A mysterious woman (Julianne Hough) arrives in a small North Carolina town and reluctantly finds new love with a lonely widower (Josh Duhamel) in ‘Safe Haven’, a deeply moving romantic thriller from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author whose novels inspired the beloved films ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Dear John’. ‘Safe Haven’ sets up some seemingly insurmountable obstacles to be conquered by true love and ups the ante with an element of danger. Directed by Lasse Hallström (Dear John, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) and starts Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, and Cobie Smulders.
At a recent press conference we asked Julianne Hough how it was filming her first thriller, working with their onscreen kids, what strategy Lasse Hallström has when it comes to conveying emotions onscreen, and if there is any pressure to deliver a performance par to what was displayed in The Noteboook.
Julianne this was your first thriller, did you have to do anything different to prepare for this role?
Julianne Hough: Yea, I left the dancing and the singing outside. But I was really blown away and blessed that I got this opportunity because my whole life I just wanted to entertain, sing, dance and act and the fact that I got this opportunity to do that was amazing. For me it was going to an acting coach and getting more training. Lasse is such an actors director so I got to put my trust in him. It was definitely a lot more heart felt and personal.
How was it working with your onscreen kids and Julianne how was it playing a domestic violence victim?
Josh Duhamel: A movie without kids on the set is christmas without kids, they just make it a little bit more fun. There’s no pretension there, they’re just there to have fun. These two particular kids were very sweet by nature and didn’t have a lot of experience in the business. We meet with them before, spent some time on the beach with Mimi, Noah was in Atlanta so I didn’t get that much time with him. For me, the relationship with them was just as important as the relationship with Julianne in the movie because so much of this is about finding themselves. My character has already had what he thought was his first love and lost that and now anything that comes after that depends how the kids react to that. Luckily they were really, really fun kids to work with. They set me up two weeks in advance to work with them and I thought what am I going to do for two weeks. But it was great because we got to soak up the local environment and live Suthport and really thing what I wanted to do in this movie. I wrote a lot and spent as much time with the kids and by the time we started shooting I felt like I was this dude.
Julianne Hough: In regards to the domestic violence it’s a responsibility to get it right. If someone has gone through that it feels real and honest to them so I went and talked to women in shelters and I know people, friends, family and my own experiences. But at the same time it was such a safe environment to do it in, with Lasse he can put you in such a vulnerable situation and not feel exposed. It was interesting and hard but it was also comforting.
So Julianne what does a guy have to do to get your attention and keep it?
Julianne Hough: Oh wow, there’s a list. Honestly the freedom to be me. If anyone wants to keep my attention and vice versa is to just let me be myself and support me.
Lasse what is the strategy you have when it comes from directing from source material and allowing your actors to be vulnerable without it collapsing into clique?
Lasse Hallström: Well I’m drawn to any material that keeps attention to character, any story that is driven by character. In other words a love story, trying to be there to observe two people falling in love. It demands authenticity and reality. If you set out to tell the story realistically then you have to be awfully real with those performances and there is no other way then doing it then playing around with the material and improvising and involving everyone on all levels to make it real. To make a movie charming to have to be open on all levels and to all ideas. You also have to have an idea on how to do that in the confines of the shooting schedule. It was a wonderful adventure. I love performances and I love actor, that’s my first interest in life, I’m a frustrated actor myself I never got to act really. I have a theory that sentimentality doesn’t happen if you’re not honest and real. If you’re striving for strong emotion and strong sentiment and if you’re authentic with it and honest with it then you’re on the right side of the line.
Julianne just wondering if you learned anything from your character since she looses her power and then takes it back?
Julianne Hough: Yea, both Katie and I are fighters. People say it’s easier to walk away but it’s not, it can sometimes be harder to walk away. With this it was her own journey with setting herself free. Obviously she had the love of Alex and the security there, now knowing that there are two people in this together. But I really like the fact that Katie was the one who ended the situation between her and Kevin because she didn’t need saving from him. She did it on her own and became that strong fighter. You have to be on your own and secured with yourself to move forward. It also helps to have great friends and family around but at the end of the day it comes to you.
So where do you guys consider your Safe Haven to be?
Josh Duhamel: For me it’s easy, it’s home. Its either going back to where I’m from, North Dakota seeing my three sisters. Everybody lives there so it’s always nice to go back there. When you travel a lot for a movie it’s just great to get back home and really decompress.
Julianne Hough: Mine is with my dogs, I really like having my dogs with me. They’re kind of the mascot of every film that I do because they’re always there to love me and me to love them. And to get a shower from Lexi who kisses my face. They’re like my safe haven and safe place.
With the success of ‘The Notebook’ is there a lot of pressure to deliver?
Josh Duhamel: You’re right there is a lot of pressure to live up to the success of some of these previous movies but we try not to think about that. We really just looked at the story that it was and if I tried to do what Ryan Gosling did in ‘The Notebook’ I would be pulling my hair out. Those two were great in that movie. If we try to replicate that in any way it’s a trap so we really tried to focus on what my relationship was, what my relationship with these kids were. Not try to force all the romantic movie moments and with Lasse help we really tried to play the simple story and trusted that it was going to be interesting and emotional, and romantic and funny. At the end of the day this was it’s own entity apart from all the other stories.
Julianne Hough: I second that completely. I am the demographic of Nicholas Spark’s books. I loved ‘The Notebook’ but again this was our version of what this story is. There is pressure to have these big movie moments and at some point we thought that this should be more dramatic and it wasn’t and it didn’t need to be. Also giving the audience a real love story without having to over do it.
Safe Haven is in theaters February 14th