Can you believe it’s been 10 years since The Notebook hit theaters? Neither can we. Since then, Nicholas Sparks movies have become a staple in the movie world and another one hits the big screen today.
The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Liana Liberato & Luke Bracey as the older and younger versions of Dawson and Amanda. As expected, the two come from different sides of the tracks and have a whirlwind romance. The former high school sweethearts then find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of the beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.
We had the chance to chat with the cast at the press junket which also included director Michael Hoffman, author Nicholas Sparks and Lady Antebellum who wrote a beautiful song for the film. Check out some highlights below.
What do you think your name has been synonymous in recent years.
Nicholas Sparks: The main thing is, if you say it’s a Nicholas Sparks movie you kind of know what you’re going to get. I think to think you’re going to get strong performances from the cast, great direction, settings that evoke a bit of nostalgia the way things could be, a quieter type of life. I think you get a lot of authenticity and genuine emotion and a film that leaves you with a sense of hope. it’s a film in which the audience can always relate to the characters.
For James & Michelle, what was it like working so closely together. Was the chemistry natural?
Michelle Monaghan: It was just easy.
James Marsden: Some people that it has to be miserable to shoot a movie. It can really be an enjoyable one especially on a movie like this where it’s all about the chemistry. Michelle is this beacon of light and she has so much energy. She cares so much about the material but also the process and wants to enjoy it. Like my character, you’re just drawn to that and it was very easy being around her. Michael created such a nice tone on set and allowed us a couple weeks of rehearsal time to get to know each other and get the scenes up on their feet. It’s nice to have a good dynamic with your co-star and have that bleed into the performances.
Same for you, Luke & Liana. How was the chemistry between you two achieved?
Liana Liberato: It was not really forced, it was pretty organic. We had about two to three weeks before filming that gave me and Luke the opportunity to hang out together. We would walk to rehearsal together. It’s so important during the filming process to be really comfortable and trust that person.
Michael Hoffman: Liana was cast first then she auditioned with 3 or 4 very good actors for young Dawson. At the end of it, I thought Luke was great but I was still trying to figure out how to go. Denise said, I spoke to Liana and asked who was the most fun to kiss and she said “Luke is.”
Did you all have to coordinate your performances at all since you are playing the same characters, just at different ages?
Luke Bracey: We got to sit down and touched on it. The rehearsal time Michael allowed us was priceless really. To get a couple of weeks sitting down with the director and co-stars. Someone playing the same character as you is kind of an advantage you don’t get very often. I think being able to sit down with James and talk about the accent, certain physical characteristics was really interesting for me. It’s a different way to work on a character for me. I’ve never played the same character in the same movie with someone.
James: He said physical characteristics, I kept getting Luke to stop working out. I used to haze him. I’d be like “hey Luke in this scene, when I take a sip, I actually like to put my pinky up” and make him think he had to echo that. Actually, Luke and Liana came in early on and did most of their work, [Michelle] which was most of our work. They went in and set the characters first. I sort of followed Luke. We never got too hung up on a carbon copy of each other.
Lady Antebellum, what was it like writing a song for this film?
Charles Kelley: We had fun doing it. When we got approached about writing the song, the one thing…I think this was a good fit for us because we love writing love songs. This was a fun task for us.
Hillary Scott: As songwriters, there’s no real formula so to have a specific direction and different highlights from the film like the script which are about the relationship as it grows. It was just really neat to work it into the lyric and writing it and then getting to see the film before it was finished to edit some of the lyrics to make it more specific.
Do you think it’s possible to go back and rekindle an old relationship?
Michelle: I haven’t personally done it but sure, why not? I think people change over the course of their life. I don’t think you’re the same person when you were 16 or 17, people change and adapt as a result of life experience. If you have that second chance, you might be able to find yourself in that position to do that. I’m a wishful thinker.
James: I think nowadays especially with social media and how interconnected everybody is, I think it’s much easier to go back and call up your high school sweetheart, or social media your high school sweetheart. I think you find a lot of people doing that more nowadays. As humans, we like to look at the road not traveled and it’s easy to kind of romanticize about what that might have been.
The Best of Me is in theaters October 17. For more, check out our interviews with the cast from the premiere below.