"What does it mean to truly love another?"
The complexities of love are explored as the strength of a young couple's relationship and their devotion to one another is tested by forces beyond their control in the dramatic romance.
John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is a handsome, soft-spoken Special Forces soldier visiting his father in South Carolina while on leave. Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful, idealistic college student from a wealthy Southern family, home for spring break. John and Savannah are from different worlds, but through a chance encounter at the beach, the two meet and are immediately attracted to each other. Their meeting turns into a whirlwind two-week courtship, and their feelings quickly deepen into an all-consuming, passionate love. Each finds in the other something they'd never known they were missing. When John is forced to return to his deployment and Savannah heads back to college, the couple promises to write one another. Through a continuous stream of letters, their love continues to blossom and a deeply romantic love story unfolds.
As time passes, John and Savannah are only able to see one another sporadically. John's deployment overseas is extended, and Savannah's life back home continues on. As the world becomes a more complicated place, Savannah is constantly worried about John's safety, and John is torn between his dedication to his work and his desire for a life at home with Savannah. Against steadily increasing tension between their desires and their responsibilities, the couple struggles to keep their commitment firm. But when unexpected tragedy strikes back home, John's return provokes an emotional confrontation, and the couple is forced to discover whether their love can truly survive.
Directed by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (Best Director, The Cider House Rules, 1999 and Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, My Life as a Dog, 1985) and based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks, with a screenplay by Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall)
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The screen version of Dear John found its "spark" when producer Marty Bowen was given the manuscript of bestselling author Nicholas Sparks' novel before it was even published. "I found myself completely touched by it," says Bowen. "Sparks has a way of writing that allows you to get lost in this world, these characters, and the beautiful Carolina environment he paints. And there were certain twists in the story that I just wasn't expecting.
"When I finished the book," Bowen says, "my biggest concern was I just didn't feel like there was anybody actor-wise who'd really be able to pull off this 'perfect guy.' Part masculine soldier, willing to do whatever he has to do for his country, and then also this softer somebody who can fall in love with a girl completely and possibly be heartbroken by the experience."
Then Bowen thought of Channing Tatum. "I had seen Channing in several films, including A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Step Up," he says. "In thinking about it, I was amazed to see he had both of these characteristics. I thought, 'If Channing would want me to develop this, then it would be a project that would really excite me.' We gave the book to his representatives and Channing loved it. It was perfect for him." The film had found its dear John.
With Tatum on board, Bowen and producing partner Wyck Godfrey (the duo also shepherded the blockbuster Twilight film franchise to the big screen) knew they'd found their next project. As the book Dear John became another in an incredible string of publishing hits for Sparks, the film began to gain momentum and take shape.
The producers turned to screenwriter Jamie Linden to adapt the novel for the big screen. They'd admired Linden's We Are Marshall and thought he'd bring great perspective to the adaptation. Interestingly, however, Linden actually initially passed on the project, not having had the experience of (and not being entirely comfortable with) writing a love story. "But I kept thinking about it," Linden says, "and couldn't get it out of my head." The film is by and large a romance, but what ultimately captivated Linden and became the way into the story for him was the relationship between John and his father, Mr. Tyree. Linden thought of a different way to handle the climactic father/son scene from the book, and that made him want to tackle the entire screenplay.
"In the book, [that scene between father and son] had been done in a very straightforward manner, where they're very open about their feelings," says Linden. Instead, he came up with the idea of furthering the story's use of letter writing by having John write a letter to his father; he then reads the letter to his father in their most emotional encounter. "I really wanted to see that scene get put on film," Linden says. "So to get that done, I had to do the entire movie." Linden's participation in the film was a go.
"Dear John is a love story between John and Savannah," Linden continues, "but it's also a love story between John and his dad. In that respect, I think it's got some depth, scope, and character that make it resonate."
Overall, Tatum says, "For me this movie is about John feeling and finding that it's possible to love. I don't know if he ever really felt love before, and to me this movie is just about the ability to open up and find love. And then to fight for it. And if you lose it, it's what you do afterwards that defines you."
Seyfried says, "I hope audiences get completely lost in the story, and are just overwhelmed with how much people can love each other and what people will do for that."
"I'm very happy with the result of this movie," says Hallstrom. "It's strong emotionally and it has an epic scope to it that I really love. It's everything that I love in going to a movie, and I'm proud of it."
With a screenplay in place, the project took another great leap forward when the producers were able to sign veteran helmer Lasse Hallström to direct. Hallström's celebrated films are known for their rich look and feel as well as their characters' pervasive embrace of life's wonders, surprises and disappointments. Dear John's John and Savannah share some of the characteristics and resilience of such Hallström characters as the boy Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) in Hallström's first international success, My Life as a Dog; Gilbert (Johnny Depp) in What's Eating Gilbert Grape; Homer (Tobey Maguire) in The Cider House Rules; and Vianne (Juliette Binoche) in Chocolat - all films that skirt easy sentimentality while still bringing great emotion to the screen.
Says Bowen, "If you have a script that has a strong emotional arc and you want the film to be powerful and moving, yet not fall into the world of melodrama, then there's one director you want to get: Lasse Hallström. He's uniquely untroubled with the notion of trying to make things overly intellectualized, overly self-important, or overly melodramatic. Being in touch with emotions and being able to deliver that in an honest fashion - as opposed to trying to arc it for film - are what make him really, really special."
Describing what attracted him to the project, Hallström says, "Mostly my interest in Dear John was in the people, the story of these two kids who fall in love." He also says it was "to be able to tell an epic love story on a grand canvas, to portray the scope of it all.
"I'm always interested in character-driven stories," Hallström continues. "I'm interested in strong emotion and interested in trying to stay away from sentimentality, but I do like strong sentiment. It's a fine line, and I love to walk that line and see if I can handle it. I want to root it in reality and have it stay as real and as honest as I possibly can."
The entire cast sings Hallstrom's praises. Channing Tatum describes how he was "thrilled when Lasse came in and loved the script. He's so sensitive and gentle in this brilliant way."
"He's so focused," says Amanda Seyfried. "He listens to and sees everything that happens. And he's European," she laughs. "There's something about those Swedish people."
Richard Jenkins says, "Lasse wants to explore and find things that are not obviously there. He's a generous man who collaborates and is interested in performances that are really alive and real. That's what you always hope for when you begin a project."
"The main reason I wanted to work on this film," says Henry Thomas, "was because Lasse Hallström was involved in it. In my experience, when you work with big directors the mood is generally heightened, but this set was very relaxed."
And Hallström's collaborative spirit extended through every level of the production. For co-producer/writer Linden, Hallström was the "perfect person for this type of story because he has such naturally good instincts. He went through the script removing every moment he was afraid would veer into overt sentimentality. He wanted to allow the characters to speak in their silence and not talk about every little thing that happens."
Production designer Kara Lindstrom admires how "Lasse's curiosity created an extra layer of meaning to the whole filmmaking process, which is the basis for real collaboration. Of course he wanted good sets, but the important thing, for me, is that he wanted to know why they were appropriate or why I thought they would work. Once you start discussing at this level, work becomes a real pleasure." A faded sign in the Eastern European streetscape that reads "Chocolat" and the Swedish flag flying among others over the Afghan base camp are Lindstrom's homages to the director.
When thinking about his acting career, Channing Tatum hadn't pictured himself starring in many romantic films. "When you're growing up, you imagine yourself running around shooting and jumping from buildings," he says. "There aren't that many amazing love stories seen through the guy's point of view, so I thought this was a really interesting opportunity. Read more
Savannah is the female lead in the film, and, as mentioned by Tatum, her background is more privileged than John's. She attends college and has a loving family affluent enough to own an old plantation with a horse farm and a beach house. But she is also idealistic and unspoiled, someone who volunteers her time - she is, in fact, working to help build houses during her Spring Break.Read more
DEAR MR. TYREE…
The secondary storyline in Dear John - but an incredibly affecting storyline - is that of John's relationship with his father, Mr. Tyree. Richard Jenkins plays Mr. Tyree, fresh from his Academy Award-nominated performance in Thomas McCarthy's The Visitor.
For his part, Jenkins sees his character as "a man who raised John by himself and truly loves his child, but doesn't know how to express it. He's a strange man, very quiet, not very communicative, not very social. And the relationship between father and son is strained to say the least.Read more
DEAR TIM AND ALAN…
Henry Thomas plays Tim, a friend of Savannah's family who takes a very active interest in keeping Savannah from harm. Thomas describes his character as "not being an easy person to pin down. He has a son with special needs and he's going through a divorce, about which he's not completely honest with people. But he's a really sincere guy and it's important to him that he deal with people in a very honest way.When casting the role of Alan, Tim's young autistic son with whom Savannah shares a deep bond, the filmmakers decided to take an innovative path. Read more
WISH YOU WERE HERE…
Dear John was shot almost entirely within and around the beautiful and historic city of Charleston, South Carolina. The varied architecture and rich landscape provided settings for Savannah's beach house (Sullivan's Island), the pier where the lovers meet (Isle of Palms) and the beach where they argue (Folly Beach). The actual Bowens Wharf Restaurant, the site of their first date, and Mr. Tyree's house, where John grew up, are on James Island. Savannah writes and receives John's letters at the historic Randolph Hall at the College of Charleston (where scenes from The Notebook, Cold Mountain, and The Patriot were also filmed), and her parents' home and horse farm is the Cassina Point Plantation in Edisto. Read more
John is member of the US Army's Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, which describes itself on its website as "a unique, unconventional combat organization of highly trained and seasoned professionals." The most versatile Special Operations soldiers in the world, they are an elite, multi-purpose force for high priority operational targets of strategic importance. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
LASSE HALLSTRÖM (DIRECTOR) recently finished the film Hachiko: A Dogs Story, based on the true story of a loyal dog, starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen. He directed the television pilot for New Amsterdam about an immortal detective in New York City, which premiered the beginning of March 2008. He has many film projects in various stages of development.
The Hoax with Richard Gere was released in April 2007 to much acclaim. His other recent films include Casanova with Heath Ledger and An Unfinished Life with Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman. Hallström's acclaimed adaptation of Joanna Harris' Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench, earned five Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture. Hallström received a second Oscar® nomination for Best Director for his work on The Cider House Rules, starring Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, and Michael Caine.
This Swedish director's first Academy Award nomination for Best Director came with the 1985 release of My Life as a Dog, which was also nominated for Best Screenplay. In 1993, Hallström directed Peter Hedges' What's Eating Gilbert Grape starring Johnny Depp, earning Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar nomination. Something to Talk About followed, starring Julia Roberts, Dennis Quaid, and Kyra Sedgewick in a story of two generations of a tumultuous Southern family.
Hallström began his career in his native Sweden, working in television and on shorts. In addition, he directed music videos, most notably for the famed Swedish band ABBA.
JAMIE LINDEN (Screenwriter, Co-Producer) was born in Orlando, Florida, and majored in marketing at Florida State University. After moving to Hollywood and getting hired and fired as an assistant at a couple film production companies, he co-wrote a screenplay, Things To Do Before I Die, that sold in 2004. He then wrote and co-produced the film We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey, which was released in 2006.
Other projects include The Dogs of Babel with John Crowley (Boy A) directing and David Heyman (the Harry Potter series) producing, as well as a screenplay on Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Johnson for producer Basil Iwanyk (We Are Marshall). Jamie lives in Los Angeles.
NICHOLAS SPARKS (Writer) was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on December 31, 1965, the second son of Patrick Michael (1942-1996) and Jill Emma Marie (Thoene) Sparks (1942-1989). His siblings are Michael Earl Sparks (b. Dec. 1964), and Danielle Sparks (b. Dec. 1966, d. June 2000). As a child, he lived in Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Grand Island, Nebraska, finally settling in Fair Oaks, California, at the age of eight. His father was a professor, his mother a homemaker then optometrist's assistant. He lived in Fair Oaks through high school, graduated valedictorian in 1984, and received a full track scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
After breaking the Notre Dame school record as part of a relay team in 1985 as a freshman (a record which still stands), he was injured and spent the summer recovering. During that summer, he wrote his first novel, though it was never published. He majored in Business Finance and graduated with high honors in 1988.
He and his wife, Catherine, who met on spring break in 1988, were married in July 1989. While living in Sacramento, he wrote his second novel that same year, though again, it wasn't published. He worked a variety of jobs over the next three years, including real estate appraisal, waiting tables, selling dental products by phone, and starting his own small manufacturing business which struggled from the beginning. In 1990, he collaborated on a book with Billy Mills, the Olympic Gold Medalist, and it was published by Feather Publishing before later being picked up by Random House. (It was recently re-issued by Hay House Books.) Though it received scant publicity, sales topped 50,000 copies in the first year of release.
Sparks began selling pharmaceuticals and moved from Sacramento to North Carolina in 1992. In 1994, at the age of 28, he wrote The Notebook over a period of six months. In October 1995, rights to The Notebook were sold to Warner Books. It was published in October 1996, and he followed that with Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding (2003), Three Weeks with My Brother (2004), True Believer (2005) and At First Sight (2005), all with Warner Books. All were domestic and international best sellers and were translated into more than 35 languages. The movie version of Message in a Bottle was released in 1999, A Walk to Remember was released in 2002, The Notebook was released in 2004, and Nights in Rodanthe was released in 2008. The average domestic box office gross per film was $56 million -- with another $100 million in DVD sales -- making the novels by Nicholas Sparks one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood.
The film rights to True Believer and At First Sight have been sold, and Sparks has written the screenplay for The Guardian, though he has not yet offered it for sale.
Sparks now has five children: Miles, Ryan, Landon, Lexie, and Savannah. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and children.
Sparks' ancestry is German, Czech, English, and Irish; he's 510 and weighs 180 lbs. He is an avid athlete who runs daily, lifts weights regularly, and competes in Tae Kwon Do. He attends church regularly and reads approximately 125 books a year. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION