As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I recently had the honor of being a part of a small select group of bloggers to visit the set of Nicholas Sparks’ latest movie; The Best Of Me. If you don’t already know, the story is about as romantic as they come. As was the filming location, located just outside New Orleans, in the hot and steamy state of Louisiana.
The crew was very accommodating to our group, including us in their catered southern lunch, and carrying our chairs and shelter across the plantation, more than once. Also very accommodating were the actors. We had the pleasure of chatting with several cast members throughout the day. Below are some highlights from our time with James Marsden (27 Dresses, X-Men, 30 Rock) and Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible, Due Date, True Detective). Both of whom could not have been nicer.
Blogger: What kind of research did you do for this role?
Mr. James Marsden:You know, I didn’t do much research. I’m kind of one of these actors that likes to take the script and maybe over-examine it. And so, that’s really my blueprint is the script, and I’m obviously familiar with Nicholas’s [Sparks] work and having worked with him before and everything. I did a little looking in to what it’s like to be an oil rigger, actually. That was a new thing for me to play. The character I play comes from not a great family. He maybe had an abusive father and so I looked into that a little bit without going too heavy-handed with it. It’s what’s so nice about his work is that he so effortlessly taps into very human needs to feel loved and desired and to desire somebody else…
Blogger: Did you have any particular challenges because your character is two different ages? Was that something new to you?
Mr. James Marsden: Well, it was harder to match his physique. That was probably one of the harder things. Then again, I had the 20 years later on my side. And you know what? I was really fortunate to be a part of The Notebook, which was, you know, obviously a really strong example of a well-done Nicholas Sparks film. And they were lucky enough to have a larger age gap between Ryan and James, and Rachel and Jenna. This is trickier because it’s only 20 years.
Mr. James Marsden: I don’t know. I kind of maybe look a little younger than I am…I don’t know. So, it’s a tough first sell, but Luke [Bracey] and I got together early on and we realized, look, we’re not carbon copies of one another and I don’t think the audience needs to see that, you know? It’s more about being on the same page as far as who this guy is, and maybe having some mannerisms that are similar. Luke has this really great deep voice and so I tried to kind of put my voice in that same register. Like I said, little mannerisms here and there.
Blogger: Do you have a favorite scene?
Mr. James Marsden: Michelle [Monaghan] and I had about an 11 minute love scene take, which was very nice. And they wouldn’t cut. They said, “All right, this is going to get into R territory from PG-13 pretty quick if you don’t cut.” She is such a joy to work with. I don’t know if you’ve been able to witness us kind of hanging out and messing around.
I’m from the Midwest and she is too and it’s just good to work with somebody that you actually really do have intimate chemistry with. And she’s a sweetheart. She’s a sport because I mess with her all the time. So, that was a great scene. We had some fun driving the old Corvette, you know? Teaching her how to drive a stick.
Blogger: Was there a certain part of the script or part of the book? What made you decide to take the role?
Mr. James Marsden: I haven’t done this kind of movie since The Notebook, and I don’t know how familiar you are with the movie, but I played the sort of other guy in that film, and this was an opportunity to play “the guy”. It almost got pathological there for a while, taking these roles where I’m the other guy.
Blogger: You don’t really get your happy ending here either.
Mr. James Marsden: Right, yes, well, we have our own little plan for that, so we’ll see how that all works out. But, I don’t know. I mean–.
Blogger: Is the ending changing?
Mr. James Marsden: I can’t tell you that. But, you’ll be pleased. You’ll be pleased.
Blogger: Well, what is it like knowing that another actor is playing a younger version of yourself? Have you seen any of your personal self in Liana [Liberato]?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Oh, yes, most definitely. It’s funny because she’s very outgoing. I’m pretty outgoing. She’s very vivacious. And she’s very open. And she’s just a real fun girl. She’s got a lot of energy. And I as an adult have a lot of energy. But, the younger version of me probably even had more energy, of course. But, I really like Liana a lot. And I’m very happy to have her playing the younger version of me. She looks great.
Blogger: What made you decide to take this role?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Well, I’m a girl. And I am a romantic, of course. And you know, this is a genre that I’ve never been a part of.
I did a lot of romantic comedies. I did kind of action films, drama, but never really sort of like an epic love story. And so, when I read the script–and I was a fan of Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook, all of that–but when I read this, this really struck a chord with me because it was really powerful. And it’s about love and loss and second chances. I guess as an older woman now–hate to say that–but–or more mature woman I guess, I’ve lived life a little bit, I could relate to it in some respects. And I adore Michael Hoffmann, who is our director. And so, we started talking about it about a year ago really. And then it just kind of developed into this great movie with this great cast. And I’m really excited to be a part of it.
Blogger: Are you seeing a different part of Louisiana from when you were filming True Detective?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Oh, most definitely. We didn’t have anything nearly as pretty and vibrant and alive as this, you know? That was a very sort of dark look at Louisiana and also very invaluable in terms of what we were trying to achieve there. But, this has been extraordinary, you know? It’s very, very, very pretty here. And we’ve fallen in love with New Orleans. I mean, I’m hard-pressed to leave it. I’ve actually just eaten my way through this city. And I’m still only like a quarter into my list.
Blogger: What about favorite scenes, a favorite scene in the movie?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: You know what? James and I’ve had some really fun great scenes. Look at him. He’s standing under the ice cream truck right now. He’s so cute. I mean, look at him. Don’t you just want to scoop him back? Sorry.
Blogger: We’ve been thinking that, too.
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: We’ve had a lot of great scenes. We’ve had some in this Stingray that we’ve been driving around. And that’s just been really nice because we’ve just been driving outside with the top down. And it’s a great old car. But, truly, I’ve really enjoyed shooting every day with him because he’s just so easygoing. And he’s a great actor. And he’s just a total pleasure.
Blogger: How was the 11-minute-long sex scene?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Oh, my Gosh. You know what? I get paid to do a job. And I’m very, very professional. I’m very professional. So, yes, um-hmm.
Blogger: So, how did you relate to Amanda?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Well, just having a family and just the simple fact, that I’ve been happily married for 15 years. But, I’ve had prior relationships to that. And whether you’re happily married or not, I still think it’s human nature to say, “Oh, my gosh, what if I’d stayed in that relationship,” because there were so many close calls. Do you know what I mean? And I don’t regret any one of them because I’ve learned what I wanted from each of them, as we all have. You learn what you don’t want. You learn what you need, this and that. And thank goodness, I got them all in this little package at home. But, you still can’t help but think, “What if?” And so, in that respect, I could really certainly relate to that.
Blogger: Do the kids come with you?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Yes, the whole family came.
Blogger: So, they’re all here?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Yes, they’re all here. I have my daughter in Newman. She absolutely loves it.
Blogger: How old is your little girl?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: She’s 5.5.
Blogger: So, do they think it’s cool getting to go to different places?
Ms. Michelle Monaghan: Oh, they love it. They love being on an adventure. My son’s 6.5 months. My daughter really has no clue what I do. She saw me in a scene one time doing coffee with my costar. She doesn’t really come to set. Then somebody asked her one day at brunch, “Do you want to be an actress when you grow up?” And she’s like, “No, no, no, no, I can’t be an actress because I can’t drink coffee.” Oh, my Gosh, she has no clue.
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.
The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
In theaters October 17th!
Stay social with The Best of Me!
Follow on Facebook: http://Facebook.com/bestofmemovie
Watch for more about my “The Best of Me” set visit to be posted soon, including interviews with Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey.
I am working with Relativity Media on promotion of this film. Travel, food and lodging were provided in exchange for my coverage. All opinions expressed are still honest and my own.