Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star in 'Safe Haven.' Credit: Getty Images Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star in 'Safe Haven.'
Credit: Getty Images

Former "Dancing with the Stars" champ Julianne Hough doesn't have a lot of big-screen experience that doesn't rely on her dance background, so after "Burlesque," "Footloose" and "Rock of Ages," she was ready for a challenge. "Yeah, I left the dancing and the singing outside," she says of her new film, "Safe Haven," a romantic thriller based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. "For me it [meant] going to an acting coach and getting more training. It was definitely a lot more heartfelt and personal, definitely."

Her role — a woman on the run from an abusive past who finds solace with a widower (Josh Duhammel) in a small North Carolina town — also required her to take on some pretty heavy issues related to domestic violence. "It's a big responsibility to do it right," Hough says. "If somebody has gone through that, it feels real and honest for them. I talked to women at shelters, I know friends of family, my own experiences but at the same time it was such a safe environment to do it in."

She could at least draw on her dancing background for some of the more extreme scenes. "We had a stunt woman but these guys will tell you, there's no way I was gonna let them do that," she says of some of the flashbacks of her character's abuse. "This is fun to me. It's like dancing. It's choreography and I love that acting feeling. I did get hurt a little bit, but I didn't tell anybody."

 

For her co-star, Duhammel, filming "Safe Haven" introduced a new luxury: two weeks of prep time on location before shooting started. "I was like, 'Really, what am I gonna do for two weeks?'" Duhammel remembers. "But it was great because I really got to soak in the local environment, live in Southport. Really think about what I want to do in this movie. Wrote a lot, spent a lot of time with the kids, and by the time we started shooting I felt like I was this dude. I wish that I always had the luxury of getting there that early and just sort of becoming part of the local environment."

Of course, being a small-town boy at heart, feeling like part of that environment wasn't too terribly difficult. "I grew up in a state full of little towns like that," the North Dakota native says. "It's sort of in my blood, I guess. I grew up in a place like this so I would be more akin to live in a place like this than a big city. I love New York, but that's too much for me. That town just swallowed me up. I lived there for three years. I'd probably prefer a smaller town... like Los Angeles. It's a whole bunch of little villages just next to each other."

The Sparks pressure

"Safe Haven" marks the eighth Nicholas Sparks romance novel to be made into a film, from 2002's "a Walk to Remember" to last year's "the Lucky One." But it's his hugely successful second film adaptation, "the Notebook," the moviegoers remember most. And that can put a lot of pressure on the romantic leads of a new one, something Julianne Hough and Josh Duhammel are all too aware of.

"There is a lot of pressure to live up to the success of these previous movies, but we try not to think about that," Duhammel says. "If I tried to do what Ryan Gosling did in 'the Notebook' I'd be pulling my hair out. If we try and replicate that in any way, it's a trap." And Hough agrees completely. "I am the demographic of Nicolas Sparks books," she says. "I loved 'the Notebook,' but this was our version of what this story is."

Loading...
Latest From ...