In Richard Curtis and Lee Hall‘s screenplay of War Horse, there’s a scene prior to the British cavalry charge upon German troops that didn’t make the cut. It’s a three-way conference between Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), Major Stewart (Benedict Cumberbach)and Lieutenant Waverly (Patrick Kennedy). An HE regular e-mailed it during my flight to Los Angeles.
Major Stewart: Are the men ready, Captain?
Captain Waverly: Those kraut bastards will taste British steel!
Major Stewart: England’s pride!
Captain Nicholls: Sir?
Major Stewart: And so thrilling!
Captain Nicholls: There are pragmatic considerations, sir. British soldiers attacking with swords, sir. What about the German rifles and machine guns? They’re sure to shoot back. Most of us will be killed.
Major Stewart: An honorable way to die!
Captain Nicholls: Sir…
Major Stewart: We’ve only a few minutes, Captain. Prepare the men.
Captain Waverly: British steel!
Captain Nicholls: Sir, it’s suicide.
Major Stewart: We’re soldiers, Captain.
Captain Nicholls: Sir, we’re characters in a film. Our fate is set. We know that. Sir, can I speak plainly? The reason we’re attacking the Germans on horseback with only swords as weapons is because Mr. Spielberg, the director, wants to recreate the “attack on Aqaba” sequence from Lawrence of Arabia.
Captain Waverly: I’ve heard of Major Lawrence, sir!
Captain Nicholls: Shut up, Waverly! Sir, this is a movie but it’s also our lives, our fate. We’re here, right now, and this is an actual war we’re fighting. And charging into the German lines on horseback means that most if not all of us will die from machine-gun bullets. Why, sir, do we have to charge with swords? Why not pistols and rifles as well? Why do we have to pointlessly die so that for Mr. Spielberg can capture a great-looking scene?
Captain Waverly: If you’ll pardon, sir. What I meant was that some of us have heard of Major Lawrence’s horseback and camelback attack on Aqaba, and the key factor is that it happened in the very early morning while the Turkish troops were just waking up. So they had the advantage of surprise.
Major Stewart: But this is 1916. The attack on Aqaba won’t happen for another year.
Captain Waverly: Sir?
Major Stewart: How can you know? It hasn’t happened yet! Glenn Kenny just pointed that out!
Captain Waverly: You’re questioning my ability to see a year into the future. I understand that. But you don’t question Cpt. Nicholls conveying the intentions of Mr. Spielberg, who won’t be making his film for another 94 or 95 years?