– Water For Elephants Has Special Significance For Area Circus Fan

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“Water for Elephants,” the movie love story set in a Depression-era circus and based on the bestselling novel by Sara Gruen, opens April 22.

One of the first in line to see the movie will be Plainville resident Gary Payne, a vice president of the Circus Fans Association of America (, whom Gruen consulted for historical accuracy as she wrote the book. Now Payne has helped to organize a local premiere to celebrate the movie’s arrival.

“Sara tells me the movie follows the book closely,” Payne says. “She went through a box of tissues at the screening she attended several weeks ago.”

As Gruen drafted the novel, Payne, a lifelong circus fan, provided anecdotes and helped with the lingo and logistics of a circus in 1930’s America for this historical work of fiction.

“She would send 20-30 pages of the manuscript at a time,” he says. “I guess I was the first “public” person to read “Water for Elephants.”

Payne’s passion, the circus and the Circus Fans Association, he has enjoyed since childhood. Like many young circus fans, he often helped shows set up their big top tents. One thing he did not do, however, was carry water for the elephants to earn a free pass to the circus–a key misunderstanding about circuses that not only made it into Gruen’s novel but helps explain the book’s title.

“I set up seats, did chores, helped lace up the big top,” Payne says. “But you can’t satisfy the thirst of an elephant a bucket at a time.”

The local movie premiere will be on Friday, April 22, at the Rave Theater on Frontage Road in Berlin, with festivities beginning at 7:45 p.m. There will be Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson star lookalikes, a red carpet, lights, and excitement.

Eagerly anticipating the movie, Payne is amused to remember his early prediction to author Gruen that her novel, which spent weeks on bestseller lists around the country, would not be successful.

“I told her early on that it would sell in my opinion maybe 300 copies,” he says. “When it got to be a number-one bestseller, she told me, ‘Hey, Gary, you know that book you said wouldn’t sell?’ I recently told her that I was never so thrilled to be wrong in my life.”