The book, which is being adapted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King), is set during the Great Depression, specifically in a circus. It tells the story of a last-minute veterinary school dropout who finds himself caring for the animal performers of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth following the death of his parents. I'm assuming Pattinson will play the 23-year-old lead, while Penn would play the abusive animal trainer, August. And Witherspoon is likely August's wife, who Pattinson's character falls for.
I know I'm one of the few people who saw Pattinson's portrayal of Salvador Dali in Little Ashes. And even fewer, I'm one of those who thought he did an impressive job, in spite of all its intentionally hammy silliness. I may not be able to stomach his little vampire series, but I'll come out and admit I see great things in his future, of which Water for Elephants could be another big step in the right direction. I mean, if he doesn't really bring it here, he's going to look pretty terrible opposite the talents of Penn and Witherspoon (as anyone would), so at least he better try to prove his worth as an actor.