Usually Sonya Gonzalez is busy juggling all the activities that go with taking care of four young children, a house and home schooling her kids. But, for a couple of days in August, life went from being a circus to actually being in the circus. Last August (2010), the production company for the film, ‘Water for Elephants’ came to town. The whole town was suddenly ‘starstruck’ as people poured in from neighboring cities to get a glimpse of the film-making and its star, Robert Pattinson. For Sonya and her family, the visit came with a personal touch. Sonya’s husband works for the hotel where the cast and crew stayed and her two young sons filmed a scene for the movie.
“When my husband found out the production was coming to town, he heard they would be needing extras and children for the filming. We decided it would be fun to see if our kids could get a part” said Gonzalez. Her two boys, ages 5 and 7, were offered the part of playing the children of the film’s main character Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson). The scene would involve the boys playing in the background with other children, while the camera was focused on Jacob.
The movie, ‘Water for Elephants’ is based on the book written by Sara Gruen. The book tells the story of Jacob Jankowski, a young man whose was set to graduate from Cornell as a veterinarian when his life takes a sudden turn of events and he finds himself working for a traveling circus. The film is a beautiful romantic period piece set during the depression era.
Sonya, her husband and the boys headed out to the site of the filming very early one morning. Her boys really had no idea who Robert Pattinson was, but her oldest was so excited to get a chance to meet the elephant, Tai. Her youngest son was pretty happy just to get to do whatever his older brother was doing. When the boys went to the trailer to get their hair cut, they ran into Robert Pattinson. As they were introduced, the actor smiled and joked about, ‘oh more kids’, because he’d already met the three little girls who would be playing his daughters in the film.
Sonya was impressed with how focused and professional all of the cast and crew were during the preparation and the actual filming. The filming itself probably took less than half an hour, but the preparation with hair, make up and setting the scene actually took much longer. “The only hard part was when my oldest son discovered that the elephant, Tai was not actually there to film the scene.” The elephant was going to be added in post-production with special effects. He was quite heart broken and it took some consoling from dad to help him refocus. Once he got over his disappointment, though he did, “take it very seriously and really paid attention to what they were asking him to do.” Though her sons had no direct interaction with Robert during the filming, they did have great fun chasing each other around the clothesline playing ‘Cops and Robbers’ while the crew filmed.
Shortly after the filming of her sons, Sonya and her husband had the opportunity to join the cast for the cast party. “I was struck by how ‘down to earth’ and approachable both Robert Pattinson and the director of the movie, Francis Lawrence, were.” She chatted with Francis first and she remembers him as being ‘super nice’. She said when she mentioned how nice it would be to see Robert in a different movie other than Twilight, he told her he was ‘proud’ of the job that Robert was doing in the film. Her memories of talking with Robert are blurry and she recalls the whole experience as being ‘surreal’. “He’s so much taller than I am and he was dressed like a regular guy with a ball cap on. I didn’t know he was from England until he spoke to me.” Once she heard him speak, she said she asked him about his impressions of the US, where he grew up in England and how often he gets to see his family. She also said he was ‘very sweet’ and he didn’t hesitate to let her husband take a picture of her with him.
With the release of the movie, Sonya said their friends and her youngest son’s school teacher are all very excited to see the film. Sonya and her family attended the premiere celebration in Chattanooga, Tennessee in late April of this year, where she met Pattinson Post staffer Hope Harris, who was covering the premiere for us. Along with the excitement of her boys being in the movie, she sees another recurring theme. A month or so after the circus left town, she went to the bank to deposit the check her boys received from their work. As she sat waiting in her car outside the teller’s window, she suddenly heard a voice come over the intercom, ‘So… is he as good looking in person as he is on the screen?’ After Sonya realized exactly who the teller was talking about, she answered as she does every time, “Yes, he is!”
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