August 1, 2010 ~ Hope Harris and Debby Thrasher, friends from Alabama, drove to Tennessee and Georgia to catch a glimps of Water for Elephants filming and hopefully of Rob Pattinson too… Below is their set story that they kindly shared with WFE film blog… Hope was also interviewed by the local news, here is a link to the video… Check out their images after the story. Thank you Hope and Debby for sharing your adventure!
“It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and my phone goes off from a text message. I look at the text and my heart literally jumps right out of my chest. The text message is from my friend Debby (@twihard205) and it says “It is confirmed!! Rob is filming in Chattanooga!!!!” My mind at this point could not comprehend anything at all. We decide to make a last minute trip. We leave Birmingham, Alabama at 4:00 a.m. We had downloaded directions to the Mountain Cove Country Store in Walker County, Georgia from mapquest. At the time we didn’t know if we would find the house because we thought it would be difficult to find. Two and a half hours later we end up at the store to find that its closed, we thought we had really hit a dead end. Not even two minutes later a man pulls up in a truck and says “ I know what you guys are looking for, and it’s a mile up this road” When the older gentleman had said those amazing words a huge smile appeared out of no where on our faces. When we arrived to West Cove Road we were immediately stopped by a sheriff. I had my hand over my mouth and Debby was telling me to put my hand down and don’t freak out. To act natural (yeah right). The sheriff told us that we could drive past the house but we could not stop and we could park our car where other fans had parked their cars. We slowly drive past the house and noticed Mr. Pattinson right away. He was leaned up against a post smoking a cigarette. After knowing that he was there we decided to park our car in a hurry so we could stand there and support the person who inspires me the most. It was 7:00 in the morning.
We had finally arrived with the other fans and were shocked to find that there were only about 20-30 people there. We stood beside the Sheriff named, Denny, who had a radio attached to him from the set. We were able to hear the director say, “Ok, we are about to shoot, Rob coming on the set. Ok, action Rob”. Followed by, “ok good, cut” about 15 seconds later. This communication went on for the entire time we were on location. We were standing literally 200 yards from Robert and the rest of the crew all day long. Debby kept reminding me that we were breathing the air that HE is breathing out. About 2 ½ hours later, at 9:30, we start to smell maple syrup. It was the most amazingly sweet smell and weren’t really sure where it was coming from. All of a sudden it hit us. They are eating pancakes with what smelled like homemade syrup. Not much was happening after they ate breakfast because the shoot moved into the house. About an hour after their breakfast, a news reporter showed up to interview the fans waiting. After interviewing a few people, Debby had told the reporter if they wanted to know about Robert, they needed to speak to me because, “she knows everything there is to know about Rob”. The man had me put on a microphone and hold Debby’s magazines that had pictures of Robert in them. He wanted me to show him all the pictures and tell him where each picture was shot and tell him who Robert Pattinson was, what he is famous for, and what I like about him the most. I was the only one there with my book, Water For Elephants, and he wanted to know about the story too. About an hour after that interview, another reporter was there. She overheard my conversation with some girls and she approached me saying that she wanted to record our conversation. After I started talking about Rob and what I knew, she was like, “WAIT, stop right there. You fascinate me, I HAVE to interview you!” Debby had been on a bathroom break and when she walked up I was giving the interview. When the reporter was done, Debby walked up to me and was telling me how she almost couldn’t get back to me. Debby had gone with a girl and fellow fan to the gas station about 15 miles away to the restroom and was stopped my a detective on the way back in. When Debby was telling me this, the reporter stopped her and was like, “I’m not going to put you on camera but I’m going to record this if you don’t mind”. Of course we don’t mind, its about Robert!! So Debby starts to tell us about the road block/detour sign and how when she approached it a car came up and turned on the flashing lights. She said she was a detective and that the road was closed and she couldn’t get back in there. Debby was like, “My friend is there and I HAVE to get back there”. The lady said she couldn’t because the road was closed. Debby again said, “I was just there, my friend is there, I have to get back there!” The detective said the road was closed and the only way she could get back was to walk 4 miles. Debby said, “ok, that’s what I will do. I have to get back to my friend”. The reporter asked her what did she do when the lady said that and Debby said, “I drove around her and the detour sign”. We all laughed and the reporter said thanks and left. Next thing we knew, they were breaking for lunch around 12:30.
We didn’t want to leave the set at all just so we could see him. We just knew if we left, he would come out. However, Debby did finally convince me to take a break, get out of the sun, go to the bathroom (I hadn’t peed since 2:30 that morning) and try to eat something. We went to the same gas station Debby went to earlier, got A LOT of water, I got beef jerky, and Debby got a corndog, went to the bathroom, then back to the set. The heat in the summer time is very hot and in the South, very humid as well. It was so hot that we had to use Debby’s umbrella to block the sun. That didn’t help much so we would sit in the car with the air-conditioner on watching the set. Thankfully we were able to park the car close to where we were standing. We would sit there for about 10 minutes, go back outside and stand for about 20 minutes, then back to the car. When filming started outside again, we stayed outside too. We saw Rob filming scenes in the car, on a tractor and with his/Jacob’s parents. Six hours later they were done filming outside, it was 7:00 pm.
By this time the sun was starting to set and the crew was wrapping up the equipment because production was done at the house. A hour or so later all of the fans separated to stand on the side of the road as the cast and crew was pulling out. The director, Francis Lawrence, was sitting at the front of one of the huge trucks and he was recording us as he was passing by. We were cheering the cast and crew, it was a total adrenaline rush. As the line of cars were pulling by I saw a gold truck slowly go in front of us and I noticed that someone was sitting in the back. My heart was pounding really fast because I knew who it was! It was Robert Pattinson himself! No one else noticed him because he pulled his Long Beach 49ers hat over his head to try to avoid being noticed. As soon as I saw him I busted into tears, my friend Debby was only able to see the back of his head. Rob was trying to stay in character cause they were going down the road to a chapel to film a very emotional scene where Jacob is at the cemetery. We stood around for another hour hoping that Rob would come back but after a hour the security made us leave because it was getting really dark.
We got back in my car sun burnt, hot, and extremely tired. We knew earlier in the day that we were going to stay the night to try to see what would be going on the next day. We drive down the road for about 15 miles and we are in Chattanooga. While we were at a red light we asked the people next to us where we could find a cheap hotel. After 2 lights and turning right in the left lane, we found one. The place was packed. We went inside and asked the clerk if they had a room available. She said no, all the hotels were booked. The only vacancy was at THE CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO HOTEL!! For those of you who don’t know, that is the place they are storing the set and stuff needed for Water For Elephants! We of course kept our cool with her but hauled ass to the car! About 5 minutes later, we found the hotel. The lobby looked like an old train station. We asked the clerk if they had a room available and he said yes they had 8 room cancellations. Debby asked the guy if Robert Pattinson and crew canceled to go to another hotel. He said yes but quickly said no, he didn’t know what we were talking about. We paid for our room, got the key card and found our room. When we walked in it hit us. We could be staying in the room that was meant for Robert ha-ha!! Look to the right and FINALLY a shower. Then sleep. The next morning we woke to hunger and massive headaches. After 4 Tylenols each later, we left the hotel, found a Taco Bell, and off to the Tennessee Valley Railroad.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad had a lot of old train cars on tracks. It was like we knew exactly where to go. We walked passed old train cars straight to the car that had Benzini Brothers Circus painted on the side. There were 2 cars connected with this writing. There was a table with paint and brushes on it where they had painted the Benzini Bro.’s Circus on the side. Then we climbed on board. There was a sign in the window that said, “private party”. We didn’t try to open the door because we didn’t want to mess anything up plus it said “private party” which we, unfortunately weren’t apart of. Climbed down that car and started walking to the next car attached. There was a ladder which we climbed to see inside the window and take a picture then climbed on the back of that box car. When we walked inside, there was a ladder that had the director’s straw hat from the first day of filming and from the day before on it. We went in and sat in and touched every seat just incase Robert sat or touched the same seat. That is when we noticed a train that had the Benzini Bro.’s Circus giving rides. We got our tickets and boarded that train. It took us to the location of the next shoot. While there, we saw flat bed cars and a box car that had oats, hay and boards in it. I said that was the car Jacob jumps on in the first part of the book. While the train engine was being turned around it started to rain. That is when I was able to get my picture of the box car with the oats and hay. I got off the train and walked straight up to the box car. I took pictures of the inside. When I got back on the train to go back to the station, we saw the director and other producers. Earlier in the day the director had tweeted the question, “where can I get a milkshake in Chattanooga” and Debby yelled out the window, “did you get your milkshake?” He turned to us, held up a cup, shook it, smiled and took a drink. He then turned his attention back to the box car. When we got back to the station we went back to the first 2 cars to take more pictures. We boarded the train and took pictures from the window. On our way back to the car we noticed all the paint and equipment was still out and getting wet from the rain. We decided we would put the stuff in the train so it wouldn’t get ruined and write our letters to the cast and crew. We went back to the train and left our notes on a chair in the bathroom.
We knew we couldn’t stay another night because of work and Rob was not filming for the next 2 days so we went to a McDonalds to charge my phone and find directions to get back home to Alabama. That McDonalds was the coolest one ever. It had pictures of Jimmie Hendrix, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Elvis and others. The music was awesome and Debby danced to Y.M.C.A by the Village People. 3-4 hours later it was 8:00 pm with no new updates of Robert were reported so it was time to go home. We made it back to Debby’s apartment safely and exhausted. We were in a total rob frame of mind that we went to the store to buy classic coke in a glass bottle to celebrate our amazing experience.
Water For Elephants is my favorite story and just being on set was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Now when we go and watch this movie, we can honestly say we were there experiencing the same things Robert did that day. I wish it didn’t have to end and I wish we could have met him but seeing him from a distance and even hidden in the truck was enough. Hope you all enjoy our story. It still feels like a dream.”
Written by: Hope Harris (@HopePeaceGreen) and Debby Thrasher (@twihard205)