Realism isn’t often a staple of romance cinema – films like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember seem to encourage a suspension of disbelief, rather than a concerted engagement with the real world. But forthcoming feature The Lucky One has endeavoured to subvert this genre convention. The latest in a long line of Nicholas Sparks adaptations (which include the aforementioned, as well as Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song), the film focuses on a US Marine Sergeant (Zac Efron) who returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, determined to find the woman whose photograph has become his good luck charm.
In preparation for the film, Australian director Scott Hicks – whose notable credits include Shine and No Reservations – immersed himself in the stories of returned US servicemen. “When I started working on the film, I took Zac down to Camp Pendleton – which is a huge military base in California – and we hung out with a group of Marines who are his age, who really had the experience of the character in the story,” he says. The experience at Camp Pendleton was especially valuable for Efron – whose previous roles haven’t required a great deal of emotional depth.
“It really helped Zac,” Hicks says. “But it was quite difficult, because you are not of [the soldiers'] world. And they’re not sure what your attitude is. So, consequently, they’re not quick to communicate with you. And while Efron might seem like an odd choice for a Marine – “he was concerned that his stature wasn’t going to be right,” Hicks reveals – Nicholas Sparks claims that the actor’s appearance and age only serve to further ground the film in reality.
“When most people think of war movies and the Marines, they conjure up Saving Private Ryan – these are people in their thirties,” the author says. “It’s not like that anymore – we don’t have the draft. 95 percent of people who join the military do so right after high school. These guys are 18 years old; 19, 20, 21. So when you see ‘em – they’re kids. It blows you away. I think Zac is 24? He’s old!” Sparks laughs. “Actually, he’s probably the most realistic portrayal of a soldier that we’ve seen.”
Check out this article at FilmInk.com.au