Despite widespread Internet rumors stating that a certain vampire will visit Ithaca this summer, no production plans for the movie Water for Elephants will be confirmed until April, according to University Press Officer Blaine Friedlander.
“If they are going to film [Water for Elephants] here, we would love to have them and we would love to cooperate,” Friedlander said.
After rumors began to spread, the University called Fox 2000, the production company that won a bidding war to film the movie, but nothing final has been planned, according to Friedlander.
The movie, based on the best-selling novel written by Sarah Gruen, will tell the story of a Cornell veterinary student who drops out of school just before graduation and joins the circus.
While only Reese Witherspoon has confirmed her participation in the film, Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame, has been in talks with producers for over a month about the part of Cornellian Jacob Jankowski.
Christoph Waltz, the award-winning actor who played a supporting role in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds as a sadistic German officer, has been offered the part of the nefarious circus trainer married to Witherspoon’s character, according to reports from MTV.com. The role had been previously offered to Sean Penn, but talks fell apart as Penn continued his humanitarian mission in Haiti.
Jankowski’s story in Water for Elephants is told through a series of flashbacks recounted from his nursing home bed. Cornell University, although not at the center of the story, will presumably be the setting for multiple flashbacks, including the pivotal moment when Jacob learns of his parents’ death.
Filming on campus would generate revenue for local businesses and excitement for students, faculty and locals alike. Bruce Stroff, the marketing communications manager for the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the movie could mean expenditures of up to $50,000 a day locally, according to the Ithaca Journal.
Water for Elephants would not be the only recent major motion picture to feature the University. In the 2009 film Up in the Air, nominated this year for a Best Picture Oscar, actress Anna Kendrick portrays Natalie Keener, a recent Cornell graduate with a psychology minor.
In Neverwas, produced in 2005, Aaron Eckhart plays a Cornell professor who leaves the University to work at a private mental institution where his father, played by Nick Nolte, spent some time. Neither film features any scenes shot in Ithaca, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Even if Water for Elephants never makes the journey to Tompkins County, Ithaca can still claim its place in cinematic history. According to local historian and founder of Ithaca-made Movies, Terry Harbin, before Hollywood became the center of the entertainment industry in the 1920s, independent studios had the chance to reach national audiences with thrilling action serials.
Starting in 1914, what is now Stewart Park in downtown Ithaca became the home of Wharton Inc., a silent movie production company. Before ending in financial ruin in 1919, the company produced more than 70 multi-part movies with major movie stars of the era, including Pearl White, Irene Castle, Lionel Barrymore and a young Oliver Hardy