Touring Southport, North Carolina on the Set of “Safe Haven” with Nicholas Sparks
What was your favorite scene that they’ve shot so far? Are there any specific scenes you enjoyed seeing come to life?
There are a few of them. There’s a great scene with Alex in a canoe. He and Katie are getting to know each other. It’s kind of their first date, and he says, “This is my favorite place. You know, I used to love coming here” and she says something like, “You used to bring your wife here, right?” And there’s just a quiet moment there. He starts talking, and you’re trying to get it across that he loved his wife very much and he’s really sad that she died.
But, you know what? He’s also kind of mad that she’s dead, you know, ’cause he’s got two kids. He doesn’t know how to be mom and dad. He’s got to run the store. He’s got to get them to school. “I have no life,” he says. And he feels guilty about feeling this. That’s a very real emotion that a guy in this position would experience. You have to capture the grief, the anger and the guilt all in 15 seconds with three or four lines of dialogue.
That’s one of the scenes with Josh I really liked.
It must be hard, as a writer, to be so dependent on the actors. Even the most beautiful words are dependent on the person who says them.
What you really look for is a level of performance that really shows the depth and complexity of a character. As boring as that sounds, it is the key to achieving audience engagement. These characters have to feel very real. You want the audience to sympathize with them.
I’m a big Julianne Hough fan, and can see how she would make a great Katie.
There’s a great scene with Julianne – a really, really fabulous scene – when she’s with the evil husband and he presents her with a beautiful necklace. She says, “Oh, thank you, honey. This is great. Let me put it on.” And she turns around. All of the expression just dies from her face, and you don’t know why. He hasn’t done anything. He seems like a nice guy. He’s really good looking. So what is going on with this? Again, you’ve got so many threads in these stories, and you have very limited time. You really need these quality performances that make you say, “I know who that person is. I relate to them. And I’m going to root for them.”
What’s the biggest difference between telling a story in books and telling a story in a movie?
A novel is a story told in words. A film is a story told in pictures. You’re trying to get these pictures to fill in all that introspection that I could spend pages on in a book.
It’s beautiful here, and I can see why you’d want to shoot a movie here!
The interesting thing about North Carolina and one of the reasons why I set the story here is that, unlike virtually every other state, the big cities are off the coast because of the hurricanes. The entire eastern part of the state is dotted with small towns. The biggest town is Wilmington, about 150,000. And that’s considered huge. Southport has a population of 1,500. It’s a great place where someone like Katie could wander in and there’s never going to be anyone from Boston that she’d ever happen to bump into here.
Safe Haven‘s not the only movie being filmed here this summer, is it?
You’re at the mouth of the Cape Fear River here. Over there is Oak Island, where they were filming the parachuting scenes for Iron Man 3. Residents were watching fireworks and people diving from the sky over there. Poor little Southport, right?
There seems to be a surprising amount of history in this little town!
Southport is interesting. Wilmington was the last open port in the, as they say here, war for Southern Independence. Charleston had closed, New Orleans had closed and everything else had closed. Southport was really the last place that everything came in. This was the south port, hence the name that they changed it to in about 1887. It was originally called Smithville. There’s your North Carolina history lesson.
Those trees over there are amazing.
One of the great things about North Carolina are these live oaks. I love these trees, and they are very interesting because they don’t shed like regular oak trees. They stay green year round, and shed three times per year. So, they’re always as beautiful as this. It’ll be this green throughout winter, these little leaves just fall all the time. Normally when they grow in, let’s say, Virginia, they don’t look like this because it’s not quite as wet and humid there. It’s the moisture in the air that causes these trunks to twist and to spread out. If you buy a live oak in a nursery they won’t look the same.
It’s obvious how much Southport means to you.
I think this is one of the most beautiful towns. Ten years ago, I was here for the filming of A Walk to Remember. I remember walking down here and I said, “I have to find a book for this place one day.”