Novelist Nicholas Sparks has set the standard for the romantic-drama genre with his 17 wildly popular novels, eight of which have been adapted into big-budget movies.
Soon, the beloved writer will make the jump to Broadway with a musical based on his most famous tale, “The Notebook.”
“We’re doing ‘The Notebook.’ It’s not there yet; we’re still working on it. It’s going to be a musical. Who’s not going to see that? I want to see it. It will be fun. It will probably be ready in about 18 months,” the author revealed during a recent interview with XFINITY Entertainment.
But before he transitions to the Great White Way, Sparks is anxiously awaiting the February 14 release of his latest book-to-film adaption “Safe Haven,” which stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel.
The film follows the story of Katie Feldman (Hough), a girl with a mysterious past who makes an unexpected move to the small North Carolina town of Southport. There, she meets and falls in love with Alex Wheatley (Duhamel), a single father who lost his wife to cancer two years prior.
While the film still explores traditional Sparksian themes, such as second chances in life and love, the movie is darker than many of the author’s previous works. When penning the “Safe Haven” novel in 2010, Sparks made a conscious decision to step out of his comfort zone with a tale that was both love story and thriller.
“The challenge was how to balance it so it felt fully fleshed out,” Sparks told me. “How do you balance the relationship between Alex and Katie and give it the time that it deserves – and the evolution – so it feels as passionate as ‘The Notebook’? It is easy for a story like this to get lost within the thriller.”
Sparks’ goal was to give his fans the usual dose of romance, intertwined with tense and thrilling moments, but ran into some problems along the way.
Sparks aimed to give his fans the elements of romance they’ve come to expect from his typically sigh-inducing stories, but, in a moment of self-awareness, struggled to avoid the clichés of his own sub-genre.
“How do you do ‘Safe Haven’? How do you make it feel fresh? I’ve done seven other films. You all know what is coming! Let me guess… a couple of good looking people, small town in North Carolina, a couple rivers, canoes… hey, let’s throw in a thunder storm, right? It’s all in there, you know what is coming,” Sparks said. “What’s the twist, what’s the new? How do you make the audience feel like they are experiencing something totally different? I think ‘Safe Haven’ pulled that off.”
“Josh came first. As a producer working with the studio, you start by running off names. You want them to be big, but not too big. You know, Chan [Channing Tatum] wasn’t huge when he did ‘Dear John.’ Now he’s huge. Ryan Gosling wasn’t huge. Now he’s huge,” Sparks explained. “Josh’s name came to the top and he wanted the role. We thought he would be terrific.”
The next step was finding a love interest for Duhamel’s character. The magnetic chemistry between Hough and Duhamel was immediately apparent.
“Actresses came in and read with him. We were looking for this magical chemistry thing. In the end, Julianne largely selected herself,” he said. “It’s tricky though. It’s what you look for. If you’re at a party and you see two people talking, you know if they have chemistry or not. How do you know? Body language, what they do with their eyes, the tilt of their heads, if they lean forward or lean back, if they glance at their watch.”
“I try to evoke genuine emotion. I try to evoke a myriad of emotions, most of which are love and sadness. Love is the most important emotion of all – without it, your life is meaningless,” he said. “I don’t mean romantic love. I mean friendship, romantic love, your kids, your parents, your job, your dogs. If you don’t love anything, you have an empty life.”
But Sparks, who is notorious for evoking tears from fans, knows that love always comes with sadness.
“Real, true love always, by definition, ends in tragedy, because at one point someone has to go,” he said. “Even if they go at the same time, if the love was really great, there is sadness left in its wake for those who witnessed it. There is always tragedy with love, 100 percent of the time.”
Many of Sparks’ on-screen couples have found real-life love during filming. I asked if he fancied himself somewhat of a matchmaker.
He replied, “You mean like Liam [Hemsworth] and Miley [Cyrus], Ryan [Gosling] and Rachel [McAdams]? I really could be.”
“Safe Haven” opens in theaters everywhere on February 14. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.