April 4, 2015

#LongestRide: Art, Love & Riding Bulls

I was invited to attend an early screening of The Longest Ride last weekend, as part of the press event hosted by 20th Century Fox. As a Nicholas Sparks fan, there was no way I could turn down the opportunity to catch his latest film! Together with my friend Danica, I arrived at the theater on Saturday night, eager to indulge in another Sparks romance. 

While an actual review will be coming later this month, I can assure you that The Longest Ride is such a great film, one that will make you laugh and cry as it presents stunning visuals and boasts an excellent cast. There was a quick Q&A after the screening featuring George Tillman Jr., Oona Chaplin, Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Nicholas Sparks and Elizabeth Gabler, where they answered a few questions from the moderator.

The day after the screening, I attended a press junket where I joined a group of fellow bloggers at a roundtable interview with the cast, author Nicholas Sparks and director George Tillman. As my first official press event, I was really nervous! But it turned out to be an exhilarating experience, mostly due to the kindness of my fellow bloggers and the ease + humor of all the people involved in The Longest Ride. I really enjoyed listening to them chat about the film, and was lucky enough to get two questions of my own in as well.

The first panel was comprised of author Nicholas Sparks, Britt Robertson (who plays Sophia) and Scott Eastwood (who plays Luke). There were plenty of great questions during the interview, but I'll be sharing the one I asked Nicholas Sparks in particular today.
Alexa: Well, I have a question for Nicholas. I am a huge fan of all your novels. And I think it's interesting because in every single novel, there's a different part of love that's tackled. Like, in Safe Haven, it's love is a safe haven. In this one, it's sacrifice. So, I was just curious if you think about that theme when you're writing or before you're writing? Or does it just come later on? You're like, oh, this is what it is. 
Nicholas Sparks: Always.  I'm pretty clear on the themes prior to writing because one of the things I try to do is to make as much different as I possibly can when we all know a little bit what's coming. I mean it's a love story. We know that. There's going to be a couple that falls in love. It's going to be in North Carolina, probably a small town, a place. You know, you'll like the characters, right? Make a really pretty movie poster. We all know what's coming, right?  
But, how do you make it different, right? And so, the goal is to explore different themes, different ages, different periods, sometimes in the same context of the same story. And I think that that's what keeps the stories feeling fresh. 
I mean I think you can watch A Walk to Remember and The Longest Ride and not think that they're not the same at all. But, you can enjoy them on different levels. The same thing with Dear John and The Notebook, very different, but you can enjoy both. 
And that's what you try to do. And the only way to do that is to make them as different as you possibly can in every other way, including different themes.
His answer seriously made me want to reread all of his novels, and read the ones that I haven't yet. I love that he really does go out of his way to make sure the theme for each story is just a little bit different.

After a quick group photo, we moved on to the second panel composed of director George Tillman Jr., Oona Chaplin and Allen Alda. Again, there were a number of great questions from my fellow interviewers! But I'll simply be sharing my question (which has very light spoilers).

Alexa: What was your favorite scene that you did in the whole film? 
Oona Chaplin: The dancing one. The whole dance sequence was nice, wasn't it? It was choreographed by a woman called Babs McDance. That's actually her real name. She's there. She's in Wilmington, North Carolina. And she is just a  sunshine woman who loves dancing and wants to teach everyone how to dance and does it really well.  And we got a couple of extra sessions in with her just because she was just so much fun. We already knew the dance. But, we just wanted to go and see Babs McDance again.  And, yes, that was really fun to shoot. It was really fun and happy and up, you know?  
George Tillman, Jr.: I really like the scene where you (referring to Oona) leave Ira. The reason why I like that because we talked about that scene. I mean we were in rehearsals. We were talking about many different things. A lot of times, it was just a lot of discussions, talking about life, talking about art, Vienna.  
But, we would kind of read through the scenes a little bit, a little different with the other stories. We would read through those stories with Scott and Britt because that was just a process. And that's what they wanted to do. With us, we would just kind of talk it through. But, we didn't really talk about the sacrifice scene a lot. We just stayed away from it. We didn't really get into it too much till like the last few days.  
And then Jack [Huston] just started feeling about like, hey, you know for this scene coming up, I'm just going to have to go for it. You know? We always make sure we don't really want to tip into melodrama. But, he felt like I'm just going to have to go for it. So, we finally got to that day. And that scene was done in like two takes or three takes. It was done very quickly. We were near the end of the schedule.  
It was very emotional. You came out on the porch. And you said those things. You said that moment to him. I felt it. And then he comes in. And he sees you coming down the stairs. And then Jack said that at that moment, he was thinking about his baby, his daughter. He had like a 10-month old daughter at the time. And it's just something, one of those moment where you just find, and this felt very real. And it felt very organic. So, that's one of my favorite moments of the film.  
Alan Alda: I think the hard moments are the ones that you come away feeling something about. A feeling that you can remember. The scene you talked about before where I wake up in bed with a wife who's gone, that comes to mind for me because it was such a powerful moment.  Even though you know it's not happening, it has an impression on you. It makes an impression on you as though it had happened. 
Each scene that they've referred to is a particularly beautiful moment in the film, both happy and emotional. Just hearing them talk about such memorable turning points had me feeling completely wrecked with emotion too! As with the previous panel, we managed to snag a group photo as well.

It was a true pleasure to be a part of this! I enjoyed getting the opportunity to see the film a little early, and loved getting to hear from the cast, author and director about the film and themselves. The Longest Ride is out in theaters on April 10, so be sure to mark that down on your calendars as a movie you need to see this month! (And a big thank you to 20th Century Fox for inviting me to be a part of the press for last weekend!)

 Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, THE LONGEST RIDE centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.

Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, and Alan Alda
Directed by: George Tillman, Jr.

You can learn more about The Longest Ride via:


  1. I loved your post... mainly the table.
    I lov this novel ^^

  2. Your table is brilliant! I think you sold me on reading book two.


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