Julianne Hough Finds Her ‘Safe Haven’ on Valentine’s Day

By Paulette Cohn for eHarmony Advice

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It’s love on the run this Valentine’s Day when Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven” opens in theaters nationwide. The combination of love story and thriller makes it the perfect date ¬†movie as there is something in it for both guys and gals — and there is an unexpected twist that movie fans who haven’t read the book may not see coming!

“Fans will still get the relatable characters and the strong love story that they come to my work looking for,” says Sparks, whose previous books-turned-movies include “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle,” “A Walk to Remember,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Dear John” and “The Lucky One.”¬† “There’s a lot of chemistry between the main characters and the relationship evolves in a very natural way. But there are a couple of other threads that are different. It feels like Nicholas Sparks, until it suddenly doesn’t.”

“Safe Haven” opens with Katie Feldman on the lam, barely escaping the cops in Boston, and managing to catch a bus heading south to freedom. At a stop in Southport, NC, Katie finally feels she has put enough distance between her and her past to try to start a new life, so she disembarks and rents a rundown cabin in the woods — far away from prying eyes.

For Julianne Hough, who stars as Katie, “Safe Haven” marks a turning point in her career, with her best performance to date in a non-dancing role. Even so, she manages to joke about it.
“I thought I was going to be all method and stay in [the cabin] one night but I found out, ‘Wow! It is tick infested,’ and I didn’t want to get Lyme disease, but it was amazing. It is not every day you get to shoot in the actual location where the story is set,” she says.

It isn’t long until Katie falls in love with life in this small Southern town and she is wary but attracted to the town’s grocery-store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his two children, who add some much-appreciated awkwardness and humor that keep the romance from becoming overly sentimental.

But the most important aspect to the story is the growth that Katie makes in her journey from the beginning to the end of the movie, especially when she decides to take a stand and defend her new life. “I think both Katie and I are fighters,” Hough tells eHarmony. “People say it is easy to walk away, but it is sometimes not. It is sometimes harder to walk away. But with this, it was her own journey setting herself free. Obviously, she had the love of Alex and the security there, knowing there were two people in this together. Not to give away the end, but I really like the fact that Katie was the one who ended the situation between her and Kevin [David Lyons] because she didn’t need saving from him. She did it on her own. She became that strong fighter. Having Alex there gave her added strength.”

Hough admits to being a big Nicholas Sparks fan, which was an added factor in her desire to land the role. “I read all of his books,” she says. “A Walk to Remember was my favorite when I was growing up. I must have read it seven times and then watched the movie over and over and over. Nicholas really speaks to women. He understands that we want compassion and love, safety and security.”

Having said that, the “Dancing with the Stars” champ says her own personal safe haven is not a place but her pets. “I like having my dogs [Lexi and Harley, Cavalier King Charles spaniels],” she says. “They are kind of the mascots of every film that I do. At the end of a long maybe emotional or maybe exciting day, they are always there to love me. And for me to love them — and to get a shower by Lexie, who kisses my face off. They are like my safe place.”

When the movie talk was done, Hough, who is famously dating “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, revealed what attracts her in a man. “There’s a list!,” she says. “Honestly, the freedom to be me. I think anybody who wants to keep my attention has to let me be myself and support me and vice versa.”

“Safe Haven” opens nationwide on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.

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