Steven Spielberg: Upcoming Film 'War Horse' Is Not Another 'Saving Private Ryan'

PHOTO: "War Horse" was developed, in part, out of a promise Steven Spielberg made to his 15-year-old daughter, Destry -- a promise to direct a film about horses.PlayABC
WATCH Spielberg's 'War Horse' for Families

Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg said his upcoming film "War Horse" would not be another "Saving Private Ryan," and that he pulled back on depicting violence to ensure a PG-13 rating with the Motion Picture Association.

"I think this is a good film for families to see together," Spielberg told ABC's Katie Couric. "I'm not saying little kids should see this picture, but families can see this picture. They're accustomed with my name associated with war, to expect the worst. They're not going get the worst in this."

Credit: Courtesy Dreamworks

"War Horse," due out Christmas day, tells the story of a special bond between a British farm boy, played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine, and his colt as World War I tears through Europe. While the story became wildly popular after it was introduced as a play in London's West End, Spielberg said he learned of it after reading Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, "War Horse," a children's book.

"I thought this story has really good movie bones," he said. "It seemed to be a narrative for all seasons. It seemed to have a story steeped in the tradition of the Earth and the land and people who fight for themselves, and it had big, kind of, elements of Americana, even though it had nothing to do with America."

VIDEO: 'War Horse' Trailer

However, the film was developed, in part, out of a promise Spielberg made to his 15-year-old daughter, Destry -- a promise to direct a film about horses.

"My daughter's a hunter-jumper and my wife, you know, was dressage and still dabbles in it and we live with horses," Spielberg said. "That was another thing that really invited me into this process."

Before shooting "War Horse," Spielberg admitted he knew little about the role horses played in World War I, except that millions were used and died. But the director took great pains to protect the animals during filming. Spielberg said he used horses from actual cavalry in the film, so the animals would be familiar with the rider, and he brought American Humane Association's Barbara Carr onto the set.

"On the first day of shooting, I went over to Barbara and I said, 'I'm directing this movie, but you get to say "cut,"'" Spielberg said. "You get to say 'cut' if you see a situation that the stunt coordinator or myself or any of us could be putting the horses in -- that would be injurious to that horse."

As if earning producer credits on six movies, including the upcoming 3-D animated film, "Tintin," and four TV shows this year wasn't enough, Spielberg has already started production on his next film, "Lincoln," starring actor Daniel Day Lewis in the leading role.

PHOTO: Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln.

"I've wanted to tell the story of Abraham Lincoln, I think, all of my professional life," Spielberg said. "You can't do Lincoln justice unless you find something that he did that was everlasting, and for me, personally, what was everlasting was ending slavery."

The director said he is deliberately delaying "Lincoln's" release until after the upcoming 2012 presidential election, to keep from potentially politicizing the arena.

"Lincoln needs his own wide berth," he said. "And he wouldn't be given a wide berth with both sides using him as a kind of political football."