Irish star joins royals on red carpet for premiere of latest Spielberg epic
IT is the Steven Spielberg-directed tearjerker about an English horse that goes to war.
But it was Irish acting talent Liam Cunninghan who was being hailed when 'War Horse' opened in London's Leicester Square last night.
Mr Cunningham plays an army doctor in the World War One epic that tells the story of a friendship between a horse named Joey and his young owner, Albert, played by British actor Jeremy Irvine.
Albert tries to track down his beloved horse after it is shipped to France to serve in the war.
Early reviews, including Chicago's 'Time Out' magazine have claimed the most powerful moment in the film comes when Mr Cunningham's character agrees to treat Joey for tetanus. "It was hard not to be moved," said the critic.
The film's biggest villain is Irish, too. Gerard McSorley plays the market auctioneer who sends the young farmboy's much-loved steed into war.
Both Tyrone-born Mr McSorley and former ESB worker Mr Cunningham joined Prince William and his wife Kate at the premiere at the Odeon cinema in London last night, on the eve of the Duchess of Cambridge's 30th birthday.
Director Steven Spielberg was among other members of the cast attending, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson and David Thewlis.
"'War Horse' encapsulates, for me, a timeless personal story of courage," he said.
The movie deals with the discovery of humanity against conflict and celebrates bravery, loyalty, tenacity and hope," said the Oscar-winning director.
Not to be left out was thoroughbred Joey, the horse that took the leading role in the film -- he travelled down from his stables in Milton Keynes to trot down the red carpet and face fans and photographers.
Adapted from Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, the film follows a theatrical production, which opened at the UK's National Theatre to rave reviews in 2007.
The play transferred to Broadway in New York, where it won five prestigious Tony Awards last June, and is booked to run in London's West End for at least another year.
"When I read the book, I just adored that. And I saw the West End production and was absolutely devastated by that and I really felt there was an adaptation to be had," said Mr Spielberg.
The film is seen as a prominent contender for the Oscars next month and was released in the US and Canada at the end of December.
Meanwhile, the author of 'War Horse', Mr Morpurgo, led the birthday well wishes for the duchess. Mr Morpurgo said it was an "honour" that Kate had chosen 'War Horse' as her first royal premiere and said he would send her a copy of the book as a birthday gift.
"I am thrilled, it is a wonderful honour that she has chosen this film to do that," he said.
"I will send her a copy of 'War Horse' for her birthday.
"She is a wonderful example of dignity and calm and I like that in her."
The premiere in Leicester Square was also attended by 600 serving and ex-serving military personnel and their families, and beneficiaries of British military charities.