Q&A with Reese Witherspoon of the Film ‘Water for Elephants’

Academy Award® winner Reese Witherspoon talks about her new movie "Water for Elephants" and how she trained for the circus scenes.

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson bring to life an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical bygone era filled with adventure, wonder and great danger in the Francis Lawrence helmed “Water For Elephants” based from the bestselling book of the same title by Sara Gruen.

The movie takes us back in time when a veterinary student from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob (Pattinson), meets and falls in love with Marlena (Witherspoon), a star performer in a circus. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Against all odds – including the wrath of Marlena’s charismatic but dangerous husband August (Christoph Waltz) – Jacob saves Marlena from an unhappy life and they find lifelong love.

Reese in the following Q&A enthuses on filming “Water For Elephants” and how she trained for the circus scenes:

Q: Can you describe Marlena’s journey?

Reese: “It is wonderful. I feel so lucky that I got the part. It is a really great experience playing a woman who has such an interesting journey throughout the movie, going from a violent relationship and ultimately finding some redemption and hope in her life. Also I have to say and I know this may sound superficial, but just the glamour of it all is amazing, the costumes and sets. I love going to movies and seeing people in beautiful costumes on beautiful sets and visually this film is stunning.”

Q: What kind of woman is Marlena?

Reese: “She’s a really interesting girl. Marlena was abandoned as a child and found her way through which was obviously heading toward the Depression. Marlena has a survivor’s instincts. She has pulled herself up by her bootstraps and figures out what she is going to do. She works very, very hard to become the star attraction in the circus. “

Q: How much training did you do with the elephants and Tai in particular?

Reese: “I trained for three months with her. I would go twice a week down to the ranch where she lives with six other elephants and I just practiced. I fell down a lot and I fell off. I would be hanging on the side of her and if you get nervous it gets even harder. But she has amazing dexterity, she can pick up something the size of a pencil or a human being. She knows how much pressure to put on you. She could pick me up with her mouth when I first met her. It is incredible. She could crush you, she could crush your hip with her mouth but she manages to just grab you tightly enough so that you don’t fall; it is the weirdest sensation.”

Q: How challenging was the work you did with the horses?

Reese: “That was harder than the elephant training. I had ridden horses before, I grew up riding horses, but I hadn’t ridden for a long time. In this movie I had to ride bareback and there was a lot of stunt work that was really complicated.”

Q: Can you discuss your relationship with August, your character’s husband?

Reese: “You have to talk to Cristoph about what he thinks are the origins of his darkness. We’ve purposely left it up to the audience to determine what his problems are, but yes he is very dark. He is very abusive to the animals and to Marlena, as well as to the circus roustabouts.

Q: Had you read the book ‘Water For Elephants’ by Sara Gruen?

Reese: “I had not read the book until they offered me the movie. It was one those books I had bought and it was sitting there in my library among a stack of books. I thought ‘I’m going to read that someday’ and hadn’t. I read it and found it to be a beautiful love story. Sara Gruen the author did such extensive research. It was really extraordinary. I am sure that when she came on the set, it must have been such an amazing experience for her taking in all these things she had imagined in her book manifested in real life.”

Q: How timely is the film dealing with the Great Depression in America as well as circus life?

Reese: “It is definitely very timely dealing with the Depression. It is also an interesting look at what it was like to be part of an entertainment industry in that time period and how the circus was bringing people a little bit of joy or happiness or hope, or just escapism into people’s lives. Nowadays, we can definitely relate to that. Audiences will find it interesting to see how many people in this movie are out of work, can’t eat or just want to have a moment of happiness.”

“Water For Elephants” opens May 4 in theaters Metro Manila, Cebu and Pampanga from 20th Century Fox be distributed by Warner Bros.

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