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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 clichéd 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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