Author Nicholas Sparks brings romance to the screen once again in 'The Lucky One'
Best-selling author Nicholas Sparks knows a thing or two about romance. His novels -- seven of which have been made into movies -- include The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, The Guardian, and The Last Song. In his latest film, The Lucky One, Sparks tells the story of U.S. Marine Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) who is haunted by memories of death and war after returning home from his third tour in Iraq.
With no roots and no plans, Logan goes in search of a mystery woman in a photograph he found in Iraq who he credits for saving his life. The woman turns out to be Beth Green (Taylor Schilling), who owns a dog kennel with her grandmother (Blythe Danner), and offers Logan a job. As Logan begins to heal from the atrocities he saw overseas, he helps Beth find peace and joy again in her life. While they both have complicated pasts, they discover that they may have been brought into each other's lives for a reason.
"The Lucky One is about a journey," Sparks says. "It's about healing, it's about secrets, it's about forgiveness. It's a love story."
When writing the novel, Sparks says he was inspired by both a personal photograph and a story in the New York Times. When his girlfriend (now wife) gave him a wallet-size photo of herself, it became a treasured possession.
"My wife is very attractive, but this photo -- I'm telling you-made her look like a million bucks," he says. "She's in a jean jacket, and the way her hair was -- she looked like a supermodel. I lost the picture, and I was so bummed."
He was fortunate to find the photo a week later, and realized how important it was to him. The photo, combined with a NYT article he read about "the luckiest soldier" -- a man who survived 12 IED explosions -- lead him to pen The Lucky One.
When he's writing, Sparks says that he doesn't really know his characters until the last page, so he doesn't initially know what actors would be a good fit for the film. After the novel is complete, he has ideas for who should be invited to audition.
It was the chemistry between Efron and Schilling made the actors an easy choice for Sparks, director Scott Hicks, and producers Denise Di Novi and Kevin McCormick.
Schilling, who can be seen in Ben Affleck's film Argo the fall, is relatively new to the acting scene, but blew Sparks away with her audition.
"We needed an actress who had a lot of emotional depth," he says. "Beth has a kid and needed to be believable as a young mother and also as someone who has a relationship with her ex that isn't great. She's not wishy-washy, but she doesn't have any power. We needed someone who could pull all that off."
When asked the question, "Do guys tell you that you're making their jobs harder?" Sparks laughs and says he does, and that even Zac Efron told him that. However, he says that he knows real guys that are comparable to his characters, and that all the men in his novels have flaws.
"These are good guys in these films," he says. "None of them are perfect, but they do have a
nobility and an integrity to them. When push comes to shove, they are the guys who will do the right thing."
Another question that Sparks is often asked is if he is as romantic as one would think. He says that while romance is subjective, all of his female characters are based in some way off of his wife.
"I write what I find attractive," he says. "So what do I find attractive? I like a woman who is intelligent. A woman who will stand up for what's right. I also want her to love deeply and to be passionate. I want her to laugh, to be loyal, and we better be able to talk because I want to be her friend."
And while the courting process in novels is also in some ways based off his relationship with his wife, he says that their life isn't romance 24/7.
"Does my wife get flowers and candy at unexpected times? Yeah. Do I write her love letters? Of course. I just wrote her one on Valentine's Day and it was a good letter," Sparks says. "I take her on exotic vacations; a surprise trip now and then. But at the same time, we have a life. Our life is not one, big 'rose petals falling from the ceiling endlessly.' We have five children, I travel a lot, and I work. But, it's important to my wife, so I try and it's important to me that she tries, so she tries."
The Lucky One opens in theaters Friday, April 20.
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