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Women swoon for Robert Pattinson as the vampire Edward in the "Twilight" movies and his character doesn't even have a pulse. In the romantic drama "Water for Elephants," Pattinson plays a young man with an actual heartbeat and—gasp!—a tan who falls for a married circus performer, played by Reese Witherspoon.
Although most women wouldn't need to be paid to make out with RPattz, the recently married Witherspoon has been very vocal about how unsexy their on-screen encounter was.
"Rob possibly had the most hideous, horrible cold of any co-star I've ever had to do a love scene with in my entire life," she said at a recent press event for the movie. "He was literally snorting and snotting through every second of it, and it was not appealing. I'm talking green, infectious, disgusting – I'm not kidding! I'm going to say it’s a little bit of a downer. I was a little disappointed. It wasn't sexy."
What wasn't sexy during filming seems sexier when you watch "Water for Elephants," in theaters Friday, because Robert and Reese's characters fight their forbidden attraction for as long as they can bear it before they give in to their desires.
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Based on Sara Gruen's popular 2006 novel of the same name, the film takes place in the 1930s and focuses on a traveling circus owned by a charismatic yet abusive ringmaster, August, played by Christoph Waltz. Witherspoon plays his wife and the Big Top's star performer, Marlena, who has a special connection with the circus animals. When Jacob (Pattinson), a veterinary student literally hops aboard the train, he takes an immediate liking to the show's golden-haired star.
"Jacob notices Marlena's beauty and charisma right away," Pattinson explained. "He also notes her strong bond with the animals she works with during her performances. That's another thing they share."
One co-star who wasn't shy about her attraction to Pattinson or flirting with him was Tai, the 42-year-old Asian elephant who plays Rosie in the movie.
"It sounds really disturbing," said Pattinson of his alleged interactions with the playful pachyderm. "I wasn't flirting with the elephant. I think I had a relationship with the elephant, but it was based purely on candy. I strategically placed mints. I'd suck a peppermint for a bit, and then stick it under my armpits and not tell anyone. So, every single time, the elephant would be constantly sniffing me and I'd be like, 'I don't know, she just really likes me. It's crazy!' But, I think she was just sniffing around for a treat."
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Waltz won an Oscar for playing a Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds" and again bites at the chance to play a deliciously evil character in "Water for Elephants," but that doesn't mean he'd really want to command circus animals in real life. "I wouldn't have the patience to train an animal, so I hardly have the patience to play an animal trainer," says Waltz.
Reese, on the other hand, trained with Tai for three months prior to the start of principal photography. "I am not very big and Tai is not very small," says Witherspoon. "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."
The traveling circus is a product of a bygone era, but Pattinson loves the setting of "Water for Elephants" and hopes audiences connect with the romance of it, too. "There's a wildness to it—I think that's why I like that period," says Pattinson. "After that, it's just white picket fences. It just gets progressively more boring. It's the end of the Wild West and why kids want to be cowboys… even in England."