Water For Elephants production notes

This scoop from RPlife was very emotional for me. It’s no surprise we love Robert Pattinson around here but blogging about this film for over a year now, we are intensely attached to all aspects of filming. These production notes give us insight into Water for Elephants from Sara Gruen, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz but possibly more amazing are the lights shed on production from Francis Lawrence (director), Richard LaGravenese (screenwriter), Jack Fisk (production designer), and Jacqueline West (costume designer).

I won’t bore you with my thoughts because my words are unnecessary. The cast and crew say it all. *tear* :)

***The notes contain spoilers but here are some ‘spectacular’ quotes in case you don’t read the whole release***

Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is about love in all its forms – between men and women, amongst families, and between people and animals. It’s about the different ways we treat each other; sometimes we do it well, and sometimes not.

Reese Witherspoon on Water for Elephants

It’s a wonderful story of love, hope, redemption, second chances and finding happiness. I got so pulled into the world Sara created.

Robert Pattinson on Water for Elephants

Someone sent me the book, and I immediately connected to it.

Francis Lawrence on Water for Elephants

I read the book in one sitting. It was such a great visceral experience, and the story existed in a very rich and detailed world. I loved the characters and the emotion.

Francis Lawrence on Marlena and Jacob

The relationship between Marlena and Jacob that we built in the movie is really one of my favorite things. It’s a really nice slow burn. I think Jacob falls instantly for Marlena’s beauty, magic, strength and confidence. But Marlena is guarded; she doesn’t trust many people. Jacob starts to break through that wall and he becomes someone quite unexpected for Marlena in her world. I think she falls for his morality.

Francis Lawrence on his draw to circus

I have always been very intrigued by the circus, especially those of the 1920s and ’30s. There was something special about it then – the steam trains, the beautiful canvas tents, the elegant performers and the exotic animals.

Francis Lawrence on adapting WFE

This was my first time working with a screenwirter to adapt a book, and our approach was to try and stay true to its themes, tone and broad strokes. There were some key moments in the book that are important to get into the movie, but part of the fun is interpreting the original material and coming up with new ideas, as well.

Richard LaGravenese, WFE screenwriter

When a book is well-loved, it’s important to keep what readers expect, but at the same time you have to understand that, when reading a story, you’re seeing and hearing characters in your head, and everyone has their own versions in their own minds. When you see the story played on screen with real people it becomes literal – one version – and there are certain ideas that work in the book that wouldn’t work on screen.

Richard LaGravenese on a much discussed topic

Combining August and Uncle Al made the August character more dangerous, which is always a good thing.

Sara Gruen on the screenplay

I thought the changes were brilliant. Writing a screenplay is a completely different set of skills than writing a novel. Francis and Richard took something that takes approximately 14 hours to read, and transformed it into something that can be watched in a couple of hours. They certainly did not diminish the story.

Francis Lawrence on Reese, the first actor to join the WFE team

Reese was a true creative partner in the early days of putting the project together. She brought so much to the film and to the character of Marlena. Reese is a fantastic actress, beautiful and timeless, loves animals – and is fearless; she’ll try anything. Marlena is a bit tough and hardened; she isn’t a victim of August or anyone else. Reese, too, can be very strong.

Robert Pattinson on the screenplay

Somehow, it seemed like Francis and Richard had added even more to the story.

Francis Lawrence on Robert Pattinson

I thought Robert WAS Jacob Jankowski. It was difficult to find a young man of age 23 or 24 who didn’t seem too young for the part. Rob was already a man. He is thoughtful, intelligent, empathetic, strong, and confident.

Robert Pattinson on his character, Jacob Jankowski

Jacob is mysterious and quiet; he’s an observer. He’s always watching people and he has an intuitive relationship with animals, and a deep understanding of human nature.

Francis Lawrence on Christoph Waltz

Christoph came to us with such love for the character and the story, as well as for its world and themes. He was perfect for the role because of his electric charm and his danger. He brings a key mix of intelligence, sharpness and humor.

Christoph Waltz on Tai’s trainer Gary Johnson

I admire Gary Johnson, who is calm, quiet, centered and patient. To be around Gary makes me calm and centered, and I can watch and learn.

Reese Witherspoon on training with Tai

I’m not very big and Tai is not very small. I had to learn how to step on her trunk and hurdle myself on top of her. It was very complicated. but I finally got it. It was one of my greatest accomplishments.

Robert Pattinson on the mutually smitten relationship with Tai

Rosie’s demeanor is so fascinating that it magnifies the characters’ experiences with her. And I felt exactly the same way working with Tai. I’ve never been next to such an enormous animal that is so graceful and careful around people.

Francis Lawrence of creating the Big Top

One of our goals [in creating the fictional Benzini Bros. Circus] was to create our own version of a backlot where we would have complete freedom to shoot wherever we wanted and have lots of depth and authenticity. But we built our circus just as a second rate circus would have built theirs back in its day. The tents were put up with the same rigging; the train cars were outfitted with the appropriate accessories; the costumes were all period-authentic; and the casting for our circus employees was top notch. All of these elements came together to create a beautiful, authentic atmosphere that inspired us. It was like time traveling to the ’30s, every morning.

Jack Fisk, production designer, on his feelings about the WFE set

There were moments when I walked into our Big Top – and with the practical lighting, the bleachers we built, and the smell of the animals – it was like going back in time. Those are moments I live for. That tent was alive.

Jack Fisk on his research for WFE

Those old black-and-white photos of the canvas tents were beautiful because they’re lit in a beautiful tungsten light, but you can see the mold, dirt, footprints, grass stains, mud and dust. It looks very real and tactile, and that’s what we were aiming for with our circus.

Jacqueline West, costume designer, on the her designs for the principal characters

I wanted all the color and glitter to jump out of the circus itself, away from the more monochromatic crowd. As Marlena, Reese’s outfits included a beaded evening dress and parade costume with marabou feathers made from vintage antique pieces put together in a patchwork. Her evening gowns reflect those she saw at the movies, worn by some of the period’s top stars, including Jean Harlow, Carol Lombard and Constance Bennett.

Reese Witherspoon on WFE

People have always wanted to have their ‘day at the circus’ – a joyful moment taking them outside their everyday lives. I hope that’s what we’ve done here: create something that people will enjoy.

Francis Lawrence on WFE

One of the reasons I did Water for Elephants is because it has love, wish fulfillment, redemption, magic and beauty. I hope audiences latch on to all those things.

*sigh* Could April 22nd be approaching any slower? This film is going to do us in. Full production note scans after the cut.

38 more days….

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Thank you RPlife!


About tinkrbe1l3

Fan and supporter of all things Robert Pattinson. Co-chauffeur on CosmopolisFilm.com, co-blogger on RobsessedPattinson.com, co-kinker on WaterForElephantsFilm.com, as well as upcoming films: theroverfilm.com, holdontomefilm.com, missionblacklist.com, mapstothestarsfilm.com, queenofthedesertfilm.com. Co-blogger on RobertPattinsonFilms.com
This entry was posted in Christoph Waltz, Cinematographer, Circus Animals, Costumes, Elephants, Filming Locations, Fox Movie Studio, Francis Lawrence, Hal Holbrook, Have Trunk Will Travel, Production, Production Designer, Props & Sets, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Rosie, Sara Gruen, Script, Tai, The Book, Water for Elephants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Water For Elephants production notes

  1. Wonderful article! It’s clearly been an incredible experience for everyone, just as it has been here for all of us.

    I have followed this blog from day one and cannot wait to complete the journey by going to the premiere in NYC. Yep. I bit the bullet and bought my plane ticket last week. Staying at the Hilton right next to the Ziegler with a fellow blogger who has become a RL best friend. I would have kicked myself forever if I’d had to hear about it second-hand.

  2. Maggie says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this – and everything you’ve done to keep us updated about WFE. I feel so invested in this movie and CAN’T WAIT for it to open.

  3. RobsFan-tasy says:

    I just know this whole movie is going to just break my little heart in two. I love the look and feel of it and the time pewriod too. I built my entire website around Rob’s look in this movie.
    Thank you Tink for all you do. E-mail me sometime or tweet me, I have something I’m trying to do for Rob you might be interested in.

  4. somanywards says:

    Thank you*
    38 days …

  5. Lynda Motl says:

    Thanks for all the great information about this fabulous films!
    However the information from Jacqueline West there may have been a
    typo…instead of Jean Farlow I believe it was Jean Harlow who was a blonde
    sex symbol in Hollywood in the 1930’s but had her life cut short dying of renal
    failure at the age of 26.

  6. Roblover says:

    Impressive production notes on WFE. I look foward to this movie. Thanks for the blog.

  7. RobCatCdn says:

    This was so wonderful to read. :-) Now just 37 days left … woot!
    Thanks for sharing Tink! <3

  8. Colleen says:

    Awesome article! I really love that photo of Rob where the director discusses Robert’s already being a man. There’s an innocence in his face as well as maturity. I know it’s a screencap, but it’s nice.

  9. Toni Pippia says:

    Well, I hope you guys are all feeling warm and fuzzy inside thinking about this movie, while Thai and a baby elephant were mistreated and Thai electrocuted by their trainers. You don’t believe me? Go look it up on internet.

    (Bismarck, ND)

  10. Pingback: Lighting in Water For Elephants. | Destyne's Film Blog

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