Interestingly, the elephant in the room turned out to be the least of anyone’s troubles. (As Pattinson puts it, “She was the most consistently professional creature I have ever worked with.”) It was the horses—two white Andalusians and two black Friesians—that turned out to be high-strung and unpredictable. “Reese grew up around horses,” says Lawrence, “and she owns a couple that she rides now, and even she was scared of them.” Says Witherspoon: “I’ve always been a little bit of a tomboy that way, so I just always enjoy the thrill of doing something dangerous.”
She got more than she wished for. Not only did she get thrown from a horse one day, Pattinson tells a story about shooting a scene in which one of the horses is lying down in a train car with Witherspoon curled up on the ground next to it when suddenly the horse jumped to its feet and stepped on her leg. “I could see in Reese’s face that it must have hurt more than anything, and she played it off like it was absolutely nothing,” says Pattinson. “And then the next day she had this enormous bruise. It could have quite easily broken her leg, but she didn’t mention it to anybody. She is just incredibly brave that way.”
Witherspoon’s toughness was one of the main reasons Lawrence cast her in the film. “What I liked is that there’s that determination, but there’s also a sense of humor and a sense of vulnerability. It must come from her family and upbringing. You sort of feel like if she sets her mind to something, it’s going to happen—nothing is going to get in her way. And that’s part of what keeps her interesting—and oddly a little dangerous.”
Pattinson, too, thinks there’s more to Witherspoon than meets the eye. “In terms of public perception, she’s thought of as America’s Sweetheart. And she kind of is in a lot of ways. But I think that she’s a lot bawdier than that, a lot more raucous. It did actually shock me to see that. She’s tough. You wouldn’t want to get into an argument with her at all.” He laughs.
“You can always tell that she will be incredibly nice to anyone who’s not an idiot, but it’s always very clear that there’s a line you really shouldn’t cross.” (When I tell Witherspoon that Pattinson said this, her response is classic Reese: “Oh, yeah. I’m a little junkyard dog.”)