Bonding with Tai

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Old 03-May-2011
Bonding with Tai

Reese Witherspoon can flip over backward on her latest co-star, who in turn can either hoist the actress in the air or crush her.

We're not talking about heartthrob Robert Pattinson or Christoph Waltz, with whom she stars in the new romantic drama Water for Elephants.

But rather, Tai — the 42-year-old, 1,900-kilo pachyderm at the unwitting centre of the dangerous Depression-era love triangle.

"These are skills that people develop over years and years of training and I had to condense that into five months," theWitherspoon said. "But it was really rewarding."

Witherspoon joked that one of her greatest accomplishments was learning how to step on Tai's trunk and hurdle herself on top of the eight-foot, eight-inch (2.6 metre) animal.

Tai, a veteran of movies and commercials, had to stretch her own acting chops by pretending to be untrained. She evidently reached a deeper level of familiarity with Witherspoon than her human co-stars.

"It's like a dog in that they know your smell," Witherspoon said. "They remember your scent and so, she smells you every morning and she's like, ‘Oh, I know that person.'"

Witherspoon "was excellent," said Tai's trainer Gary Johnson. When filming wrapped, "she cried and was sad. There was a strong bond between them and on the last day Rob also got a little choked up and tearful too."

The movie also shines a light on animal abuse, and karmic retribution. "Hopefully, this movie will build compassion for different elephant charities, that we really have to protect animals in this world," Witherspoon said.

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