Sex and the City 3 may be little more than a dream at this point, but another of Kristin Davis' dreams came true when she made Netflix Christmas movie Holiday in the Wild.
The film follows Davis' newly single Kate as she leaves the Upper East Side and heads to Africa, where she falls in love with working with elephants — and with Rob Lowe's Derek.
Davis has been active in elephant conservation since 2009, and tells PEOPLE that she began developing the idea of doing a movie with elephants in a safe and ethical way about four years ago. She had interest from one network early on, but was skeptical that they really understood what filming with the massive animals would entail.
"I told them we have to really change the entire way that we film; we can't use trained elephants or it wouldn't be true to conservation," she explains. "And the right way would probably be a bit more expensive than the way Hollywood usually uses animals in film."
Not surprisingly, the film didn't move forward at that network. But Netflix, she says, quickly understood what was necessary. "I never believed it would get made," she admits.
To prepare, Davis headed to South Africa and Zambia well ahead of filming to meet the elephants and the people working with them.
"They didn't trust us because they also know how Hollywood normally treats its animal performers, and they needed reassurance that we were going to be different," she says. "I also wanted the elephants and everyone involved to meet me and trust me and know where my heart was. Of course, I wanted all the humans to be safe as well, but I was also never going to let an elephant get hurt or misused or anything that would have been counter to our entire message."
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This is the baby orphaned elephant my friends an I rescued in Kenya. We called @sheldricktrust and they nursed her back to health, this pic is a year after her rescue. Chaimu ( named after the lava flow we found her in among the theChyulu Hills in Kenya) is now living a wild life in beautiful Tsavo National Park. I will be forever grateful for all that I have learned from Dame Daphne Sheldrick and the entire community at the Trust. Their commitment to the care of these orphaned elephants and to their ultimate reintegration to the wild , has expanded my life and my understanding of so many important things. I am so lucky that I have been able to have this experience. 🐘❤️🐘
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In order to film the rom-com with the elephants, both cast and crew had to be unusually flexible. "We scheduled everything, and then we rewrote our scenes to fit in with what the elephants did," she says.
For the unforgettable moment where Davis and Lowe encounter an elephant the size of a house, much of the crew stayed in vehicles.
"He's the sweetest, most gentle giant you will ever meet," Davis says of the massive Zimbabwe. "You had to be very respectful because he could hurt you by mistake. They could just bump into you and you would fall over and be hurt potentially. So our crew, for their safety and so they didn't hurt the elephants, had to stay in their Land Cruisers and they had to whisper."
While Davis was fearless and snuggling with the elephants (likely in part because of her decade of experience with them), Lowe understandably was a bit more cautious. Not that caution was his M.O. throughout filming.
"He was incredibly game for most of it, and he brought his kids and his wife," she recalls. (Lowe's son Johnny played Davis' son in the movie.) "They traveled, they want to Tanzania, he swam with sharks! He did so many interesting things. The one thing he didn't do was he did not want to be next to Zimbabwe. But I didn't blame him."
"We were in such a beautiful situation," Davis adds. "All the wild animals that you see in the movie were just around us. We would look over and see a tower of giraffes. It was so amazing."
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GRI was incredibly excited to host Hollywood celebrities @roblowe and his son @johnnylowe at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery as they filmed scenes for the @netflix movie ‘Holiday in the Wild’. Rob and John were actively engaged in the process of caring for the elephants, and learnt how to prepare the specialised milk formula that provides the nutritional key to the orphans’ recovery from point of rescue. Having spent time in Africa, Rob is only too aware of the tragedies of wildlife crimes taking place, and understood the critical role of law enforcement efforts in protecting target species such as elephants from extinction. One African elephant dies every 20 minutes! The law enforcement Rangers who patrol wild spaces are literally life savers for these vulnerable elephants, and they need your support. Join the Rangers in their fight against wildlife crimes! Donate today at gamerangersinternational.org #GRI #GameRangersInternational #WeAreAllRangers #Zambia #Netflix #RobLowe #SaveElephants #HolidayintheWild #WildlifeConservation #BeKindtoElephants #ElephantOrphanage #OrphanedElephants #Elephants #ProtectAndPreserve #Conservation
For more information on elephant conservation or to learn how you can help, visit GameRangersInternational.org.
Holiday in the Wild is streaming now on Netflix.