Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz -- 'Water for Elephants'

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – Just back from her honeymoon, the actress many call America’s sweetheart has a new movie hitting theaters this weekend.

Tara Hitchcock sat down with Reese Witherspoon and her on-screen husband, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, to chat about “Water for Elephants.”

Based on a best-selling novel by Sara Gruen, the movie is set during the Great Depression and centers around a Cornell University veterinary student named Jacob Jankowski, who, in the wake of a personal tragedy, finds himself traveling with the Benzini Brothers Circus – and falling for its star performer.

Robert Pattinson, best known for his role as Edward in the “Twilight” series, plays Jacob. Witherspoon plays Marlena, the performer who captures Jacob’s heart.

Witherspoon spent five months in “circus school” training for the role. Her kids loved it.

“It was really fun,” she said. “It’s a lot of gymnastics, a lot of trapeze work, and tumbling. The kids had the best time.”

The biggest star of the movie is Tai, a 42-year-old elephant. Witherspoon, 35, worked closely with Tai.

“It’s an incredible experience -- being on top of an elephant -- one I never thought I would have in my life.” she said.

Pattinson loved working with Tai. It was one of the main reasons he signed on for the project.

"There's something about knowing that this creature kind of knows you," he said. "You're so proud of it.”

Waltz, who won an Oscar for his role in “Inglorious Basterds” plays August, Marlena’s possessive and temperamental husband.

“I think it’s time for a revival of real stories in the movies … true characters, real conflict between human beings,” he said.

Waltz said dealing with the paparazzi and Pattinson’s persistent “Twilight” fans was a unique experience.

“We were in Tennessee and one morning, we had to get the police to get to the set,” he recalled. “There were about 500, 600 fans blocking the access to the set. They refused to leave until, I don’t know, Rob had kissed them all ….”

“Water for Elephants” is rated PG-13. It opens Friday.