Instant Connection: Casting the Drama
Finding talented young actors who could provide the
essential chemistry of David and Jade was the filmmakers'
top priority. They discovered the ideal performers in
Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde. Shares Schwartz:
"In a love story, this is the whole ball game. The first
time we saw Alex and Gabriella on screen, everyone
was very aware of their chemistry. You just felt it was
there. Beyond the fact that they are both very attractive
people, you felt this real connection between them."
Schwartz admired his director's knack with the
talent. "Shana is wonderful working with young actors
and getting them to open up to one another and letting
the audience into that love story," he says. "She spent
so much time in rehearsal with Alex and Gabriella
helping them forge that connection and open up
not only to each other, but to the camera as well. It's such
a challenge for an actor to be exposed, and her patience
and guidance have resulted in terrific performances."
As part of the rehearsal and bonding process, Feste
says Pettyfer and Wilde spent a good deal of time
together off set and did a lot of fun exercises, including
dancing to loud music. As filming started, the director
felt inspired by the talent and commitment of her young
actors. She shares: "They came to respect each other
so much. When you're doing a love story, you have to
know that the other person has your back."
When they meet, the temperaments of the soonto-
be young lovers are as different as their cultural
and economic status. Feste praises her leading man,
who plays David as a young man you root for: "Alex
is a total romantic. What struck me the first time I
met him is how open he was talking about the love he
wants to find. Most 23-year-old guys are not talking
openly about love! David believes that he deserves
love and Alex believes that he deserves love, and
that translates in the movie."
Pettyfer discusses his director's process: "We did
some interesting rehearsing, and that helped. Shana
guided us along the path. She comes from such an
interesting place of wanting people
to relate and connect. It's not so
much about a sole performance;
it's about collaboration. She's given
me a new look into how to connect
with who I'm playing and where I'm
going in the story."
Stuber adds that the care his director
put into the on-screen couple finding
comfort in one another was one of
the virtues of the production: "There's
a complete and utter believability to
all of their interactions. Gabriella and
Alex are natural and organic; they have
chemistry and feel like people in love.
That's a testament to their work as
actors, as well as Shana and the time she put in so that
they could talk through the places that they were going to
have to go with each other."
When David connects with Jade, he finds a girl who
has suffered a loss in her family that has taken her out of
the social world of school. Even though she's beautiful
and bright, she's not outgoing and hasn't become a
part of the high school. While he encourages her to see
that she is a free spirit and that someone could
fall in love with her, she gives him the confidence
to believe in himself.
The filmmakers found that the British-born Wilde
embodies many of Jade's traits. Feste explains: "I
pictured Jade as gorgeous, and Gabriella definitely
is that. But how Gabriella wears her beauty is her
strongest suit. She has no idea how gorgeous she is.
As we were starting to rehearse, I saw Gabriella open
up. She is close to the character of Jade: aware of what
people think of her and quite shy. She's an introvert,
and I imagined that Jade would be an introvert. Seeing
Gabriella as Jade let love change and inspire her has
been fun to watch. Her arc is so strong in this movie,
and that's when you forget how beautiful Gabriella is
and just realize that she is an amazing actress."
Wilde walks us through the story's beats: "David
awakens Jade to her own voice and to her youth. At
the beginning, she's quite serious and burdened by a
sense of guilt toward her family following the death
of her brother Chris. She's someone who's trying to
make it all okay all of the time, and this is where David
gives her license to be herself. She finds her voice in
the movie as she's falling in love. Jade goes from being
suppressed to putting everything aside to fight for love
and what she believes in."
Feste wasn't the only one impressed with Wilde's
demeanor. "Gabriella is amazing," praises Pettyfer.
"She has this beauty that takes you aback. She looks
like a supermodel, but she also is grounded and actually
quite shy-the most beautiful girl mixed with the
quiet girl. She was perfect for Jade."
To play Jade's parents, the production cast the
accomplished veteran actors Bruce Greenwood as
Hugh Butterfield, a father whose desire to protect his
daughter leads to awful results, and Joely Richardson
as Anne Butterfield, Jade's sympathetic mother who is
just as romantic as her only daughter.
Greenwood, an award-winning actor who has starred
in such acclaimed films as Star Trek Into Darkness and
Flight, brings to life Jade's menacing, if well-meaning,
father. Discussing the part, the actor
offers: "One of the foremost things
that interested me about the character
was that he was a father learning to
let go of a child that he loves beyond
all measure, after having lost a child.
Trying to keep her from harm, but at
the same time guide her is a tremendous
struggle for him; he begins to overreact
and becomes rigid in the way he looks
at his daughter's aspirations."
Hugh is a successful surgeon in
Atlanta who strongly objects to the
relationship that's blossoming between
Jade and David. It was important to
Feste to have the audience also see the warmth of his
character, so as to not have Hugh appear as a clichÃ©d
villain. His on-screen daughter reflects on Greenwood's
talent. "Bruce is a brilliant actor," lauds Wilde. "There's
a danger that Hugh could have just been a villain, but
Bruce has kept the humanity in Hugh. While he is a
villain-what he does is frightening and wrong-
you can understand where it all comes from; he's
done that brilliantly."
Producer Schwartz was taken with Greenwood's
performance and ability to bring an incredible humanity
to stoic Hugh. Schwartz shares: "When you see Bruce
on screen, you sense a strength and integrity to him.
This makes the fact that he's the antagonist of the movie
very interesting. Hugh will go to great lengths to keep
his daughter from David in ways that the audience may
not agree with, but can always understand."
Feste shares that they conceived of the parents by
seeing them in shades of gray. Both Hugh and Harry
protect their children the best way they can. The
director explains: "Do either one of them understand
the love that David and Jade have? I don't think so. I
think maybe toward the end of the film they start to.
Are they afraid of it? Yes, sure, because that intensity
is frightening to see because it's all-consuming.
Anne is the one character who is not afraid of that love,
but is drawn to it and wants to celebrate it."
Anne is a published author who hasn't written in
years. Like Hugh, she mourns the loss of their eldest
child, but while her husband's grief pushes her away,
she wants to hold on to their marriage. Stuber explains
why this character is so pivotal to Jade and David's arc:
"Anne has a husband who's cheating on her, and she's
aware of it. She's living a lie. But seeing this young
man who's being honest with who he is and authentic
in his love for her daughter...that's a big deal to Anne.
That's something she respects to the point that she gives
David information she likely shouldn't."
For her part, Richardson was impressed with Feste's
directorial style, one that allowed her to play Anne as
a forgiving character who operates from a base of love
for others-as well as a woman who has lost herself
to a controlling husband. Richardson shares: "Shana
is precise, thinks outside the box and knows exactly
what she wants. As an actor, you can be used to self-directing.
With Shana, she thinks of these imaginative
scenarios to get you to do the scene the way she'd like."
While Greenwood's Hugh feels immediate disdain
for David, Richardson's Anne feels drawn to the young
man's spirit from the beginning. Richardson explains:
"She has that mother's instinct that
picks up that he's a good guy. But the
big thing that wins her over is that David
has this enormous love for her daughter,
and that melts her heart."
Savage compares the character of
Anne to Richardson's real-life persona,
a woman inspired by love. She notes:
"Joely is elegance personified. Anne is
a character who is very observant. She
is the glue that holds her family together
and Joely is great at playing all those
small moments, the looks, the gestures.
She's always taking care of her family,
concerned about where everybody is
emotionally and how to keep them together. Joely is
tuned into that in a great way."
On the other side of the tracks, David's father Harry,
an automotive mechanic who works in the shop he owns,
hasn't considered love in a long time. His wife walked
out on him a few years earlier, and he's closed his heart.
Unlike his co-stars (Pettyfer, Wilde, Richardson) who
are British and Canadian (Greenwood), veteran actor
Robert Patrick is from Georgia. "With his Southern
roots," says Savage, "Robert brings texture and a
completely different flavor. The Butterfields are a very
refined family, and Harry represents this whole other
aspect of David's world."
Patrick sheds some light on the background of his
character: "Harry is raising his son the best way he
knows how. It's a loving environment. When you meet
Harry, you know that he's a good, salt-of-the-earth guy.
He's a man's man who is used to getting dirty, and
he's raised his son that way-to stand up for himself
and be who he is."
The actor recalls his first meeting with his new
son: "When I met Alex, it just felt great; we had an
instantaneous chemistry. He even looks like my son,
which was funny to me, Alex and my son. They're
so similar that we actually used pictures of my little
boy as David when he was younger."
The energy and versatility that Patrick brought to
the story and his role was put to good use. Pettyfer
felt that in spades: "It was so crazy. Robert came on
set, I hadn't met him yet, and I wanted to seem very
professional and I'm nervous: 'I'm...I'm Alex. Very
nice to meet you. I play your son.' And he gives me a
massive hug and says, 'This is my son, everybody.' It
was exciting to work with him."
After assembling the two leads and their parents,
the team got to work building a stellar up-and-coming
supporting cast. As there is darkness in Jade's past and
David's background, there was a potential of making
the film too serious. The talented young actors brought
humor and liveliness to the project.
Filmmakers encouraged the entire cast to hang out
and get to know each other off camera, which helped
to enhance each relationship on camera. Abdy offers:
"In rehearsals, they got to know one another, become
friends and learn to tell truths about each other so
that you feel that there's a life behind the movie.
We encouraged them to go do fun things by
themselves. Shana brought all that to the table as a
director who is very character-driven. Because she's
a writer, too, she's very much into the context and
the life of each character."
Australian Rhys Wakefield plays
Keith, Jade's flippant, charming and
protective older brother. "What I
like about Keith," says Wakefield,
"is that he has this deep-seated pain
within him. There's this history of a
father-son relationship gone awry.
His purpose in this film is to help
Jade along in her journey and to
welcome David into the household,
acting as a bridge between the parent
and this outsider. David represents
healing to Keith as well, coming in
as he does and mixing things up,
which is something that the whole family is
in great need of."
It was important to Feste that Keith and Jade's
relationship was based on support for each other. She
shares: "Rhys is an incredible actor. He's mischievous
and has this wonderful smile. The minute Rhys and
Gabriella got together, I knew they would be perfect
because they genuinely support each other as actors.
I feel incredibly lucky to have cast Rhys because
he adds so much to Keith that the audience will be
celebrating when he embraces this message to be brave
and fight for love."
David's best friend, Mace, is played by Nigerianborn
Dayo Okeniyi, who is best known for his role in
The Hunger Games. "Dayo is incredibly charismatic,"
says Feste. "Mace represents David's old world-
peaking in high school. Dayo is one of those actors who
brings such a fresh, fun energy to the film. Most of what
he does is all improvised. I love his improvisation-
he's so clever and so funny."
Okeniyi shares what drew him to the role of Mace:
"Before Endless Love, I'd come off projects where I
was sci-fi intense, with a lot of death and destruction,
and for the first time, a character came my way that
was down to earth, if a bit on the wild side. When I
was testing for the role, Shana said that he should
be the light of the movie. Whenever Mace comes on
screen, he should just be that breath of fresh air, the
reaffirming friend. At the same time, she didn't want
him to be a caricature."
When David meets Jade, he has just broken up with
his girlfriend, Jenny, played by British actress Emma
Rigby in her first American feature-film role. Jenny and
Jade are complete opposites: she's overtly sexual and
flirtatious with David, which makes us understand why
Jade feels threatened. As David and Jade's relationship
develops, Jenny refuses to watch passively. Her act of
revenge succeeds in separating them-possibly forever.
Feste wanted to explore the character of Jade by
contrasting her with Jenny, while also making sure
that there was a genuine relationship between Jenny
and David. "Emma has a tough role," says the director,
"because Jenny is the girl that you want to hate. Still, there
were takes where I said, 'Emma, it's just making me too
sad, you are too good right now; just do less, because I'm
feeling too much for you. You look too heartbroken that
David has chosen someone else and we always have to
be thinking that Jade and David have the strongest bond.'
But Emma is such a strong actress that sometimes you
can't help but have your heart go out to her."
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