“Safe Haven” is the latest unofficially Kleenex-sponsored bit of celluloid, based on a sweeping romance novel by that old pro Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”, “A Walk to Remember”). Female lead Julianne Hough, best known for her dashing dance moves and superlative lungs, left the happy feet at home for this one.
How is “Safe Haven” different from the other films you’ve done?
I left the dancing and the singing outside! (laughs) I was blown away and blessed that I got this opportunity. My whole life I have just wanted to entertain- sing, dance, act- and the fact that I got this opportunity was huge. For me it was going to an acting coach and getting more training. Lasse [Hallstorm] is such an actor’s director so I got to put my trust in him. It (this film) was definitely a lot more heartfelt and personal.
Did the improvisation help with that, you think? Because, and correct if I’m wrong, the scenes on the beach, a lot of that was improvised, right?
Yes. It keeps you on the tip of your toes and makes sure that you are listening and being as real as possible especially with the kids. The scene when I first meet Lexie (Josh Duhamel’s onscreen daughter played by Mimi Kirkland) started out on script and then it moved to improv. It was great because you never know what kids are going to say anyway in real life….Lasse trusted us more than any director I’ve worked with so thank you Lasse!
Speaking of realistic, I imagine it was tough bringing the reality of domestic violence to the screen?
It’s a big responsibility to do that and if someone has gone through that (domestic abuse) it feels real and honest to them. So I went and I talked to women at shelters and I used friends, family, and my own experiences. At the same time, it was such a safe environment to do it in. Dave (co-star David Lyons) is one of my closest friends now, and with Lasse, he can put you in a vulnerable situation and make you not feel exposed. It was interesting and hard but it was also comforting to portray this role.
What did you learn from your character?
I really liked the fact that Katie was the one who ended the situation between her and Tierney, her abuser. She didn’t need saving from him. She did it on her own and she became that strong fighter and having Alex (Josh Duhamel) there only made her stronger. I learned that you have to be able to be on your own and secure with who you are and confident in who you are to move forward. It always helps having great friends and family around but at the end of the day, it has to come from you.
You actually shot this film in the town where the novel takes place. What was that like?
It was amazing. It’s not every day that you get to shoot in the location where the story is set. It’s gorgeous. I love South Port; it’s kind of a hidden gem! I think if i were to go there on vacation it would be just as wonderful. But I think the fact that we got to hang out with some of the local residents there, the restaurants were amazing, the overall vibe was great, the going to the beach on the weekends when you had a day off… everything about it was amazing. I think it was honestly one of the best summers of my life thus far because it was so calm. It’s something about the South in general, you have more time in the day and you get to enjoy each moment and not rush to the next.
Do you feel the pressure to ‘be the next Notebook’? Honestly?
I mean I am the demographic of Nicholas Sparks books. I loved The Notebook but again this was our version of what this story is. It was great having Lasse to bring us down when we needed it, because there is pressure to have these big movie moments. At one point we were like ” this should be more dramatic” and it wasn’t and it didn’t need to be. Lasse reminded us to give the audience the credit that they deserve that they are intelligent enough to know what a real love story is without having to overdue it.
What is your Safe Haven?
Mine’s my dogs! I like having my dogs, they are kind of like the mascot of every film that I do because at the end of a long, maybe emotional, maybe exciting day, they are always there to love me and for me to love them… and to get a shower by Lexie who kisses my face off! They are my home, my safe place, and also my actual home.