British thesp to star in director's DreamWorks pic

British actor Jeremy Irvine has been cast as the lead in DreamWorks’ adaptation of the stage play “War Horse” that Steven Spielberg will direct.

Other British cast include Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Story follows the friendship between a farm horse sold into the British army during WWI and his young owner — whose fates continue to intertwine over the course of the war.

Watson and Mullan will portray the parents. Other cast include Niels Arestrup, Celine Buckens, Nicolas Bro, David Kross, Leonard Carow, Rainer Bock, Robert Emms and Patrick Kennedy; Tom Hiddleston (“Thor”) and Stephen Graham (“Public Enemies”) are in talks to join the cast.

DreamWorks has set an Aug. 11, 2011, release date through Disney. Story’s being adapted by Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) and Richard Curtis from Michael Morpurgo’s novel and Nick Stafford’s stage adaptation.

Spielberg and DreamWorks co-chair-CEO Stacey Snider acquired the rights to Morpurgo’s “War Horse” last fall.

“War Horse” was first published in 1982, when it was a runner-up for the prestigious Whitbread Award. Morpurgo is the bestselling author of more than 120 books for children including “Kensuke’s Kingdom” and “Private Peaceful.”

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