Safe Haven is about a widowed dad with two adorable kids who runs a beachside grocery store in the cutest village east of the Mississippi. And he’s played by sexy Josh Duhamel. Unless there also happens to be a strange collection of little shoes in his crawlspace, this is obviously the most desirable man on Earth, ever.
“In the book he was written that way, and in the script he was written that way, but, you know, I really worked hard on messing this guy up,” pleads Duhamel, calling the Georgia Straight from Toronto. “I didn’t want him to be a perfect guy. I wanted there to be some tension between him and the kids. He doesn’t always do the right thing. He doesn’t always say the right thing.”
The actor even admits that he was “apprehensive” about doing the film, which, like most things these days, is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. After talking to director Lasse Hallström, Duhamel felt emboldened to inject a touch of darkness into his role. A conversation with Sparks the day before shooting began sealed the deal.
“He said, ‘Don’t make this guy a boring suburban dad,’ ” Duhamel relates. “ ‘Find his flaws, find his humour, find his temperament—all those things that you can do to make him fully dimensional.’ And so that’s what I tried to do.”
Despite all this, Duhamel’s character, Alex, is still sensitive enough to give the mysterious stranger Katie (Julianne Hough) the space she needs, even though his eyes start spinning as soon as she walks into his store in a pair of denim short-shorts and a tight, sweaty singlet. Katie is a bit more circumspect, probably because there’s a nationwide alert for her arrest (for murder!) and a dogged cop (David Lyons) who has been chasing her all the way from Boston.
Things are not as they seem, however, because… Well, because Safe Haven, like most things these days, is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Duhamel and costar Hough generate a nice slow burn together, and they both credit their twice-Oscar-nominated director for keeping the film (which opens today [February 14]) on the right side of what she calls “oversentimental”.
“One thing I love about Lasse,” she says, joining Duhamel on the phone, “is that he finds the perfect amount of sentiment without going over the top. Somebody said it felt very much like an old-fashioned movie. The couple took their time falling in love. It wasn’t rushed.”
It should be noted that Hough is trying to suppress a giggle as she speaks. This is because Duhamel, whose voice has taken on a curious echo, has decided to take a pee while we’re talking. He’s really going to the wall with that “fully dimensional” thing.
Not long after, Hough is interrupted by another curious sound as she attempts to describe how much she loved shooting Safe Haven in the (evidently very lovely) town of Southport, North Carolina. “Oh, you forgot to flush?” she snorts. “Thanks!” she says, as we wait for the toilet to stop gurgling. “Yeah, Southport was awesome. And, by the way, I’m not in the same room as Josh, just so you know.”