Safe Haven director Lasse Hallstrom knows a thing or two about crafting timeless romances. The Swedish helmer was the man behind Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, with the latter earning him an Oscar nomination.
As we state in our Safe Haven review, Hallstrom had the challenge of bringing Nicholas Sparks' latest page-to-screen effort alive with its new element for a Sparks story. He had to balance a thriller, all while still giving the romance aspect of the story all the beats it needed to be effective.
"It’s a balance act when you are balancing two genres like that," Hallstrom said in our exclusive interview. "Giving these two stories their due, we really didn’t figure that out until the editing process."
As teased in the Safe Haven trailer, the film stars Julianne Hough as a woman escaping a violent past who finds herself in a sleepy seaside North Carolina town. There she meets widowed shopkeeper Josh Duhamel, and the two fall for each other, all while this menacing force is seeking Hough's character out to destroy her.
"We had material in both worlds that we were juggling around. It’s hard to get a strong sense on the page in the script for how it works because it’s about the timing and the screen time you give the different things," Hallstrom admitted. "You have to ask, 'How long does this particular scene hold up for?' It was an editorial weighing of the material."
No romance film, much less a Sparks (he of those stellar The Notebook quotes) flick, will work unless there is chemistry between the two leads. The moment that Duhamel catches Hough's eye in the film, there is an instant buzz. It is not something Hallstrom noticed until a week into filming... and then it hit him like a ton of bricks.
"I hadn’t gotten that strong sense yet as filming began. Josh didn’t come up for a couple days after Julianne had been there. So, I was working with her on her own and she really surprised me with her range and a depth. I enjoyed working with both of them. There was a loose improvisational there, and we had a healthy disrespect for the written material," Hallstrom said and laughed.
"It is a challenge to tell a story about a romance in small and subtle increments. It’s hard to capture how people fall in love. It’s not easy. It’s tricky. You want to be real with it and not sentimental. But, you’re straddling a line."