So here is more from my visit to the set of The Best of Me.
Today I’m sharing my experience interviewing James Marsden. Again it was a group of 15 bloggers sitting around in a very informal setting. The whole thing was very laid back and casual but what a riot this interview was. I wish I could upload my actual video but the quality is poor and there is so much laughter it is hard to make out what is being said. They say laughter is good for the soul and we definitely laughed plenty while conducting this interview.
About James Marsden
James Paul Marsden, born September 18, 1973, is an American actor, singer and former Versace model. Marsden began his acting career guest-starring in multiple television shows such as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Touched by an Angel and Party of Five. He would then gain prominence with his portrayal of Scott Summers/Cyclops in the X-Men film series and starred in 2006’s Superman Returns which earned him a Saturn Award nomination.
Following his breakthrough in comic book films, Marsden went on to star in various genre films including 2007’s Hairspray which was a critical and commercial success and won many awards for its ensemble cast. As Corny Collins, he sang two songs for the film’s soundtrack which has been certified Platinum by the RIAA. He would continue his success and star in family friendly films such as Enchanted, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Hop.
Marsden starred in a range of independent films such as Small Apartments, Bachelorette, and Robot & Frank. He also returned to television guest-starring in Modern Family and playing Liz Lemon’s love interest, Criss Chros in 30 Rock in a supporting role. Marsden then portrayed President John F. Kennedy in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and had a supporting role as an antagonist in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
James will star as Dawson Cole in the upcoming book to movie adaptation of The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks.
James Marsden Q&A
May 13, 2014 – Transcripts provided by Relativity Media
What kind of research did you do for this role?
You know, I didn’t do much research. I’m kind of one of these actors that likes to take the script and maybe over-examine it. And so, that’s really my blueprint is the script, and I’m obviously familiar with Nicholas’s [Sparks] work and having worked with him before and everything.
I did a little looking in to what it’s like to be an oil rigger, actually. That was a new thing for me to play. The character I play comes from not a great family. He maybe had an abusive father and so I looked into that a little bit without going too heavy-handed with it.
But, you know, I don’t know. It’s what’s so nice about his work is that he so effortlessly taps into very human needs to feel loved and desired and to desire somebody else.
It’s an easy script to read and an easy story to kind of get lost in. So, I sort of allowed the script to be my guide, I guess. I didn’t do any homework, though.
How do you transition from working with someone like Wesley Strick (The Loft), to someone like Nicholas, because they’re worlds apart?
Well, it’s just two completely different genres, you know? As an actor, you kind of feel like you put yourself in gear for different things.
I’ve always loved trying to chase diversity in roles and The Loft, like you said, it was reminiscent of an ’80s thriller along the lines of, like, Fatal Attraction. Very moody. And you know Wes obviously got lost on him.
So, when I read a script, I see the movie and I either buy myself in the role or I don’t. And the ones that I feel like I’m right for, I pursue.
But, you sort of get lost in that fiction, I guess, a little bit, and you know what tone you’re going for. And then afterwards, you know, after two months of the movie like The Loft, you have an appetite for something completely different. At least I do.
If you want to go do something like Anchorman 2, be silly, and come here and do this and be romantic–right.
It’s like it’s always been fun and easy for me to switch gears that way. Nothing really lingers with me too long as far as, like, I don’t get too Method about things.
I always enjoy whatever genre I’m getting to play in and I look forward to–it’s one of the great things about being an actor. You get to kind of jump around and play with different roles.
Did you have any particular challenges because your character is two different ages? You have another actor playing you at a different age. Was that something new to you?
Well, it was harder to match his physique.
That was probably one of the harder things. Then again, I had the 20 years later on my side. And you know what? I was really fortunate to be a part of The Notebook, which was, you know, obviously a really strong example of a well-done Nicholas Sparks film.
And they were lucky enough to have a larger age gap between Ryan and James, and Rachel and Jenna. This is trickier because it’s only 20 years.
I don’t know. I kind of maybe look a little younger than I am and, you know, I don’t know. So, it’s a tough first sell, but Luke [Bracey] and I got together early on and we realized, look, we’re not carbon copies of one another and I don’t think the audience needs to see that, you know?
It’s more about being on the same page as far as who this guy is, and maybe having some mannerisms that are similar. Luke has this really great deep voice and so I tried to kind of put my voice in that same register.
Like I said, little mannerisms here and there. And we would ask each other questions about “In this situation, what do you think the character would–how do you think he would behave,” you know?
There’s a test. I forget the name of the test, but Michael [Hoffman, Director] made us all take the test. It’s like a 25 question test about “In this situation, would you do this, or would you do this?” And you’re like, “There’s four different types of people.”
And so he wanted to see if Luke by himself and I by myself would actually score the same on the test, and we were actually very close to it. Like 85 percent compatible. So, I don’t know. We got on the same page as far as that’s concerned.
But, yeah, at some point, you know, the audience just sort of buys into the logic and hopefully we feel like the same guy.
What did you learn about oil rigs?
I learned that I was not cut out for that kind of work; how dangerous it could be, how much schooling these guys have to have, how intelligent they are, how it’s not, you know–I mean, not that I ever though this, but it’s not just a bunch of musclebound dummies out there.
These guys are engineers, you know? They’re really intelligent guys doing very hard work. And how laborious and long times away. You’re awake for madly long periods of time.
But, yes, I’m excited. We actually haven’t shot that scene. That’s the only thing left to shoot.
Do you have, like, a favorite scene you’ve filmed so far?
Michelle [Monaghan] and I had about an 11 minute love scene take, which was very nice.
And they wouldn’t cut. They said, “All right, this is going to get into R territory from PG-13 pretty quick if you don’t cut.”
She is such a joy to work with. I don’t know if you’ve been able to witness us kind of hanging out and messing around.
I’m from the Midwest and she is too and it’s just good to work with somebody that you actually really do have intimate chemistry with. And she’s a sweetheart. She’s a sport because I mess with her all the time.
So, that was a great scene. We had some fun driving the old Corvette, you know? Teaching her how to drive a stick.
See, we were eating some crawfish, which is not really my favorite thing until we got it because, when you’re eating in a scene, you eat that all day because it’s take after take after take over here.
Take after take. Right. Don’t ever smoke a cigarette in a scene. You’ll smoke, like, two packs just doing the scene.
But, that was fun. I’ve never had crawfish before. I actually like it now. What else? I don’t know. There was a scene without Michelle where it got a little actiony.
My brothers, or my cousins, come after me and there’s a whole action sequence where I actually get to drive the truck. They’re trying to push me into an oncoming train, and I’m backing up. It’s, like, boy stuff, you know? But, I’m trying to think of other examples other than our love scene.
Was there a certain part of the script or part of the book? What made you decide to take the role?
I haven’t done this kind of movie since The Notebook, and I don’t know how familiar you are with the movie, but I played the sort of other guy in that film, and this was an opportunity to play the guy. It almost got pathological there for a while, taking these roles where I’m the other guy.
You don’t really get your happy ending here either.
Right, yes, well, we have our own little plan for that, so we’ll see how that all works out…
Is the ending changing?
I can’t tell you that.
But, you’ll be pleased. You’ll be pleased. I thought the script was really strong and I’ve always wanted to work with Michelle. There are certain people in the business you just know at some point you’re going to work with and this came along, and I don’t know.
I saw Luke and Liana [Liberato] and they’re very, very talented young actors.
And Michael is the director that you always want to feel like you’re in good hands and you have a nice safety net in your director.
And he’s such an actor’s director that you’ve got to be able to feel comfortable trying things even if they don’t work, you know? And he creates that tone and that environment on set.
It’s like one of those things you read the script and I liked the character very much. I liked how simple he was. I liked how he’s not a man really. He’s a man of his word, but he’s not a talky kind of guy.
His actions speak for themselves. He’s a man of actions, like how he behaves. How he treats somebody else is what defines his character, and I liked that about him.
We miss that a little bit about men sometimes these days. And the chivalry, of course, is there.
I just liked the story, I liked the character. He’s a very kind-hearted man.
Can you tell us about the CDs that you made that you guys listened to?
Oh, yes. Well, I’m obviously right around the age of the character. So, when they met, it was like ’92, ’93, and I was graduating high school around then, and I grew up in Oklahoma and I remember all the songs from that time period.
And this takes place in the South, and I was a big country music fan, and I remember I was starting to think maybe these were some of the songs that Amanda and Dawson would have listened to.
And I knew that Michelle was a big country music fan as well, so I made three or four CDs of all these love songs from the early ’90s; the country music love songs by Garth Brooks and George Straight and dozens of them.
And I put it on in the trailer and she knew. The first song that I played was “Cowboy, Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks, and she turned to me and looked at me like weirded out that I knew.
I said, “Why are you looking at me like that?” She said, “That’s the song that I danced to at my wedding.” So, every song, she was like, “You know me so well.” Anyway, I wanted to give them to Michelle.
I wanted to give the CDs to Michael, the director, just to kind of, I don’t know–it’s just fun to get into the world a little bit more of who these characters were and how they dressed, what they listened to.
And that concluded our interview. Honestly I was so impressed by James. He was so nice to all of us. This whole experience was so amazing. We were treated so well by everyone. Watch for more interviews coming soon as we did 3 other interviews with other cast members.
The Best of Me – Look for it in theaters on October 17th
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.
The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
Find The Best of Me on