“I was really happy that he [Lasse Hallström] kept a lot of the stuff, the little things, the little pieces of human behavior that two people do when they’re falling in love,” explains Josh Duhamel.
During a recent Press Junket for the Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John) new romantic thriller Safe Haven, I was graced with the opportunity to meet leading man, Josh Duhamel in a cozy roundtable discussion. When I first mentioned this upcoming meeting with my two teenage daughters, they were more delighted than me! Then again, I don’t blame them when you consider Duhamel’s French-Canadian striking features. At nearly 6’4”, Duhamel garnered the 1997 title of Male Model of the Year in an International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) competition.
Of course, Duhamel is handsome and something to behold. However, Safe Haven’s leading man is also extremely intelligent, sensitive, charming, and engaging. When I first began my Q&A discussion with him, Duhamel was asked what “song” represented his life. Without hesitation this humble man from Minot, North Dakota, immediately admitted that his song wouldn’t be nearly as “cool” as the Shaft theme that Gavin DeGraw had previously selected in an earlier interview. In fact, I was taken aback by Duhamel’s humility and charm. Like a teen reminiscing, he quickly recited the first verse of his “theme song,” which was George Michael’s tearful ballad, “Waiting For That Day (You Can’t Always Get What You Want)” – all the while encouraging all us Bloggers in the room to Google and YouTube the song, if we hadn’t heard of it.
The 40-year-old Duhamel says that as a teen, he would sit in the basement of his home, and listen to that song repeatedly. During his nostalgic recollection, Duhamel says he was most likely experiencing relationship issues, and would hear the song to help him cope. Aww, how sweet…
“There was something about it that it just resonated with me. I was probably going through a breakup or something at the time. He [George Michael] talks about sitting on this mountain top thinking to himself, ‘You’re a fool! Why don’t you go down and find somebody else?’” Duhamel recalls. He adds, “Even as a kid, wanting to go out and explore, it’s a great song. You have to go listen to it. I highly recommend it.”
Duhamel admits to being a big George Michael fan. (Coincidentally, I took him up on the offer, checked out the song on YouTube, and totally enjoyed the ballad.) The talented actor grew up in North Dakota with his mother and three younger sisters (Ashlee, Mckenzee, and Kassidy) after his parents divorced as a youth. As a scholarly football athlete, he attended Minot State University, where he played back-up quarterback and studied dentistry. Once again in love, Duhamel followed an ex-girlfriend to Northern California, where he worked at several jobs before his modeling career took off. After appearing as an extra in the videos for Donna Summer’s 1998 song, “I Will Go With You” and Christina Aguilera’s 1999 song, “Genie in A Bottle,” Duhamel began training with Scott Sedita Acting Studios (http://www.scottseditaacting.com). Within a matter of months in 1999, he captured the role of Leo du Pres on ABC’s soap opera All My Children, playing opposite Greenlee Smythe (portrayed by actress Rebecca Budig).
Greenlee and Leo sizzled on daytime TV, earning numerous Emmy nominations like the 2002 Special Fan Award for America’s Favorite Couple (shared with Rebecca Budig), and winning the 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He left All My Children in 2003 to succeed James Caan as head of the Montecito Casino, playing Danny McCoy in the NBC series Las Veges until 2008. Incidentally, it was after watching an episode of Duhamel’s McCoy return home from Iraq that Executive Producer Steven Spielberg “handpicked” Duhamel for the role of Captain William Lennox in 2007’s hit Transformers, as well as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011).
Duhamel’s breakout opportunity came in 2004’s Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, whereas the handsome lead he went on a quest to clean up his “bad boy” image in order to win a role in the upcoming movie. From there, the enchanting actor appeared backpacking in the jungles of Brazil in the 2006 horror film, Turistas.
Married to Black Eyed Peas front singer, Stacey Ann “Fergie” Ferguson since 2004, Duhamel’s vulnerable personality illuminates in Sparks’ romantic thriller. Ironically, Duhamel first passed on the Alex Wheatley role in Safe Haven when he was offered the opportunity to play the widowed father of two.
“I didn’t know what to do with this guy when I first read it, and I wasn’t going to do the movie at first. And then, I read it again about a year later, and it had really gotten better,” says Duhamel. “I did a lot of writing leading up to shooting, just so that I understood what this guy had been through up until he meets this girl. So that I’d be specific about the kids, and everything else, and who they were, and who I was in relation to them,” recalls Duhamel.
The dynamic actor was initially enticed by the psychotic Kevin Tierney role, which is remarkably played by David Lyons (Eat Pray Love, ER).However, the executive producers and director envisioned Duhamel as Alex. Thus, Duhamel says it then became a matter of creatively collaborating and re-writing the role to fit Duhamel.
“All these guys were really great about keeping little moments that a lot of times would be left on the cutting room floor. And, I think that what makes the story interesting about these two [Alex and Katie] is that it’s a bunch of little moments. It’s not a lot of big forced romantic gestures,” explains Duhamel. He goes on, “It’s the little things that collectively by the end of the movie you’re rooting for these two.”
Also a fan of Swedish director Lasse Hallström (Dear John, The Cider House Rules), Duhamel says he especially enjoyed working with the Oscar-nominated director for 1999’s hit The Cider House Rules. Duhamel says Hallström thoroughly understands the concept of creating romantic moments, while ensuring that the audience feels the scenes are truly genuine.
“I was really happy that he [Hallström] kept a lot of the stuff, the little things, the little pieces of human behavior that two people do when they’re falling in love,” explains Duhamel.
I then asked Duhamel if he believed the role of Alex was his most dramatic role, where he also felt vulnerable. He says playing Alex was indeed an “exercise in trusting.” For Duhamel, it was also an opportunity to bond with 8-year-old newcomer MiMi Kirkland, who plays his daughter Lexi. He invited the Raleigh, North Carolina youngster and her mom to join him at the beach for a day. Noah Lomax (Playing for Keeps), 12, who plays his son was busy prior to the film shoot.
“She was awesome. Really funny,” recalls Duhamel. “Noah and I had a whole routine. We had this whole fight routine… But it
was really important to me that those kids felt free and were able to be kids and didn’t have to do anything. They felt like I did. I felt free,” Duhamel says.
The award-winning actor says that he really wanted to create an authentic and believable environment for both the children and Julianne Hough, who plays Katie Feldman.
“It was really about being specific with those kids. I really wanted to have a strong relationship with them. I wanted to be comfortable around them,” Duhamel says. “If that relationship wasn’t believable, then the relationship with her [Katie] wouldn’t be believable because if he’s truly still struggling with the loss of his wife, and those memories, and wanting to keep her memory alive with these kids, then he can’t just jump all willy-nilly into another relationship without thinking about how that’s going to affect these kids,” remarks Duhamel.
He says that because both he and Hough are both Nicholas Sparks fans, they talked extensively about their approach to portraying their roles in Safe Haven. Duhamel says that Hough had read all of Sparks’ books and watched all of his films.
“She is the demographic,” Duhamel says of 25-year-old Hough. While she gradually lets her guard down, Duhamel does a phenomenal job of playing a fumbling Prince Charming who takes his time alluring Hough in this suspenseful thriller.
Safe Haven opens nationwide Feb. 14, 2013, starring Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Cobie Smulders, and David Lyons. Directed by Lasse Hallström, Screenplay by Dana Stevens, based on the suspenseful novel by Nicholas Sparks. Producers are Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey and Ryan Kavanaugh. Film is rated: PG-13 by Relativity Media.
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