The water buffalo may not be the first creature that comes to mind when you think of acting, but it turns out that it’s one of the most important. You’ll find these massive mammals swarming around the set of the upcoming water for elephants movie, where they serve as the titular creatures’ food source. Between taking care of the animals and shooting scenes, the crew has to work together to ensure that the elephants don’t drink too much or eat the wrong things. The film’s co-star, Robert Pattinson, took some time out of his schedule to speak with Moviefone about his experience on set.

The Making Of A Water For Elephants Film

The opportunity to work on a film with Disney comes with unique perks. For starters, the studio owns the entire animal kingdom. Having a close relationship with the creatures means that you get to see them a lot, especially since they’re usually hungry during the day. The animals also tend to be very cooperative, so you don’t have to bribe them with treats to get the shots you need. Finally, as a condition of the contract, you have access to the entire herd – no mean feat, considering the size of some of these animals. All told, it’s an incredible feat to be able to pull off.

The Challenges Of Stuntin’ With Elephants

While the advantages are numerous, working with big animals isn’t easy. The first challenge is keeping the animals coordinated and interested in what they’re doing. For example, the scene where the animals are being loaded into the trucks is quite the spectacle to see, but it takes a lot of prep work to make it look realistic. A key factor is consistency, as you need to make sure that the animals know what is expected of them and what will happen if they don’t behave. Another challenge is making sure that the animals don’t injure each other while acting (especially during fight scenes). When an elephant does any sort of damage during a scene, it’s quite easy for the animal trainer to get into a tussle with the creature.

The Pressure Is On

With all the preparation that goes into a scene involving big animals, it comes as no surprise that the pressure is on to ensure that everything goes smoothly. For instance, since the animals are acting, the focus is directly on them, and thus the crew has to ensure that their needs are met. This means that you can’t just leave them unattended for even a second, as it’s highly likely that they’ll eat something that isn’t meant for them or drink too much. In one scene, for example, Roberts has to go about his business while an elephant watches him – not an ideal situation, especially since the elephant is extremely aggressive while in that state. As a result, Roberts has to be on his guard at all times and act quickly when needed. When the take is over, he has to console the elephant, who is now upset and wants to charge the set – something that doesn’t happen often during a take.

The Rewards Of Stuntin’ With Elephants

With all the preparation that goes into a scene involving big animals, it comes as no surprise that the rewards are great. To start, you get to work with some incredible creatures, many of which are endangered. Then there’s the pride of having a part in something that will entertain and inform the audience about the wonders of nature. Finally, there’s the money – a decent chunk of change, considering that you’re usually working more than two hours a day. All in all, it’s a good job.

Ultimately, working with big animals isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Having access to these magnificent creatures is a thrill, and the rewards of working with them are many.