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Jeremy Irvine stars in War Horse. The film was nominated Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 for an Oscar for best film. (Andrew Cooper/Andrew Cooper/AP)
Jeremy Irvine stars in War Horse. The film was nominated Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 for an Oscar for best film. (Andrew Cooper/Andrew Cooper/AP)


War Horse gallops into Toronto with Oscar nods Add to ...

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse nabbed six Oscar nominations on Tuesday just as the Canadian production of the hit play prepares to open in Toronto.

The show, which features an all-Canadian cast, is only the third production of the play, following runs in Britain and on Broadway. It is set to begin previews at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Feb. 10 and officially opens on Feb. 28.

That opening date is just two days after the 84th Academy Awards, where Spielberg’s film adaption of the First World War-era story will compete for six awards: Best picture, cinematography, original score, art direction, sound editing and sound mixing.

The nominations will no doubt be welcome news to Mirvish Productions, which has brought War Horse to Toronto. Although it’s hardly as if the show, one of the biggest theatrical hits in years, needs more hype to excite audiences.

The play, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel of the same name that tells the story of a young man who enlists in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the army, has garnered a host of accolades and awards. Its West End production was called the “theatrical event of the decade” by The Times newspaper in Britain and the Broadway show won five Tony Awards last year, including best play.

The National Theatre of Great Britain production of the play premiered in 2007, but each new iteration is different from the last, says Alex Sims, who has been the play’s associate director in the West End of London since its opening.

“It’s recreated every time that we do it with the spirit of the company that we have,” he says. The “homegrown Canadian production,” Sims says, has so far been defined by a passionate sense of collaboration.

“If you’re in a room and the actors aren’t giving you anything to play with, then you haven’t got anywhere to go. If they invent and they’re creative and they’re brave and they’re daring, then you can work with that and you can get something exciting and thrilling. If they just block you and are scared and fearful, then you can’t get as exciting a show as you want. And they’ve been brave and daring and bold,” he says.

Spielberg’s War Horse will compete with eight other films – Hugo, The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball and The Tree of Life – in the best-picture category.

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