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IMAGE: Emily Watson
Charles Sykes  /  AP
Emily Watson calls herself a bit wimpy when it comes to dealing with large animals, which could have been an issue on "War Horse."
updated 12/7/2011 7:52:22 AM ET 2011-12-07T12:52:22

It's a good thing nobody told Steven Spielberg when Emily Watson auditioned for his new movie "War Horse" that she's afraid of horses.

The actress said she actually didn't tell the director about her fear until just days after she began shooting the movie in Devon, England, last fall. Watson says she had to overcome her fears because she was so excited about being in the Spielberg film due out Dec. 25.

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"I'm not very good at animals generally," Watson said in a recent interview. "I like domestic animals but big, large ones that might hurt me — I'm a bit of a wimp."

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Watson plays Rose Narracott, mother of Albert, a young man who bonds with the horse who is sold to the British cavalry and sent to the trenches of World War I. Watson said "War Horse" is not just a story about a boy and a horse but also a "profoundly moving document" of how warfare changed. She said when British cavalry charged and the Germans responded with machine guns "that was a turning point in history and our horse is in the thick of that."

Slideshow: December movies (on this page)

Watson plays a different mother facing a different conflict as Janet Leach in the true story "Appropriate Adult," which premieres on the Sundance channel Dec. 10. The drama is based on the complex relationship between Leach and Fred West, one of Britain's worst serial killers, played by actor Dominic West. Leach, a mother of five, was West's court appointed Appropriate Adult — a British term for a person who sits in on police interviews to safeguard the rights of someone in custody deemed vulnerable.

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Leach played a key role in uncovering gruesome serial killings committed by West and his wife, Rosemary, between 1967 and 1978. Watson, who met with Leach, said she was a complex woman who ultimately was damaged by her experience.

"She does something really, really good which is to take on the role of Appropriate Adult in one of the most notorious cases in British history and she pursues it and she sticks doggedly to it but she oversteps boundaries left, right and center and she becomes much too close to this criminal."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Watch the trailer for 'War Horse'

Photos: December movies

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  1. 'New Year's Eve'

    Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele are just two of the many stars who appear in "New Year's Eve," a romantic comedy similar to 2010's "Valentine's Day. Other stars include Robert De Niro, Jon Bon Jovi, Seth Meyers, Katherine Heigl, Halle Berry and Ryan Seacrest. The film depicts a variety of romantic interludes all relating to the holiday. (Opens Dec. 9.) (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'The Sitter'

    Jonah Hill plays a college-age babysitter who gets himself and his charges into all kinds of trouble, including a Manhattan car chase. (Opens Dec. 9.) (Twentieth Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Young Adult'

    Charlize Theron plays a teen-lit author who returns to her Minnesota hometown in hopes of reconnecting with her high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson), who's happily married. Diablo Cody, who won the screenwriting Oscar for "Juno," wrote the screenplay. (Opens Dec. 8 in some cities, Dec. 16 everywhere.) (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'

    Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," the sequel to 2009's "Sherlock Holmes." This film introduces Holmes' legendary adversary, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Madonna's ex-husband, Guy Ritchie, directs.(Opens Dec. 16.) (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Carnage'

    A fight between schoolboys leads to much drama between their parents in Roman Polanski's "Carnage." Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play the two sets of parents. The film is set in Brooklyn, but was filmed in Paris since Polanski cannot legally travel to the U.S. (Opens Dec. 16.) (Sony Pictures Classics) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Chipwrecked'

    And the goofiest title of the month award goes to ... "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked." Simon, Alvin and Theodore and their female counterparts, the Chipettes, go on a cruise and find themselves wrecked and lost. Jason Lee of "My Name Is Earl" fame plays Chipmunk-wrangler Dave Seville, and there's plenty of singing. (Opens Dec. 16.) (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

    Fans of the Swedish-produced film trilogy based on Stieg Larsson's books were unsure if Hollywood could pull off English-language versions. The first one in the planned trilogy opens this month. Rooney Mara took over the Noomi Rapace role of Lisbeth Salander, with Daniel Craig as publisher Michael Blomkvist. (Opens Dec. 21.) (Columbia TriStar) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol'

    There are some stunning stunts, including some utilizing the world's tallesst building, in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Tom Cruise reprises his role as Agent Ethan Hunt. Hunt is on a mission in Moscow when terrorists bomb the Kremlin, and he and his team must move forward without U.S. government support. (Opens Dec. 21.) (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'The Adventures of Tintin'

    Comic character Tintin is better known to European audiences than to Americans, but the makers of his first U.S. movie hope to change that. "The Adventures of Tintin" is done in performance capture 3D, and features the young journalist (Jamie Bell) and his dog Snowy stumbling into an adventure involving a sunken ship. (Opens Dec. 21.) (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'We Bought a Zoo'

    Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star in "We Bought a Zoo," based on a memoir by a man who did just that -- used his family's life savings to purchse a dilapidated English zoo. Cameron Crowe directs and co-wrote the screenplay. (Opens Dec. 23.) (Twentieth Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'In the Land of Blood and Honey'

    Angelina Jolie makes her directorial debut with "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a love story set against the background of the 1992 Bosnian War. Two versions were shot, one in English, the other in Serbo-Croatian, and local actors from the Bosnia and Herzegovina areas were used. (Opens Dec. 23.) (FilmDistrict) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

    "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is based on the 1974 John LeCarre novel. Gary Oldman plays spy George Smiley as he hunts for a Soviet double agent inside the British secret service. (Opens Dec. 23.) (Focus Features) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'War Horse'

    Steven Spielberg directs "War Horse," based on the children's novel about a young boy (Jeremy Irvine) whose beloved horse is taken off to battle in World War I. (Opens Dec. 25.) (DreamWorks) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

    "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is based on the 2005 Jonathan Safran Foer novel. Young Thomas Horn plays Oskar, whose beloved father (Tom Hanks) dies in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. When Oskar discovers a mysterious key that belonged to his father, he searches New York to find the lock it opens. (Opens Dec. 25 in some cities, Jan. 20 everywhere.) (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'The Iron Lady'

    There's already Oscar talk for Meryl Streep in her role as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." The biopic shows Thatcher's life and career through flashbacks, including the days leading up to the 1982 Falklands War. (Opens Dec. 30 in some cities, Jan. 13 everywhere.) (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
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