Part of the fun of being on a film set is not knowing exactly what will happen. Coordinating a project as massive as a feature film means a constant ebb and flow of rescheduling and adapting. During my visit to The Longest Ride set, I was fortunate that the day’s filming schedule worked out so that producer Marty Bowen had time to stop and talk with our press group in between working. Marty is charming and funny – the kind of person who makes friends immediately. He came over at different points during the afternoon to chat, talking about everything from filmmaking to bullriding. Or as he told me: “I like football, beer, poker, love stories, and interior design, and pink hair,” to which I laughed that we had something in common!
As the producer of several film adaptations of romantic novels, including the Twilight franchise and The Fault in Our Stars as well as two other Nicholas Sparks projects (Dear John and Safe Haven), Marty knows a thing or two about successfully translating a book onto the silver screen. I asked him how The Longest Ride screenplay differs from the original novel, and he gave some insight into creating a compelling film while staying true to the spirit of the book.
“Well, I’ll just say this. What’s great about Nicholas Sparks and the movies that he’s done, there’s plenty of books that you read that you absolutely–and you guys can speak more to it than I can–but that you absolutely love,” Marty said. “And you want to go recreate that exact story and experience at the film you see. And if it’s not exactly in the book, because you’re so connected to that, you want to kill him.
And we’ve been there. And we’ve had fun with that. There was nothing more fun than watching Breaking Dawn 2 at the premiere. And the first night, because we know we were going to mess with some people, but that’s exactly what we did. It was so much fun because we had earned the right at the end for being so loyal to pull the rug out from under you.
But Nicholas’s experience has been different. From the first movie that came out, they’ve slightly been different. And I think emotionally, they’re the same story. But, I actually look forward to seeing how you can tell the same story in a different way, because it is a different medium, you know. It really, really is. And you know, we made some structural changes in this, primarily because it’s hard to get an inner voice. When someone is sitting in a car, it’s very hard to give that the drama, unless you do something slightly different. So, it’s structural changes, but not emotional changes.”
Adapting the novel wasn’t the only challenge with making this film: There were also the issue of filming the bullriding scenes, which they solved by using an specialty camera to capture slow-motion footage. “We wanted to get the ballet of the bull,” he explained. “And if it’s not a good camera, it doesn’t look clear. This looks perfect with 500 frames a second. Normally, no one would ever need this, so it’s a really expensive camera, very expensive to make. And there’s only a couple of them in the world, so you have to buy it. It’s literally going around the world doing exactly what it is that it does.”
As we prepared to wrap up our day on the set, Marty asked us if we had gotten a chance to see Lake Devotion, a location nearby where they filmed a date scene between Luke (Played by Scott Eastwood) and Sophia (Played by Britt Robertson). The spot had been recommended by a local, who told him, “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in North Carolina.” No one has shot a film there before, so it was a hidden treasure. Thanks in part to his urging that we see what he dubbed “The most beautiful place on the planet,” it was arranged for our group to make a quick pit stop there on our way home. It lived up to everything he said about it:
I couldn’t think of a better way to end our day on the set than by visiting this spot!
Watch The Longest Ride in theaters on April 10th!