Let’s be honest, when Reese Witherspoon sits down to discuss her new film, “Water for Elephants” — an adaptation of the best-selling book about a young veterinary student (“Twilight” star Robert Pattinson) who joins a traveling circus and finds himself in a love triangle with the star performer (Witherspoon) and sadistic ringmaster (Christoph Waltz) — what inquiring minds really want to know is what it’s like to kiss R. Patz.
“Rob possibly had the most hideous, horrible cold of any co-star I’ve ever had to do a love scene with ever in my entire [life],” Witherspoon admits with faux repulsion. “I’m talking green, infectious, disgusting! He was literally snorting and snotting through every second of it and it was not appealing. I was just trying not to get sick the whole time,” she laughs.
While her rendezvous with Pattinson was less than ideal, Witherspoon forged another very deep connection on set with Tai, the film’s titular pachyderm. Growing up in Tennessee, the 35-year-old Oscar-winner was used to riding horses but admits nothing prepared her to “ride [an elephant] bareback, in a leotard, holding on with one hand.”
“I worked with Tai closely and intensely for a while, developing the routine and practicing,” she explains. “It was a very emotional experience for me. One of my favorite stories, which speaks to the intelligence of [Tai] and her communicative capabilities, was when we were shooting a night shoot really late one night. The next day she was so tired and I asked the trainers, ‘Why is she so tired?’ And they said, ‘Well, she stayed up all night telling all the other elephants what she had been up to.’ She lives with six other elephants, who talk to each other by roaring, and they were all waiting up for her. The trainers said the elephants roared for nearly an hour before they went to bed. She was telling them what she’d done that night.”