadway play and now director Steven Spielberg has brought the tearjerker to the big screen (at the Royal London Premiere even the Duchess of Cambridge shed a tear).
War Horse follows the story of farm boy Albert who joins the army to search for his beloved horse Joey who has been sold into the cavalry and shipped to France during the First World War.
The film's British cast includes David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Emily Watson and a herd of beautiful horses (14 different horses play Joey and one scene features an impressive 280 horses). However, it is the stunning location that is set to be the breakthrough star.
The film was shot entirely on location in England. In August 2010 Hollywood arrived at beautiful Dartmoor in Devon. The national park covers 368 square miles of diverse landscape and moors and features stunning views, prehistoric rock formations and dramatic scenery. Dartmoor has always been known for horses (long before War Horse) as the famous wild Dartmoor ponies roam freely across the moor.
Steven Spielberg said '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 ... And, with two-and-a-half weeks of extensive coverage of landscapes and skies, I hardly scratched the surface of the visual opportunities that were offered to me'.
The War Horse story began in the 1980s away from Dartmoor at the Duke of York pub at Iddesleigh, Devon. It was here that author Michael Morpurgo first met Captain Arthur Budgett who inspired the author with his experiences of life with his horse in the cavalry during the First World War. The pub has changed little since the First World War and Michael Morpurgo 'occasionally pops in for a visit' according to landlord, John Pittam. Following the success of War Horse the author presented the village with a picture representing Joey, which now hangs in the village hall. The movie even references the pub with the line 'race you to the Duke of York'.
During filming Spielberg and some of his crew stayed at Browns Hotel in Tavistock. The hotel was originally a 17th century coaching inn which has been restored to combine old English charm with contemporary boutique design. Spielberg was seen dining in the hotel's award winning restaurant with his family.
Dartmoor looks set to become an influence on Hollywood in 2012. As well as War Horse a Hollywood version of another local book, 'We Bought a Zoo' by Benjamin Mee, recently hit the big screen. The story, based on the true story of a family who bought Dartmoor Zoo, has been translated to Southern California and stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.