From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge

In the adaptation of Sara Gruen's bestselling novel, due in theaters April 22, Pattinson stars as Jacob, a veterinary student who tends the menagerie of a 1930s traveling circus. He falls in love with Witherspoon's Marlena, the show's star performer and wife of its abusive ringmaster, played by Christoph Waltz. "Their romance is a slow burn," says director Francis Lawrence. "It has to take its time."


Pattinson instantly bonded with Tai, the Indian elephant who plays Rosie. Says Pattinson: "I've never been next to such an enormous animal who is so graceful around people."


Witherspoon (with Waltz) embraced her character's bombshell look. "Making her a bottle blonde gave her a little more edge," says Lawrence.


"All three actors were amazing with the animals," says animal coordinator Paul "Sled" Reynolds. "We beat up Reese pretty good, and she never complained."