On “The Lucky One”, based on Nicholas Sparks bestselling novel, Efron plays Logan, a U.S. Marine Sergeant who returns home from his third tour of duty in Iraq with one thing he credits kept him alive, a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. After learning her name is Beth and where she lives, he shows up at her door looking to thank her but instead ends up taking up a job at her family-run local kennel.
Schilling, who plays the role of Beth in the film, mostly known for her role as Veronica on NBC’s drama series “Mercy”, admitted not knowing much about heartthrob Zac Efron before she was cast for the film, but is now his biggest fan and will “watch all of the High School Musical movies.”
For Efron, who describes himself as a “musical theater geek”, this role presented the opportunity for him to take on a more challenging character. “Nick [Sparks created such grounded characters,” said Efron. “The hardest part [of preparing for this role was the physical transformation. I wanted to spend as much time around the troops as possible. I was able to go to Camp Pendleton early on with Scott [Hicks and sort of hang out and see what its like. We wanted to have the most accurate portrayal.”
Efron noted, despite many of them were about his age and had the same height and built, there were still striking differences between the way they portray themselves. “It goes unsaid, once you walk in that room there is a palpable energy. They look like superheroes in my eyes,” he added.
While Efron’s performance was outstanding, it was the opening scene that caught everybody’s attention. “My son had showed me a video of the troops in Iraq on You Tube and I thought, this is unbelievable... that I can be feeling so involved when the technique is so primitive. I wonder if we can do that in the movie?” said director Scott Hicks. “When we started scouting locations I though, there is no way we can shoot Iraq here. In the end, the elements were there.”
The filmmakers decided to change locations and set the story entirely in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Most of the Nicholas Spark based films have been shot in North Carolina which is, of course, where he comes from. So, this was an opportunity to distinguish it visually, [to use the lushness and exoticism [of New Orleans. It was a great resource,” Hicks remarks.
Sparks assures the change of setting was beneficial to the film because the lifestyle of the characters are “the spirit and the intent of the story” and he thought, it was really well captured. “That’s what you’re trying to do... create a world where everyone can feel as if it could have happened to them,” he added.
Screenwriter Will Fetters indicates that one of the first things that drew him working in this film was the world that Sparks creates in his novels. “[Sparks understands, at some level, what it is that his audience wants to see. It doesn’t feel false or forced... that’s what makes him his own brand,” he said.