Get Your Tissues Ready! The Cast and Crew of ‘Safe Haven’ Talk About Their New Film
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Safe Haven, the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book, will arrive in theatres next week, but before you grab your sweetheart and coax him into two hours of watching romantic frolicking on the Atlantic coast, you should know that while Sparks stories always have a touch of melancholy, this new movie has a very serious element mixed into the romance. Film Equals was on hand last month to hear all about it from stars Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, writer Nicholas Sparks and director Lasse Hallstrom.
Safe Haven in the story of a woman (Hough) who, while trying to escape from her past, finds herself running straight into her future with a single dad/widower (Duhamel) in a small, North Carolina coastal town. The town is as much of a character as anyone in the cast, and Duhamel fondly recalled spending two weeks before he started shooting just living in the town and letting it shape the design of characterization. When asked how she prepared for the role, Hough joked that she “left the singing and dancing outside.”
But she got serious when asked about what she did to prepare for playing a victim of domestic abuse. “It’s a real responsibility,” she said, before going on to describe how she visited shelters, talked to abuse victims, but ultimately placed her trust in director Hallstrom when putting herself in such a vulnerable position.
There was much respect and awe directed towards Hallstrom. One of the producers called him “an actor’s director,” which is a term that is bandied about a lot, but the man went on to say that “he tends to draw out fantastic performances from the cast.” Everyone agreed, especially Duhamel and Hough who recalled being encouraged to improv on the set, something Duhamel called both “liberating” and “terrifying,” in particular with the children (Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland) who played Duhamel’s character’s kids.
“For me a movie without kids on the set is like Christmas without kids,” Duhamel confessed. “They’re just there to have fun.” He went on to say, “For me, the relationship with them was as important as the relationship with Julianne in the movie.” Both his and Hough’s efforts to get to know the children paid off as the highlights of the movie are their scenes, in particular those with Kirkland’s little Lexie.
But, of course, any Nicholas Sparks movie is going to be compared to his most popular work, “The Notebook,” something that the actors were absolutely aware of going into the project, although Safe Haven does distinguish itself by having a darker element. Duhamel laughed about not measuring up to Ryan Gosling, but was quick to point out that he couldn’t allow himself to even make that comparison. “If we try to replicate (the success of The Notebook) in any way, it’s trap,” he said. “We tried to just focus on what this story was between us, and not try to force all the romantic movie moments.”
At the end of the day, though, this is a love story and it does walk the fine line between drama and melodrama. So how did the cast and crew manage to stay on the right side of that line? Once again, they all pointed at Hallstrom as being their guiding light. By encouraging them to get comfortable with their characters through improv, and by creating a space of trust during the dark scenes, Hallstrom managed to find that balance. As the man himself said, “Sentimental is something that happens when you’re not honest or real.”
But perhaps one of the film’s producers said it best when he said, “(Hallstrom)’s very aware of the awkwardness and humor (of falling in love).”
Safe Haven arrives in theatres on February 14th. Film Equals will have a full review of the movie available on the same day.