In "Water for Elephants," Witherspoon plays Marlena, a circus performer and the wife of its cruel head animal trainer who falls in love with Jacob, a veterinary student played by "Twilight Saga" star Robert Pattinson.
The film is based on the popular novel by the same name and Witherspoon explains that when audiences see her character perform the circus tricks, it was all her.
"We rehearsed for three months before the film even started shooting. She and I have this whole choreography that we do together and the director really wanted me to do all of it myself. So I was like, 'I don't know if I'm going to do this,'" the actress told OnTheRedCarpet.com at a recent press junket for the film. "I ended up actually really doing all of it and I'm really proud of it because it was a big accomplishment for me."
The film takes place during the Great Depression, which Witherspoon calls "a really inspiring time period." The actress says, "My character has no family, she has no education and she's in a relationship a very volatile man [played by Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz] and you know, I don't think she see any way out."
She adds, "So when Rob's character comes in, I think it gives her an idea that there might be a second chance at love and a better life," Witherspoon said. "That's something that I think a lot of people hope that there are in life. You know, many different chapters, many different opportunities."
"I love the moments in the movie where nothing is said. You just see the looks between my character and Rob," Witherspoon added.
Beyond just elephants, animals play a huge part in the film and were on set working with the cast daily as part of the circus setting. "We were really there working with the animals every day and they were very close to us. Some days they were in a good mood and some days they weren't in a good mood," the actress said.
Which animals were the most temperamental? "The zebras were just crazy," Witherspoon says. "They were always bucking and kicking and biting. It was really crazy."
The actress also says she appreciates the realism in the film. "It was all real and that's what I think is one of the amazing things about this film is. There's very little computer-generated anything," she told OnTheRedCarpet. "It was all hand done by beautiful artisans, set designers and the costumes were all hand done. It was a really magical experience. "
Reporting by George Pennacchio of KABC Television and special correspondent for its entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).