By Meghan Jackson
Sitting across from the talent from The Longest Ride, I find myself a bit star struck. Not necessarily by any one person in particular, but from the culmination of this power trio in front of me that — through six degrees of separation — has worked with nearly everyone in Hollywood.
There are the leads: Scott Eastwood, with his veins literally pumping out of his perfectly chiseled arms (he tells me he’s just done push ups...) in an olive Lacoste T-shirt. And petite, doll-like Britt Robertson, who’s on the absolute brink of superstardom — which the release of this movie and Tomorrowland, (in which she stars with George Clooney, coming out in June) will surely catapult. And then there's the writer, Nicholas Sparks. The iconic American author, he's a man that has practically created his own genre in Hollywood. (No, really. The only other author, aside from Shakespeare, with more movies is Stephen King.) I introduce myself, and he tells me that he’s used my name as a character in one of his novels before. I feel flattered, and silly for purely researching his background (from Nebraska but adores North Carolina) and his novel-to-movie ratio (11 out of 17 and no signs of stopping), because until I was staring straight across into that continually-creating-best-sellers soul of his, it didn’t even cross my mind that before this moment I didn’t even know what the man looked like. The three of them: overwhelmingly comfortable with one another, clearly on a tight schedule, but still showing a palpable anticipation for what was to come, which I can only guess is the movie’s release.
The film, based on Sparks’ book by the same name, follows Sophia (Robertson), a senior at Wake Forest, preparing to graduate and move to New York to work in an art gallery, until she meets Luke Collins (Eastwood), the down-home Southern gentleman and bull rider. On their first date, they come across an older man, Ira (Alan Alda) and their journey becomes forever — and charmingly — intertwined with his life.
While it is a love story (come on, it’s Nicholas Sparks), there’s more to it than boy and girl meet and fall in love. There’s bull riding and rodeo cowboys like Luke; a role that Eastwood thinks he was well prepared for, maybe or maybe not from having one of the notorious Western film stars to ever grace the screen (Clint Eastwood!) as a dad. “You know I think just the way I grew up … I felt really comfortable in this world with these guys. This is stuff I like to do … ride horses or go fishing. My dad’s got a huge ranch up in Northern California that I grew up going to as a kid … I connected with it before even doing the film … And I was like well … I got this, I know this world. It was great.”
But then there’s the deeper aspect of the story. The choices you have to make and the acknowledgement that love is actually really freaking hard — even in Nicholas Sparks novels.
And this particular picture laid out a realistic choice that many twenty-somethings have to make: Leave everything behind for the dream job or pursue love instead. Being in the room with the author, I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to gauge his thoughts on the theme of “love is sacrifice” and if his characters made the right choices or if they were sitting around with regrets.
“You know anyone can bring what they want to the story and I have mine and it’s no more valid than yours…” he says.
Robertson chimes in, “The point and the reason, or what I want audiences to take away from the movie is that, you know, relationships don’t work because they’re meant to be and because these people are perfect for each other. that’s just the end of the story, you know? End of movie.”
She continues, clearly having analyzed this. “I think the point is that these two people care enough about each other that they’re willing to put in the work and they’re willing to make sacrifices and they’re willing to make choices so that they can be together in life.”
In true authorial fashion, Sparks leaves us all to draw our own conclusions.
“And I think that’s the wonderful thing: what happens next… Right?... There is no right answer.”
The Longest Ride is in theaters today.