Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Waltz, Pattinson & Witherspoon 'Water for Elephants' Circus is Coming to Town

The county of Ventura confirmed that a production company has taken out a film permit for Thursday to start shooting Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen’s best-selling Depression-era novel about a traveling circus.

On Sunday, circus trains and wagons painted with the words “Benzini Bros. Most Spectacular Show on Earth,” the circus in Gruen’s book, were spotted in Fillmore.

The lead roles are played by Oscar winners Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon, Twilight's Robert Pattinson, and Emmy and Tony winner Hal Holbrook.

Pattinson plays “young” Jacob Jankowski, a 23-year-old Ivy League veterinary student who, after his parents are killed just before he’s about to graduate, ends up working with animals at a circus.

Holbrook is “old” Jacob, the story’s narrator, when he is “ninety. Or ninety three,” living not so happily in a nursing home, where he reminisces about his circus days.

Witherspoon plays Marlena Rosenbluth, a circus performer who does an equestrian act. Waltz, who won as Oscar this year for “Inglourious Basterds,” plays her husband, cruel animal trainer August Rosenbluth.

Richard LaGravenese penned the screenplay with Francis Lawrence directing.

Water for Elephants will be shot in Fillmore and other locations around the county starting Thursday for approximately 30 days.

According to Ventura County senior planner Becky Linder, Fillmore had rented a parking lot at Santa Clara and Mountain View streets to a company for a production called “Jerry Novak’s Big Adventure” aka WFE.

On Sunday, at the Santa Clara and Mountain View site, a dirt lot near the tracks of the Fillmore & Western Railway Co., a large rental fence had been erected with a black covering around it. A look inside a crack in the gate revealed more than 10 red, yellow and orange boxy circus wagons, some with ornate decorations.

In Gruen’s book, she describes circus wagons that “are painted scarlet, with gold trim and sunburst wheels, each emblazoned with the name ‘Benzini Bros. Most Spectacular Show on Earth.”

In Fillmore, “Benzini Bros. Circus” was printed in gold letters on some of the wagons.

Also, on the tracks next to the lot, about 10 old-fashioned railroad cars — boxcars, flatcars and passenger cars — sat on the tracks. Painted maroon, several of them were printed with “Benzini Bros. Circus” and “Most Spectacular Show on Earth.”

The Fillmore & Western Railway, which offers vintage train rides through Fillmore and Santa Paula, also coordinates and consults on film, TV and commercial productions that involve trains. The company would neither deny nor confirm filming activity.

Tai, the elephant from Have Trunk Will Travel will play Rosie in with Water for Elephants. The footage (after the jump) was taken in February 2008 in Las Vegas.

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