The Last Song: Sparks' First Script
With The Last Song arriving in theaters March 31, Nicholas Sparks has achieved a rare status: Two Hollywood films will be released within two consecutive months, both based on his novels.
It was merely February that the Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum film hit theaters.
Weeks later the best selling author, who released his 15th novel with The Last Song, added another title to his already impressive resume -- screenwriter.
Sparks and SheKnows have exclusively caught up prior, for Nights in Rodanthe, and the man's spirit has not changed, although his movie outlook has slightly altered considering for the first time in his esteemed and best-selling career -- Sparks' words are the ones truly being uttered onscreen.
singing Sparks' Song
SheKnows: First of all, the fifteenth novel! Can you believe it's been 15?
Nicholas Sparks: No. I mean I remember after writing The Notebook, they said you gotta write another one. I said, "That's it! That's the only idea I had!" I only had one. It still pretty much feels like that after every novel -- "That's all I have. That's all I got, washed up after this! On to retirement!"
SheKnows: And for The Last Song, one thing we talked about was all the amazing stars that have played characters in your books to films, and how you never think of people when you're writing but in a way, you did with this one because of Miley [Cyrus]. Was that an added challenge? Was it a little different? Did you find it easier?
Nicholas Sparks: No, it really didn't make much difference at all, to tell you the truth. Certainly I knew who Miley was, but I've still never seen an episode of Hannah Montana! My daughters watch it everyday. I walk through the room while it's on and I know what the show is, but the only two characters that I know are Miley and her dad (Billy Ray Cyrus). I don't even know what her dad's called! It didn't make that much difference. You knew, for instance, that she'd have brown hair and that was about it.
SheKnows: But, that vision of the character was there?
Nicholas Sparks: While I was writing the screenplay, it was a little more formed that this was what she might look like, but again, I wasn't drawing on anything I'd ever seen her do. You know, I'd never seen a music video. I just had a picture in my head, but I don't know what she looks like when she's angry or how she looks when she's sad. Do you see what I mean?
Nicholas Sparks: It really didn't affect it as much as you probably thought it did. Now it did affect some elements of the story, of course because I did talk to her a little bit about that; how she didn't want to sing. There was a musical element certainly goes right to the title of the projec. The name of the character "Ronnie," the turtles with the animals, those things came from Miley.
Sparks as screenwriter
SheKnows: As the novelist who has previously trusted your words and your characters to other writers and now you are saddled with the screen writing duties as well; how did you find that?
Nicholas Sparks: Easy, how's that? It's a whole lot easier than writing a novel, let me tell you! First off, it's about a quarter as long, second there's a lot more blank space on the page. I learned you don't have to show everything because the actors are going to show it. You're pawning off one of the harder elements of novel writing on to the actors! I'm like, "This is sweet!" The challenge, of course, is that you do have to understand screenplay structure and there was a little bit of a learning curve on that, but once you had it, you had it and you go on. I found it interesting.
SheKnows: Since the screenplay came first, what were the mountains you had to climb given the different process?
Nicholas Sparks: The challenge with the novel is not to do the novelization. It was to make the novel unique and it's own. There are differences between the novel and the screenplay that were made specifically to be different. And you do that because they're different mediums. You want surprises in the novel that people will really enjoy, but of course the major story -- the story elements -- those things are pretty much the same. The journeys they go through, the events in the way the story unfolds, a lot of those are the same, but not all of them. There are some differences that were chosen for specific reasons. Basically, to make the novel better and to make the film better.
SheKnows: Right, like you said they are two different mediums really.
Nicholas Sparks: They're two different mediums. One's a story told with words. One's a story told with pictures.
SheKnows: With this process being in the reverse, as a person who has 14 novels behind you before this point, I know writers like to be challenged, but was that a nice challenge to actually have the screenplay first, and then to have to do your own thing with the book?
Nicholas Sparks: Yes, I mean that was the reason I did it. I said, hey, this sounds like an interesting project. I figure if I was interested, the interest would show up on the pages of the screenplay and the novel and I think they did. That's a novel that I'm very proud to have written. I think it's one of my stronger novels. Then, of course, I think the screenplay's good. I think people will really like the film when they go out and see it. It's a good film. It's one you'd be happy bringing your kids to. It was a good experience for me, and of course I'm getting approached day in and day out by other people who want me to do the exact same thing.
Up next...Sparks speaks to how it feels to go two-for-two in Hollywood with Dear John and The Last Song!