JUST IN: *first* pictures and set location details on #WaterForElephants production Stay tuned for updates!
“Ladies-s-s-s-s-s-s and gentlemen-n-n-n-n-n-n-n! Twen-n-n-n-nty-five minutes till the big show!” barks Cecil, a circus sideshow talker in the novel “Water for Elephants.
Well, the exact start time isn’t clear, but the circus — or at least the circus train — is coming to Fillmore this week.
The county of Ventura confirmed that a production company has taken out a film permit for Thursday to start shooting a movie in Fillmore. That project is likely a Fox 2000 film based on “Water for Elephants,” Sara Gruen’s best-selling Depression-era novel about a traveling circus.
No big tops have been reported in Fillmore or environs, but 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 the city’s downtown.
People in Ventura County responsible for permits and other film shooting issues did not provide detailed information on the film, which is expected to star some well-known actors.
The lead roles are played by Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Cristoph Waltz, “Twilight” heartthrob 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.
The film’s screenplay is by Richard LaGravenese, with Francis Lawrence directing.
Early news reports noted that “Water for Elephants” would start filming in Santa Paula and Fillmore in May. Patty Harrison, film liaison for the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, and Patrick Maynard, film permit coordinator for the Fillmore Film Commission, said no film permit for “Water for Elephants” had been applied for in either city.
A meeting agenda for the Fillmore Film Commission dated April 7, however, noted that a “large production called ‘Water for Elephants’ is planned to be shot in the area. The production will go on for approximately 30 days.”
Fillmore’s Maynard did reveal that the city had rented a parking lot at Santa Clara and Mountain View streets to a company for a production called “Jerry Novak’s Big Adventure.”
On Monday, Ventura County senior planner Becky Linder confirmed that a production company has taken out a film permit to start shooting “Jerry Novak’s Big Adventure” in Fillmore and “other locations around the county” on Thursday.
“Jerry Novak” isn’t a character in the book, but 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.” A few had bales of hay inside.
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 said, as with any movie, it could neither deny nor confirm filming activity.