Fighting off insects in the New Orleans humidity, our own Lauren Kelly asked the super sexy James Marsden how the new Nicholas Sparks movie, The Best of Me, compared to the tearjerker The Notebook. We consider Marsden to be quite the authority on the subject, considering he played Lon Hammond in The Notebook a decade ago.
"I'm in the older story line this time, not the younger one. I can't deny the fact that some time has gone by. The age gap is 20 years, where in The Notebook, I think it's like 40. Beyond that, the older story line is a bit different. James [Garner] and Gena [Rowlands] were in an assisted living place, and they were getting on in age.
"But the younger story line is very similar. You have two young lovers who are just overwhelmed with their passion for one another and can't necessarily describe it, and maybe there's some people who don't want to see them together, like her parents. That's very similar to The Notebook, but somehow they manage to stay in each other's field of gravity."
Another actress, also part of the older story line of The Best of Me, is the beautiful Michelle Monaghan, whom you may remember as Woody Harrelson's wife, Maggie, in True Detective. Monaghan admits being emotionally devastated by The Notebook.
"I was absolutely torn to shreds. It was so beautiful and so romantic, and I'm a girl, so I love romance."
But after reading the script for The Best of Me, she said, "I knew that this was a story I wanted to tell. It was right up my alley."
The themes of many of Sparks' stories are regret and second chances. We asked Monaghan about her thoughts on why those concepts are so relatable.
"Because there's always the 'what if.' What if I had gone down that road, how would my life be different? This is really an opportunity that this character has, she really does get a second chance and is sort of able to reflect on her past and her former relationship and wonder what it might be like if she were with him."
We also asked Nicholas Sparks about these powerful themes, particularly that of regret. What he told us was dead-on.
"If you look at a crowd of people, every single one of them has regret. No one can get through life perfectly. It's such a universal experience. The real key [to telling the story] is to pull it off in a new way."
About the differences and similarities between the new film and The Notebook, he said, "This isn't one person looking back so many years later at his first love — that was The Notebook. This is more about the reunion part of the The Notebook. When Allie was engaged to someone else and she comes back.
"Let's add not seven years, but let's add 20, when they've both become adults, and their lives are different. Now, would it be so easy to go back to that first true love?"
As emotionally intriguing as the new movie sounds, we can't help but wonder if Sparks feels the pressure to re-create the success he had with the Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling love story.
"The Notebook has become a bit of an icon. It was successful at the box office, but it wasn't extraordinary, like Spider-Man or My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It didn't really do that, but it really took off on DVD and cable. But it is fun to wonder which film is going to come next. I think it will come down to the story and the actors and the mood of the country. What I can say is that the next one after The Notebook won't be like The Notebook, because part of catching it by storm is to be new. The Best of Me might just be the one."
Watch our video to see if Sparks thinks Liana Liberato and Luke Bracey are the next Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.
The Best of Me opens in theaters on Oct. 17.
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