The newest romantic drama adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel hits theaters today. With “Dear John,” the author of “The Notebook” and “Nights in Rodanthe” makes another foray into familiar territory: a five-hanky story of star-crossed lovers who find and lose each other along a Southern coast. This time, the action takes place under a Sullivan’s Island moon.
Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”) directs Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) and Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia!”) as John and Savannah. We chatted with the two young actors about the challenges of capturing young love.
Q: The South is like a character in this film. Did shooting in Charleston affect the way you embodied these roles?
Seyfried: The whole place is a bit slower. And it’s more romantic than anywhere else. Savannah’s a slow-paced girl who grew up around horses.
Tatum: Charleston was basically in my backyard when I was growing up [in Alabama and Florida]. This was the first time in my career that I did a movie in the South. The Southern swing of things is slower, and people are different. I miss it immensely. It’s such a romantic movie, and the city is gorgeous and adds to the romance so much. John is a good Southern boy.
Q: In “Mean Girls” and on “Big Love,” you’ve mostly played teenagers. What were the challenges of playing a young girl who becomes a stepmother and endures grief?
Seyfried: I’m not as old as Savannah is at the end of the movie, but I wanted to show her growth since this movie spans so much time and so many life changes: becoming an adult, a mother and being married. She’s really young, but she’s tired. I had to throw this burden on her. I couldn’t relate to that as much, so it was a little bit of a challenge.
Q: What about you, Channing? This is quite different from your other roles, like “Supercross.”
Tatum: Yes, it’s leaps and bounds different from “Supercross”! John is an honest character and an honest guy. He just wants to learn how to be a man. He goes to the military to do that. After he’s made it that far, this girl comes into his life to teach him the rest of the way: how to love someone; how to use his heart. It’s a compelling thing to play. ... I would love to keep doing really emotional roles. It’s therapy in a way to leave it all out there.
Q: A lot of people might call this a chick flick, but the male characters reveal more depth and frailty than the women. Is it a stretch to call this a guy’s movie?
Tatum: I think it’s a love story shown through a male perspective. I don’t know if you could call it a guy’s movie! But I do hope it is more than a chick flick. I want the males to know there’s a beautiful father-son story [John’s father is played by Richard Jenkins of “The Visitor”]. It’s a drama. It’s not just some sappy love story.
Q: How did you keep Savannah from being too one-note?
Seyfried: I tried to use every moment to show different sides of her, so that she seemed normal, especially in the awkwardness of new love in the beginning. ... With a lot of young girls coming to see this, I wanted the character to be inspiring. I want more people to be inspired to be in love, with all the risks that come with that.