Film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels have been coming at us constantly ever since Message in a Bottle was made into a movie with Kevin Costner and Robin Wright. Some have been successful, some haven’t. The latest adaptation is Safe Haven, which, as expected, is the story of two people falling in love.
Julianne Hough stars as Katie Feldman, a mysterious woman who at the movie’s start is leaving her hometown while being pursued by the police. Katie ends up in the small town of Southport, North Carolina where she tries to keep to herself while working as a waitress, but she ends up getting emotionally involved with the recently widowed Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhamel) and his two kids. Eventually though, her past comes back to haunt her and we come to see the truth about why she left her home.
Safe Haven had its press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California last week and the cast and crew talked about the making of the movie and how none of them were looking to redo The Notebook, which remains the best loved adaptation of Sparks’ books. Attending this junket were stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, Nicholas Sparks, the movie’s director Lasse Hallström, and its producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey.
Check out what they had to say below.
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE MOVIE.
We Got This Covered: Nicholas, this is the second time that Lasse Hallström has made a movie out of one of your books (the last one being Dear John). What is it about Lasse that you feel he brings to your stories on the big screen?
Nicholas Sparks: Lasse is an actor’s director, and by that I mean he tends to draw out fantastic performances from the cast. These films are really character driven, they are relationship driven, they are emotionally driven, and you need someone who has a really good way of enabling trust in the cast and crew (and in the cast particularly) to allow them the confidence to stretch themselves to get the performance that you’re going to need to provide all of the emotional ups and downs in the film. Lasse is a master at it, and then you add in everything else like the cinematography and his style, which is to capture the small moments of life and to weave these threads throughout the film. But if you’re looking for just one thing, it is that he is an actor’s director.
Lasse Hallström: That’s an excellent answer (laughs).
We Got This Covered: Julianne, you have done a lot of singing and dancing films but this is your first thriller. Did you have to do anything different to prepare for this role?
Julianne Hough: Yeah, I left the dancing and the singing outside. I was really just blown away and blessed that I got this opportunity because my whole life I wanted to just entertain, sing, dance and act, and the fact that I got this opportunity to do that was huge. For me it was going to an acting coach and getting I guess more training, and Lasse is such an actor’s director so I got to put my trust in him. But it was definitely a lot more heartfelt and personal.
We Got This Covered: Josh, the young actors who play your kids in the movie are just wonderful because they don’t seem like Hollywood kids. Can you tell us more about how you worked with them?
Josh Duhamel: For me, a movie without kids on the set is like Christmas without kids. They just make things a little bit more fun. There’s no pretension there, they’re just there to have fun. These two in particular were very sweet kids by nature and they didn’t have a lot of experience in the business. I met with them before filming and spent some time with them on the beach.
They’ve both been through so much. My character’s already had what he thought was his first love and lost that, and now anything that comes after that depends on how the kids react to that. So any decision that I make going forward has to be okay with them too. So the relationship was very specific, and luckily they were very, very fun kids to work with.
They started working two weeks before I started which at first I was like “really? What am I gonna do for two weeks?” But it was great because I really got to soak in the local environment living in Southport and really think about what I wanted to do in this movie. I wrote a lot, spent as much time with the kids, and by the time we started shooting I felt like I was this dude. I wish that I always had that luxury of getting there that early and just sort of becoming part of the local environment.
We Got This Covered: Julianne, can you talk specifically about playing a domestic violence victim in this, and what it was like to research the role?
Julianne Hough: It’s a big responsibility to do it right to where if somebody has gone through that, it feels real and honest to them. So I went and talked to women in shelters, I know people, friends, family, my own experiences, but at the same time it was such a safe environment to do it in. Dave (Lyons who plays Kevin Tierney) is one of my closest friends now, and with Lasse he can put you in a vulnerable situation but not feel exposed. It was interesting and hard but it was also comforting.
We Got This Covered: Josh and Julianne, Lasse had you to doing a lot of improvisation on set. Was that new to you, and was there a scene that each of you brought that you were proud of and so glad to see make it into the movie?
Josh Duhamel: There’s a lot of stuff that Lasse and I talked about before. I loved My Life as a Dog and I talked to him about trying to find something, a little thread of just normal human behavior that doesn’t necessarily have to mean much but is something that people relate to. All the stuff on the beach, he just let us go. It wasn’t that we didn’t follow the script, we just knew what we had to say in the script and from there he just trusted us to let it go and find what the scene was really about, whatever scene it was.
For me it was the most liberating time I’ve ever had shooting a movie. It was terrifying in the beginning because Julianne came back after the first day and said “you know what? We improvised, it was great!” And I said “what do you mean you improvised?” Normally I know my lines and I go and say them, so it was scary but he really trusted us more so than anybody I have ever worked with and that was really empowering.
Julianne Hough: It keeps you on the tip of your toes, making sure that you’re listening and being as real as possible. Lasse used to say “oh don’t even look, just say whatever you want to say.” The scene where I first meet Lexi, it started out very much like it was on script and then it moved on and you would do like 10 minutes scenes and then just find the best of what was there, and it was really fun because with kids you don’t know what they’re gonna say anyway in real life so you just have to go along with it. It was scary at first, but I never felt so trusted in anything that I have done so thank you Lasse!
We Got This Covered: Julianne, what does a guy have to do to get your attention and keep it?
Julianne Hough: Oh wow! There’s a list!
Nicholas Sparks: It helps to be an author (laughs).
Julianne Hough: Honestly, the freedom to be me. I think that anybody who I want to keep their attention or they want to keep mine is just to be able to let me be myself and support me and vice versa… Is that a good answer? I don’t know.
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