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DEAR JOHN

Dear Tim and Alan...
Henry Thomas plays Tim, a friend of Savannah's family who takes a very active interest in keeping Savannah from harm. Thomas describes his character as "not being an easy person to pin down. He has a son with special needs and he's going through a divorce, about which he's not completely honest with people. But he's a really sincere guy and it's important to him that he deal with people in a very honest way.

"Living next door to Savannah at the beach house,” Thomas continues, "he knows her family, she knows his family. But there's also a connection between them that, as the story unfolds, you learn has a strong dynamic. His main objective, as he sees this romance blossoming between John and Savannah, is to make sure that this guy isn't going to take advantage of her. Then you come to see a different side of Tim's concern – he is actually in love with Savannah, and probably has been for a long time.”

"Tim is older in the film's script than he is in the Sparks novel,” notes Linden. "He watched Savannah grow up. We wanted our Tim to be a standup guy who's cared about Savannah and been protective of her throughout her life. So later, when he needs help and some protecting himself, he turns to this person he's been there for.

"To complicate things,” Linden continues, "John and Tim have this immediate, unspoken bond, because both John's father and Tim's son have autism.” The early friendship and subsequent rift between the two men add to the story's dramatic tension.

Hallström thoroughly enjoyed working with Thomas. "Henry is perfect casting for the part of Tim,” he says. "Real, and very quiet. He felt like a brother, or a cousin – I felt strangely familiar working with him, and I want to work with him again.”

Tatum also felt the similarity between Thomas and Hallström. "Henry Thomas might be the best surprise of this movie,” Tatum says. "He's such a brilliantly grounded, gentle person, kind of like Lasse. They have a caretaking quality. I think Lasse and he share a kindred spirit.” 

When casting the role of Alan, Tim's young autistic son with whom Savannah shares a deep bond, the filmmakers decided to take an innovative path. Producer Bowen says, "Great filmmaking is about creating the guidelines from which you want the scene to work, and then hoping that something you never expected also happens. Lasse and I thought it would be a really interesting opportunity if we found a young man who was, in fact, autistic to play the role.” Then six-year-old autistic boy Braeden Reed was cast in the part.

"Braeden is amazing,” says Tatum. "He was an actor from ‘jump.' He knew what he was supposed to be doing and then he played with it. Every once in a while he would do something totally wild and spontaneous and beautiful – it was just magic. I wish I could be that free acting. I know how hard his parents have worked with him, and on set I got to talk to his dad, who's so proud of him.”

The casting agents found Braeden through Phil Blevins, executive director at Carolina Autism, a non-profit agency that provides services to people with autism in South Carolina and consults to groups nationwide. After discussing their goals with Blevins, they asked if he knew any boys who might be up to the challenge. "Braeden came to mind,” Blevins says. "We'd been working with him since he was two. After his diagnosis, his parents asked if we could help set up some programs to help maximize his potential, to get him involved with his family, with teachers, with the world. So after speaking to the director of his therapy, who seemed to think that he would do well with direction – she'd been working with him for four years on taking directions – I told the filmmakers, ‘I do know a boy that you might want to meet.'” 

"During the audition process,” says Bowen, "we learned that Braeden's a naturally gifted actor

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