Speaking with a local news website from his native town, Novato in northern California, Stephen Simon shared some cool info about being a clown on the set of Water for Elephants:
How did you land the part in Water for Elephants?
I heard about auditions for WFE through the clown grapevine (there is such a thing). I called the casting office and got an appointment. It’s usually never that easy, but they were looking for a very specific skill set and were more open that is the norm. Auditions were spread over several days for the various circus performer roles and they saw lots of people. They wanted to see a quick routine of our work and then asked some questions. I felt good about what I did, but had no idea about my chances, there were so many people of all shapes, sizes, talent and experience levels.
What do you like most about your character?
In the movie, I played a “white face” clown, which is not something I normally do. The clowns — there were six of us — had a sit down with the director, Francis Sebastien, the circus coordinator and production team to brainstorm ideas for characters and gags and talk about real life situations, and interactions among clowns and fellow circus performers. They asked us about what types of clowning we naturally do. I think to a person we all fit in the character/tramp/auguste archetypes. They needed to round out the alley with character types, and I stepped up to try something different. Full white face makeup is no picnic — especially in the summer — but I had some fun costumes. I really liked that we worked in and out of makeup/costumes in the movie. Not much of our work made it to the final cut, but we had fun.
Where was it filmed and did you have an extracurricular fun off the set?
The majority of shooting was on a farm northwest of Los Angeles, in a town called Piru. They had cleared the fields and created the world of the movie — the tents, trains and midway. A wonderful place to show up for work every day.
The clowns always had a great time, on and off camera. I don’t think any of us had worked together before, but we established an instant rapport and had a really tight group. I don’t think I’m quite at liberty to disclose everything we got up to (there were pranks and hazing,) but there was a feeling of a true clown alley and we’re all still in contact with each other after we wrapped.
What were the highlights of the filming for you?
I think the highlights of filming for me were really getting to know my fellow clowns and the other circus performers on the set. We had a great time when they brought in all of the rubes for the show sequences. They were sitting on bleachers for hours on end and we had fun keeping them entertained during and between shots. It felt like being thrown back in time to a depression-era mud show.
Did you do much hanging out with the two main stars?
No, they were friendly and professional, but Reese, Robert, and Christoph (Waltz) were always working when they were on set. There was very little interaction when we weren’t actively shooting something.
Click HERE to read the rest of Stephen’s interview.