David Kross was so impressive as Kate Winslet's teenage lover in The Reader (pictured), it's surprising the young German actor has only made two films since then, the German-lingo dramas Same Same But Different and Das Blaue vom Himmel (The Blue of the Sky).
His career looks like getting a major boost as Steven Spielberg has enlisted him for the cast of War Horse, one of the first films produced by DreamWorks Pictures since it finalised a long-term financing deal with Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA Group.
Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo and set in 1914, the movie centres on Joey, a bay-red foal sold to the British Army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him but the nag pines for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Albert heads to France to try to save his pet.
Newcomer Jeremy Irvine, whose only previous screen credit is the UK Disney Channel series Life Bites, has landed the plum role of Albert. Emily Watson and Peter Mullan will appear as his parents. Kross will play Gunther, presumably a German soldier. The cast also includes David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup, Leonard Carow, Rainer Bock and Robert Emms. Shooting starts in August.
Kross, who turns 20 on July 4, won a Shooting Star award which honours young actors presented by European Film Promotion, a pan-European network of film promotion and export organisations, at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival.
He was still at school when he won the part of Michael, the 15-year-old who has an affair with Winslet's former prison guard, in Stephen Daldry's The Reader. He made his screen debut at the age of 12 in German TV's Help, I'm a Boy.
In director Detlev Buck's 2006 film Tough Enough, he won critical acclaim as a boy who moves to a more popular Berlin neighbourhood and is victimised at school. He teamed with Buck again in Same Same But Different as a German high school student who goes backpacking and falls in love with an HIV-positive prostitute (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) in Cambodia.
Hans Steinbichler's Das Blaue vom Himmel spans a 60-year period, focusing on a woman (Hannelore Elsner), who starts to lose her memory of recent events but vividly recalls the distant past.
Kross, who began a three-year course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 2009 but dropped out after a year, seems a well-grounded young man. He was in Cambodia shooting Same Same But Different when he heard he'd been nominated for the Shooting Star award. His reaction: “I was elated and surprised; I didn't expect anything like that.”
One imagines the call from Spielberg was an even bigger thrill.