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article imageReese Witherspoon & Robert Pattinson talk 'Water For Elephants' Special

By Earl Dittman     Nov 1, 2011 in Entertainment
In their latest movie together, the Depression Period piece Water For Elephants (now on Blu-ray/DVD), Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson discuss how their characters fall for each other and for the elephant in the circus in which they work.
Take a journey back in time with the romantic tale based on the New York Times-selling novel by Sara Gruen, Water For Elephants stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz in an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. Showcasing the decadence of a bohemian circus and the majesty of its animal against the backdrop and beauty of a bygone era (The Depression). The circus begins to crumble from within, and against all odds, Jacob (Pattinson) and Marlena (Witherspoon) come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, the two come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.
At a chat with the press, earlier this summer, Reese and Robert talk about the making of the film, what it was like to do a period film, Robert jokes about flirting with an elephant and the two costars talk about kissing each other in the film.
What was the impression you got from reading the book that made you want to do a film adaptation?
Reese: "I liked the structure of the book. I like how, all through the book, there was this man’s remembrance of his life and his life experiences. One of my favorite parts of the movie is Hal Holbrook’s part of the movie, where he’s reminiscing. I thought that was great."
Robert: "I think I’ve just always had a bit of an affinity for that era. I always wanted to do a movie around that time. And, I think it was just very solid, how she (author Sara Gruen) created the world there. I just wanted to be a part of it."
How did you approach becoming a person from another time?
Robert: "There was a comprehensive creation of the world. I’ve never worked on anything so detailed. There was an embankment with a train track on the top. All the trailers were on one side, and then the circus world was on the other. Once you walked over the tracks, there would be a camera, but that was the only thing from the 21st Century. You could stand on the tracks and look over at everything, and you were in the ‘30s. We were out in the middle of the desert in Fillmore, and there was nothing else around. There was an orchard. We were in the ‘30s. Jack Fisk, the production designer, used authentic pegs and the ropes. Every single thing which built the world was all totally real. And, authentic period underpants do actually help, as well. I actually wore them every single day. Jacqueline West, the costume designer, was unbelievable. Almost everything was real. Every pair of jeans were all from the ‘20s and ‘30s. It was crazy."
Reese and Robert in  Water For Elephants
Reese and Robert in "Water For Elephants"
Fox
Reese, did your costumes and look really help you, in finding this character?
Reese: "Yeah, certainly. I debated about whether or not I was going to wear a wig. Ultimately, after lots of discussion and screen-testing, I decided, 'I’m just going to cut my hair. I’m just going to dye it white. I’m just going to do it.' It was really transforming for me. I didn’t even recognize myself. It’s a real gift, as an actress, to have people around you, who are artisans that are the best at what they do, creating period costumes for you and set design. It’s a very collaborative medium. You’re only as good as the people that you collaborate with, so we were very lucky to have the best people in the business designing the film."
How was it to wear such body conscious costumes? Did you do anything to physically prepare for that?
Reese: "Well, I was training a lot, with the circus training, riding the elephant and riding horses, so I was pretty busy. I’ve made a conscious effort, throughout my career, to not end up in a bathing suit in a movie, and here I was in this movie, wearing a leotard for the majority of it. It was horrifying! But, it was inspiring to have Jacqueline West design them. They’re beautiful. It was a different time, when women loved their curves and enjoyed being voluptuous, and all that sort of thing. All of the costumes in the film are very flattering for women."
What do you love so much, about this time period?
Reese: "The unknown, I think."
Robert: "There’s a wildness to it. I think that’s why I like that period. After that, it’s just white picket fences. It just gets progressively more boring. But, it’s the end of the Wild West. It’s why kids still want to be cowboys, even in England."
What was it like to work with Tai the elephant, especially in the beginning?
Reese: "(Director) Francis (Lawrence) and I went out and visited Tai, probably three or four months before shooting, and he brought a camera. I was like, 'Why did you bring a camera?,' but he took pictures of me, every moment of the first experiences I had, of meeting her and her picking me up. And then, he sent me the pictures and I was like, 'Oh, my gosh!' I really have this memory of the first time I met her. I was terrified. I screamed. I like animals, but this was a completely unique experience.
Robert: "I wasn’t scared at all. There was only one moment, when we first saw the whole herd together and Gary, Tai’s trainer said, 'Sit,' literally as if he were talking to a dog, and it sat down in exactly the same way a dog would. Just seeing that, it’s totally incomprehensible. I basically decided to do the movie, at that point. I hadn’t read the script or anything. It’s very powerful to think that you can have a relationship with these huge beasts."
Robert and his elephant love
Robert and his elephant love
Fox
Rob, it’s been said that the elephant took quite a liking to you. How does an elephant flirt?
Robert: "I don’t know who started that. I’ve been asked about it all day. It sounds really disturbing. I wasn’t flirting with the elephant. I think I had a relationship with the elephant, but it was based purely on candy. I strategically placed mints. I’d suck a peppermint for a bit, and then stick it onto my body, under my armpits and covering my entire chest, and not tell anyone. So, every single time, the elephant would be constantly sniffing me and I’d be like, 'I don’t know, she just really likes me. It’s crazy!' But, I think she was just sniffing around for a treat."
Rob, in the film, your character Jacob lies about being a vet to get a job in the circus. Have you ever lied to get an acting job?
Robert: "Oh, yeah, all the time. I don’t know if there’s the same thing in America, but there’s a thing called the Spotlight Form in England, where you have all your talents and accents and everything. You just tick these boxes, saying what you’re capable of, as an actor. I just tick everything. I can do any accent in the world. I can literally do any technical skill. I think it’s still like that. I ticked that I can do Lithuanian accents, fluently."
Reese, what was it like to have to do the kissing scenes with Rob Pattinson, who is so much taller than you are?
Reese: "What’s it like to kiss a tall guy? I don’t know. In the movies, they put you on a box, and then you kiss the tall guy."
Robert: "It was really easy for me. I’ve got quite bad posture and I’ve got a big, heavy head, so it just slumps down, and then she was in the right spot, naturally."
Rob, how was it to do the scenes where you have to shovel the animal poop?
Robert: "I don’t mind working with poop, at all. I have a natural propensity to work on big piles of poop. I’m very familiar with it. I don’t know why I wasn’t grossed out by it, at all. Because everything felt so authentic all the time, you just accept it, as part of the world. The scene where we were in that train car, there were like 10 billion flies. On any other movie, I think I’d be like, 'Let’s just do one take!' But, I was perfectly happy to make a little mound and sit there and eat my lunch."
Untitled
Fox
Rob, was there anything about Jacob's journey in the film that you, personally, could relate to?
Robert: "I don’t know. I guess I had an experience, when I did a Harry Potter film, years ago, and I was just starting to realize that I wanted to be an actor, even though I had already finished three movies, by that point. I remember being in Tokyo and looking out the window and seeing the Tokyo skyline. It made me reflect on what had happened in my life, and I was in awe of what road I had taken, by accident. In terms of being mesmerized by a girl, like he is, I guess that happens."
Water For Elephants Blu-Ray Bonus Features: "Robert Pattinson Spotlight" and "Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon: featurettes; 5 additional featurettes; Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard LaGravenese and Theatrical Trailer; LIVE: Stars of the Circus; Blu-ray Highlight: The Traveling Show: From Page To Screen, Theatrical Trailer; Live Lookup and Digital Copy.
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