PHOTO: Robert Pattinson Gets Feisty with an Elephant

01/03/2011 at 02:00 PM EST

PHOTO: Robert Pattinson Gets Feisty with an Elephant
David James/Twentieth Century FOX
While Robert Pattinson's on-screen chemistry with Reese Witherspoon is palpable in their upcoming film, Water for Elephants, it was his other co-star who got him to commit to making the movie in the first place.

"Rob was non-committal until he saw the elephant," animal coordinator Paul "Sled" Reynolds tells PEOPLE. "After he met Tai, he knew he wanted to do this movie. He absolutely adored that elephant."

Tai, who is 42 years old and weighs almost 9,000 lbs., enjoyed the kind of closeness to the Twilight star that millions of fan girls could only dream about. Here, in this exclusive still, Tai's trunk comes very close to meeting Pattinson's smiling lips.

For more about Water for Elephants and exclusive pictures from the movie, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine.

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