Breakout British actor Jeremy Irvine, 21, may be new to Hollywood, but he doesn't show any signs of going anywhere anytime soon. Landing the lead in Steven Spielberg's Golden Globes-nominated War Horse was a lucky break for Irvine, who had just come from a bit role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Dunsinane.

"I had no lines," he said of his short stint on stage, in which he played a tree. "I just wanted to be in the industry, so I maybe left [school at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art] sooner than I should have done, and didn't work for a long time," he told the Vancouver Sun. And now I was literally playing this tree, and thinking that maybe this is as good as it will get."

The short story is, it wasn't. Spielberg saw hundreds of people in efforts to cast his main role, but they were all missing something. "I wanted an unknown," the director said. "I figured that, if the horse was going to be an unknown, so should [Irvine's character] Albert. We looked everywhere — not just in the U.K., but Ireland, Scotland, Australia. And, happily, in the process, Jeremy came in — totally untested, not tested in any way as an actor, but with a certain honesty."

Irvine was also flustered before meeting with the legendary filmmaker. "I kind of did what every actor would do, and freaked out," he told Good Morning America. "Yeah, terrified. I don't think I slept much. But it's what the greatest asset that Stephen Spielberg has as a director — his ability to make you feel so comfortable."

Spielberg is comparing Irvine to the likes of Christian Bale and Drew Barrymore, both of whom he discovered and cast in Empire of the Sun and E.T., respectively. "I always look for authenticity," he said, according to the Vancouver Sun. "Are these kids real and will they convince you that they're real? Jeremy was the most real kid we saw. And the horses liked him a lot."

The only other acting role Irvine has had was on the British television show, Life Bites, in 2009. His next role will be quite a step up from his humble beginnings, however, as he takes on the iconic role of Pip in a new adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, directed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's Mike Newell, and also starring Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.

War Horse will hit theaters on Christmas Day.

Watch a trailer for the movie here:

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