Safe Haven scribe Nicholas Sparks knows a thing or two about penning books that make good romantic movies... remember those The Notebook quotes, anyone? But, now with the establishment of Nicholas Sparks Productions, he seeks to expand his world to bring other authors' work to the big screen as well. "I’ve always been involved, but haven’t always been credited," Sparks told us in our exclusive interview. "'I've written screenplays, I’ve produced -- it was just a natural evolution."
Movie Fanatic caught up with Sparks to talk about Save Haven and how with his latest page to screen effort, he's adding another element to his successful mix: The thriller. In Save Haven, Julianne Hough stars as a woman on the run from a mysterious and dangerous past who finds herself in a sleepy little North Carolina seaside town. It is there she meets Josh Duhamel and his two kids.
As teased in the Safe Haven trailer, Duhamel is a single father, whose wife died several years prior. Hough and Duhamel have great chemistry and in classic Sparks fashion, the two find love... but not without complications.
Movie Fanatic: Safe Haven is one of the first for Nicholas Sparks Productions, what compelled you to start a production company?
Nicholas Sparks: It started a couple of movies ago, a couple of years ago. In the end, I know my strengths and weaknesses involved in filmmaking. I understand it’s still a collaborative process. I don’t know if my involvement is any more now with my name on it than it was before. I was always involved in the script, the casting, but when you get to things like location -- that’s studio stuff. Then, on set… I’m there a third of the time to half the time. I don’t move to a location because I have five children and other obligations. After the wrap, I’m very involved in all the marketing.
Movie Fanatic: Would you ever produce someone else’s work?
Nicholas Sparks: Yes, absolutely. I’ve talked to a wonderful author and told her that I would like to buy her work and she opted for a different producer, which is fine.
Movie Fanatic: Safe Haven has an element of drama that is new to you, the thriller. Was it nice to flex that muscle?
Nicholas Sparks: Absolutely! You always have to have dilemmas, something that keeps the characters apart. This was a very big reason why they couldn’t be together. A) She’s married, and B) she doesn’t want anyone to know anything about her at all. Without those dilemmas, you have no story. It was fun. It was great to see David Lyons (as the man pursuing Hough) pull that together onscreen. I thought he did an incredible job, especially when you put him up against Julianne Hough, who’s like a little Meg Ryan.
Movie Fanatic: One of the great things about the film, perfectly shown off in the most recent Safe Haven clip, is the chemistry between Josh and Julianne. What did you see in them?
Nicholas Sparks: It is so tough to spot. And it is an intuition. You start with one, Josh came first, and then you get people to play off him. You start moving your choices and then you just put them in a room together. You see how their eyes sparkle, and how friendly they are… whether they click, all these things that have nothing to do with them reading lines to each other. It’s hard to sum up exactly what you look for… Sometimes you hit it out of the park like Ryan and Rachel (in The Notebook) and even Liam and Miley (The Last Song) are engaged!
Movie Fanatic: Now that writing a new novel for you has the given that it will be a film, does that aspect enter your head while composing a book?
Nicholas Sparks: Two part answer: The conception of the story and then there’s the writing of the story. In the conception of the story, without question, it comes into my head. I try to conceive of a story that will be great on page and will be great in film. You want to meet all sorts of originality perspectives concerning the character or the events. You want to think occasionally in terms of images, like how will this play? Is this something I’ve seen recently? If it is, can I change it to something else that will be just as effective? What’s a new way to do this thing I’ve seen recently so that it will still be fresh? When you are conceiving, which can take three weeks to three years, no question film is in my mind. Once I have that… it’s only about the novel. At that point, I’m a novelist.
Movie Fanatic: I know originality is important to you… what pratfalls do you try to avoid?
Nicholas Sparks: I could write a great novel about a love story set on the Titanic [laughs]. You know, it wouldn’t make that originality quotient. I could say, ‘But why? There’s never been a novel like that?’ It wouldn’t work, would it? That’s what I mean about originality, you want to be able to do that.