Based on the best-selling novel by author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of two former high school sweethearts, Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart. In their hometown for the funeral of their beloved friend, they are suddenly forced to face the love that they’ve never forgotten, as well as the life that got in their way. The film also stars Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Caroline Goodall, Sebastian Arcelus, Jon Tenney and Gerald McRaney.
At the film’s press day, actress Michelle Monaghan spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about why she was attracted to this project, the surreal experience of sharing the role with another actor, they mannerisms that they wanted to be sure to share, and what she enjoyed about this character. She also talked about how fortunate she feels to have been a part of True Detective, and just how palpable the creative energy was on set. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
MICHELLE MONAGHAN: Yeah, and to be quite honest, he’s the only one getting them made. They’re very few and far between. And they’re all different. He’s incredibly prolific. He’s got a complete knack for just tapping into the female zeitgeist, in terms of what women are after, and it doesn’t really change all that much. We all still love to be wooed and desired and appreciated, and things like that. I was drawn to it because it was Nicholas Sparks and it was an adult drama, but I also really like Michael Hoffman, a lot. He’s someone that really elevates everything that he does. He really nurtures the material. And I really liked James Marsden, of course.
I also really liked the conflict of this character. She’s been through a lot. When I read it, I really saw this arc of this character, and of who she once was. When we get introduced to Amanda today, and she’s lost all of that. She’s lived life and she’s been through a lot, and as so many people have, she’s lost that spark, so to speak, that you have when you’re 16, as you do. It’s all about self-discovery. I think that I was compelled by that because I felt like it was something relatable. In what can be perceived as this heightened, romanticized idea of relationships, it was really rooted in reality. This character was very much rooted in reality.
Was it a surreal experience to share this role with Liana Liberato?
MONAGHAN: I will say that I’ve never done that before. We were very much sharing the character. The one fortunate thing that we had, in terms of going down that road, was the ability to sit down and meet one another. Liana and I spoke about the overall arc of the character and what she was gonna bring to it. And then, we were trying to find particular mannerisms that we might use. She started production first, and we had a couple of ideas that she didn’t go with. And then, instinctively, she would fondle this necklace. She texted me about it and I was like, “Perfect, we’ll go with that.” She did such a great job of establishing a lot of the characteristics, so it was about me finding this other side. James and I weren’t on set with them. They had pretty much shot their part of the movie when James and I came in to shoot our part of the movie. That’s where Michael became very invaluable, in terms of helping us navigate when there were particular moments within the script that I could find and rediscover the younger Amanda with, where that personality might be able to be injected into a particular scene or situation.
Amanda comes from money and she marries into money, but she has this vibrancy and love of life that we don’t even see with characters that have that kind of background. Was that something that was important to you?
MONAGHAN: I love the idea that this is someone who’s such a free spirit, truly. She’s not tied to her social background, in a way that you sometimes see in the South, in particular. She’s someone who really marches to the beat of her own drum. She’s so incredibly and utterly confident, which is something that I know I wasn’t, at that age. Most people aren’t, but there are certain people in my life where that’s innate to them. My daughter even exudes some sort of confidence where I just think, “Oh, gosh, that’s so mature!” It’s such a nice aspect about that character, and you’re immediately drawn to that. I did enjoy that. And what it did, substantially, was just give the character a 180 to show how people can change. There’s a lot of loss and heartache that people experience. It’s not something that you just recognize overnight. It’s almost a slow descent. One day, they literally wake up and go, “What happened?! How did that happen?” The writing is on the wall, but when you’re moving through life, you’re just going through the motions of life and family and love and marriage, and all of those things, so you don’t even see it yourself. I think that’s why people can really relate to this and really appreciate the journey that Amanda is on.
The concept of Pixels sounds completely crazy, but so much fun.
MONAGHAN: Oh, my god, it’s so good!
MONAGHAN: It was the script. Honestly, it was one of the quickest reads I’ve ever had. They sent me the script and I read the tag line and was like, “I don’t know about this.” But I read it, and it was 100 pages, and it was the quickest read. It was so funny and so well-written, and that was it. I got on the phone with Adam Sandler, and I talked with Chris Columbus. The rest of the cast shaped up, with Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage and Kevin James. It was just a no-brainer.
How did you not constantly crack up?
MONAGHAN: I’m telling you, we had so much fun, all summer. We spent three months working on this film. It is so fantastic. I couldn’t be more excited about the project. It comes out in July, on July 24th, I think.
Did you get to play any of the games?
MONAGHAN: Believe it or not, no. I thought for sure they would have some room set up, where they would have Pac Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Frogger and Centipede, and all of the games, but no. We sat around and talked about them a lot, but we never actually got to play any of them.
What was it like watching Peter Dinklage channeling Steve Wiebe?
MONAGHAN: That guy has a role in it, as well. He plays his nemesis, basically. It was great. They’re all such great actors. It’s an ensemble cast and the comedic timing was imperative. And we had Chris Columbus directing, who’s a guy that loves making movies. He infuses everyone on the set, from the cast to the crew, with a complete joy for filmmaking. I’m just really excited about it.
Obviously, nobody knew what the success of True Detective would become, but it was clearly high-quality material. What was your impression of it, when you first read it? Did you have any expectations?
MONAGHAN: I knew within reading the first two pages that it was something so special. I couldn’t have ever gauged that it was going to be such a phenomenon, but I definitely felt, as did everybody while we were shooting it, that we were doing something very special. I don’t know how else to explain it, but I remember being on set and the air was always very thick. The creative energy was palpable. You could feel it. So, it always felt very good. We had an incredible group of people, from the cast to the crew. Everybody just was so top-notch. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it.
The Best of Me opens in theaters on October 17th.