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Dear John...
When thinking about his acting career, Channing Tatum hadn't pictured himself starring in many romantic films. "When you're growing up, you imagine yourself running around shooting and jumping from buildings,” he says. "There aren't that many amazing love stories seen through the guy's point of view, so I thought this was a really interesting opportunity.

"Nicholas Sparks' work is very beautiful,” Tatum continues, "but this story also had an edge to it that some of the other books didn't have. I figured it would be a lot of fun to do something a little softer, a little more quiet – just sitting and acting for once,” he laughs.

In speaking about why John develops such a deep, quick connection with Savannah once they meet, Tatum says, "For the first time, he found someone that made him open up. I've met people in my life that have made me happy all the time, and I think that's what Savannah is for him. They're the people you can't stop thinking about – you want to be around them all the time.”

Tatum did a lot of character preparation to take on his role. In exploring the film's characters and explaining why the taciturn John and vivacious Savannah are the way they are, Tatum points out that the defining differences between them are extensions of their different social and economic backgrounds. "Because his dad is [undiagnosed] autistic and anti-social, I don't think John learned a lot of social skills,” says Tatum. "He's always been a sort of loner. In a way, he joined the Army to get away from everything he knew growing up – maybe even to get away from his father. I had the unique opportunity to work on an earlier army movie, G.I. Joe, and I got to know many soldiers. So many of them are just normal guys. They have a sort of quietness about them – there's always some stillness in their eyes.” Tatum let his experiences with these soldiers inform his portrayal of John onscreen.

In addition to his military and character training, Tatum discovered a new love in his preparations for the role: surfing. John is surfing when the film opens, and Tatum wanted to do the surfing himself. "I'm from Florida,” he says, "but I've just never been a surfer. It was amazing to go out for the first time with Mark, my coach. He said, ‘There's not very much I can teach you other than just time – time in the water.' We would get up every day at five o'clock, be at the beach by five-thirty, and surf ‘til nine. It was freezing. It was a real treat, though, to just watch myself get better. There's no rhyme or reason, you just start to feel it out. I'm totally addicted. I've got two boards of my own now and went out on the weekends while shooting.”

For Hallström, who previously guided Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tobey Maguire in early starring roles, Tatum brings to John "the qualities of being very smart and innovative and having a wonderful sense of humor and charm. He's able to capture a layer of improvisation that isn't in the script; his sense of humor is quite subtle.”

In the film, "Channing was allowed to show his chops as an actor,” Hallström continues. "He hasn't always had those kinds of parts where he could show his range, and he really has an amazing range.”

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