Mark Povinelli (who we love and adore) talked to Reel Movie News about his role in Water for Elephants and working with Rob, Reese, and Christoph:
I play Kinko, who’s real name is Walter, and he is the reluctant roommate of Robert Pattinson’s character Jacob. When Jacob rides on the train, August throws him into Kinko’s tiny little box car as his roommate. Kinko is rather gruff and unfriendly individual. Throughout the course of events through the movie, Jacob wins him over and Kinko ends up becoming one of his biggest allies in a world that Jacob that Jacob has very few allies in.
I came upon this by my agent sending me out on an audition. I read the book a couple of years ago and I was excited because there was a great character, that happened to be a little person and that’s very rare that you see that in literature or certainly in film and television. He was a fully developed character, and that made me that much more eager to play him. I just enjoyed it for that sake, and didn’t think much about it being a movie. When this came along, I bought the book on my Kindle and I reread the book in a night and a half which wasn’t hard to do since it’s such an easy read. I knew that I had to do whatever it took to get the role or put my best effort. I went to audition, and it worked out that they wanted me. It was a no-brainer for me to work with talent like Francis [Lawrence] and screenplay of Richard LaGravenese and based on that book with that cast. It was an easy decision for me.
How was it working with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon as costars?
I didn’t know a lot of Rob’s stuff, but I was aware of him. I’d seen the Harry Potter movies but I hadn’t seen any of Twilight films. He was a name to me, and not really somebody I could closely identify with. When I went in to work with him, I was like ‘who is this guy?’ When I started to understand the Rob fascination, it turns out that Rob is a really down to earth, sweet, kind of silly, very bright young man. That was the thing that surprised me the most. I thought of him as a Tiger Beat, Teen Beat matinee idol, when actually in this film he’s a leading man. He’s a rugged leading man with still a sweet boyish face that can really carry a film. He carries two hours of this epic story on his back and I think he carries it off beautifully. One of the charming things about Rob is that when we’re not filming, often times he’s off reading a book and he’s very well read. He understood so much about the depression era in America, so much about circuses. He would reference old movies and old pictures he’d seen and done research on. He’s not just ‘what movie am I doing next?’, he really dives into a role and I think he’s an actor. He does his work and research and he comes prepared.
I was intimated by Reese. I’ve been a fan of Reese’s forever. She’s been a huge star for so long, so I knew her work so well that I was intimidated to work with her. Rob and I had done some rehearsals, but Reese, the first time I’d met her was the first day of filming. The first shot on the first day was Reese, Rob and I filming, and I thought ‘great, cant we do something a little less intense? Can we do a wide shot with an elephant or something?’ [laughs] I got thrown right in there and what was great about Reese was that she made me feel at ease right away. When the camera came on and we started working, she was such a giving actress. If the camera was on me, she was on the other side of the camera working just as hard as if the camera was on her, and really trying to make me look as good as I can. You want that from another actor, but you don’t always expect it from actors that have such a high level as her. She could have been somebody you’d never heard of before or a superstar, it didn’t matter to her. She was an actor working with another actor, and that was really refreshing and wonderful. It immediately put me at ease for the rest of shooting, frankly. The reputation I’d heard about Reese was that she was professional and that she expects professionalism from everyone else around her. While that’s true, as soon as we started working together and seeing that we were professionals, she could not have been more pleasant or warmer. I appreciated the fact that she appreciates that people are there to do the work. You can tell, in her, from the moment you walk on set that she’s there to give her all and give her best performance.
People are saying this is Rob’s real breakout role. It would be great to see ‘Academy-award winning actor’ before his name as well.
I think at some point it’s going to be there, whether it’s for this or not, he’s got the chops to be able to be that guy at some point. It’s a matter of when, not if. The thing about this film, is that Rob is this film, in the sense that it is completely told from his characters prospective. He’s in every shot of every scene and knowing that, we knew that he was going to make or break this film. I really do, honestly, think he makes it. He looks fantastic, to no ones surprised, but he carries himself and is so committed to the character. He’s on screen with Reese and Christoph and he absolutely holds his own and totally delivers. Everyone has this big question of can he do this, and he’s got this big target on his forehead. He can, and he did.
Was it easy to transport yourself to that period of time?
I love playing characters that are in period pieces. I enjoyed the melodrama that the book and screenplay create and Kinko is a pretty hard scrabbled fighter that has had a rough, rough life. Certainly I’ve had it much easier than him, but there’s a scence of being born with such a profound physical difference, as I am, and he is, there’s a connection there that you can understand being on the fringed of society. Tapping into the tough exterior that he has to have and seriousness that he has to present to keep himself alive was really exciting for me.
There’s been a lot of talk about the charms of Thai. What was it like working with Queenie?
Queenie was probably the most talented character I worked with on set. In the sense that she never missed a queue, she never missed performing a trick. If there was ever a time that the scene didn’t work, it was because I messed up the command, not that Queenie didn’t deliver. Queenie is a total pro, his real name is actually Augie, and he’s a boy. It was a little weird because I had to bounce back from ‘good girl’ to ‘good boy’ all of the time. [laughs]
How happy are you with how the film has come out?
I am ecstatic with how the film came out. It’s really hard to have perspective after this whole process, but I was crying at the end of the movie. I don’t know if I was crying because of this being a year-long process that was finally being on the screen, but I think most of it was because that story took me to a place that moved me. It’s a beautiful film, and it’s a very classic film. I think it will instantly fall into that realm of instant, old-time classic films. I’m really proud of it. I’m not totally surprised that it’s being called the best movie of the year. Everyone is just so strong in it. Christoph is amazing, and it really comes across onscreen, which is so satisfying. I know how hard everybody worked, and Francis for the past few years.
Speaking of Christoph, he plays a great villain.
Yes, he does. That was my favorite part about the experience. You just have no indication that he’s got that in him when you hang out with him. We had a couple nights out in Tennessee, and I felt like I was working on some basement theater production with a veteran actor. There was no sense of celebrity or star or ego about him. He’s really funny, witty, and charming gentleman. Then he gets on camera and he can be sadistic, and you go ‘where did that come from?’ It’s probably good that I don’t know where that comes from. [laughs] You kind of look at him and go, ‘you can’t be that same guy’. It’s great.
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