Nicholas Sparks, Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel talk Safe Haven

Safe Haven
Safe Haven
Photo by James Bridges

Safe Haven, a film based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, tells the story of Katie (Julianne Hough), a mysterious woman who shows up in the small town of Southport, North Carolina, to start a new life. Determined to keep to herself, Katie rents an isolated cabin outside of town and shows little interest in getting to know anyone.

As she settles into her new life, she finds herself drawn to Alex (Josh Duhamel), the attractive, young widower who owns the local grocery store. While she is slow to open up to Alex and his two young children, Katie eventually lets her guard down and begins to find happiness in her new relationship. As Katie grows closer to Alex, the dark past that she has been running from starts to catch up to her. What follows is the classic love story that one would expect in a Nicholas Sparks film combined with suspense and dark surprises.

Nicholas Sparks, Julianne Hough, and Josh Duhamel recently sat down with Dressing Room after a screening of Safe Haven at Mall of America. Sparks says he hopes to give audiences something they might not expect. The film opens on Valentine's Day.

Safe Haven
Safe Haven
Photo by James Bridges

Duhamel says he was excited to work on a Nicholas Sparks film that had both a love story and an element of mystery.

"We know that there is a Nicholas Sparks audience who would want to see this movie, but we didn't want to be lumped in or compared to his other movies. We want this to be our own independent movie that's different in its own way," Duhamel says. "At the core of Safe Haven, is a story about a connection between two people. We didn't want to force it, and fortunately Lasse Hallström, the director, was all about making this film have sentiment without being overly sentimental. He did a really good job of the pacing, and letting this relationship happen without force feeding the audience."

Hough says she was excited for the challenge of playing Katie, and she says she learned to trust herself as an actor.

Nicholas Sparks, Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel talk Safe Haven
Nicholas Sparks, Josh Duhamel, and Julianne Hough in Minneapolis

"I loved the story, especially my character Katie having to grow so much. She's a fighter and I liked that. That's kind of like me," says Hough, who recently opened up about abuse she experienced in her own life. "I'm a huge fan of Nicholas [Sparks]. Lasse [Hallström] is the most prestigious director that I've worked with. I knew that he was going to help me grow. And of course Josh [Duhamel] -- I like 'em tall! -- was really great. What you see is what you get with him: good guy, good actor, good friend."

When asked what the appeal of Nicholas Sparks is, Hough responds that his books and films give audiences an escape into fantasy, but it's not too far-fetched. Sparks adds that he tries to allow people an authentic experience.

"Every genre has a purpose," Sparks says. "If you're looking at a thriller, you want to be thrilled. If you go to a horror film or read a horror novel, you want to be scared. If you do adventure, you want to get caught up in the fast-turning excitement. The purpose of what I do is to take the reader or the viewer through all emotions of life in a very realistic way so that you go through all of the emotions -- you were happy, you laughed, you were scared, there was some tension, betrayal, all of this great stuff. By the time the credits roll, you feel like you've lived all of the emotions of life with these characters. That is what makes it feel real."

Both actors say that Safe Haven is a great option for a Valentine's Day date, and think that the action and suspense in the movie will be appealing to men who might not normally see a romance flick. Hough adds that the film teaches people an important lesson about love.

"Safe Haven shows that you can have love and you deserve love," Hough says. "Everyone deserves it."

Safe Haven opens in theaters nationwide this Thursday, February 14.

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