Lucky One: Interview with Director Scott (“Shine”) Hicks
Is there really such a thing as destiny? Is Fate shadowing our movements, stacking the deck, or are all our moments—ordinary and extraordinary—random? The age-old question of whether things happen by accident is at the core of Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One.
Director Scott Hicks offers, “That premise immediately drew me in: the notion that a chance event—finding a photo in the middle of nowhere—could change not only one man’s life, but the lives of everyone he comes into contact with, really hooked me at the outset. The idea of destiny is quite central, and I liked that it’s treated in a very realistic fashion.”
Sparks reveals that a very real item was the basis for his story. “This is the first book I’ve ever written that was inspired by a single image: that of a soldier finding a picture half-buried in the sand and pulling it out. I became obsessed with what happens when he begins to view this photo as his lucky charm.”
In “The Lucky One,” the photo becomes more than a good luck charm; it serves as the catalyst for a journey of discovery and healing.
The Lucky One marks the fourth of Sparks’ novels that producer Denise Di Novi has brought to the big screen. She relates, “I’ve been in love with Nicholas’ books since I first read The Notebook. Every one of his stories renews your faith in love and in the power of love, and this one is no exception. I think everybody wants to believe that love can conquer all, despite the odds.”
In the film’s central role, Zac Efron stars as Logan, a Marine who has seemingly defied the odds during three tours of duty in Iraq. The actor responded to the story’s interconnecting ideas of luck, love and destiny. “That’s what you hope love is, destiny,” he remarks. “You want it to be meant to be. It often feels like it is. Why can’t it be? And that’s what’s so intriguing about the story.”
Producer Kevin McCormick agrees. “Nick Sparks beautifully entwined the two themes of love and Fate, and Scott Hicks delivered that in a way that creates feelings of both surprise and inevitability.”
Will Fetters, who was responsible for adapting Sparks’ novel for the film, notes, “I can’t say enough about how collaborative Scott was and how much his input helped me.” The screenwriter adds that the author had given him the best possible foundation. “Before I even picked up the book, I was caught by the idea of this soldier trying to piece together why he’s still here, which brings up the question of whether or not things happen for a reason. The question remains unanswered, but it was woven through the subtext of the script.”
Taylor Schilling plays the woman in the photograph, who becomes a talisman for a man she doesn’t even know exists. “I got a feel for the character right off the page. They’re both living with a duality of tremendous loss and potential joy. Whether it’s their destiny or not, it’s incredibly romantic.”
“I think most people have, at some point in their life, a lucky charm and, whether we truly believe in it or not, there’s something hopeful about it,” says Di Novi.
“The Lucky One” opens in Iraq, where Efron’s character, U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault, is on his third tour of duty. Almost immediately, he is thrust into a firefight that changes his life forever.
The role itself changed Efron, who literally had to transform himself physically and emotionally, to look, move and react like a Marine who had served in a war zone and seen far more violence and loss than his family or peers at home could even imagine.
Hicks explains, “When we first see Logan, we need to know what he’s gone through and understand some of the sense of trauma that he carries with him out of this conflict. I was very impressed by Zac’s commitment to not only change his physique but also to get into the mindset of a soldier. He created the slightly stony exterior of someone a little mysterious—a character we don’t know a great deal about at first.”
“Initially I wasn’t convinced I could pull this off,” Efron recalls, “but the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to Scott, I realized if there was ever going to be a chance to play a role so different from what I’ve played before, this was it. I knew I had to put in the work to be able to play Logan, and I felt capable in Scott’s hands.”
Di Novi says, “One of my favorite things about being a producer is watching actors reinvent themselves, and that’s what Zac did. He just looks like a different person in this film. How he walks, how he stands, how he holds himself…it was a thrill to see him become Logan.”
McCormick concurs, “Even though he’d never done anything like it before, Zac was really able to bring a very specific and unique take on Logan. We literally saw somebody who’s been so youthful in every other movie legitimately turn into a man in front of our very eyes. That really helped make Nick Spark’s character come to life. Apart from looking like a Marine, Zac brought a reservoir of pain and strength in equal measure.”
The filmmakers’ own search to find the object of Logan’s quest began and ended with actress Taylor Schilling, who was cast as Beth Green. “Taylor conveys a complexity of emotional expression that is really extraordinary,” Hicks says. “You read in her eyes so much depth and detail.”
When the filmmakers put Schilling and Efron together, their on-screen chemistry sealed the deal. “That’s always the great unknown,” notes Hicks, “the question of what it’s going to be like when you put your stars together. Is there going to be any chemistry? From the first moment, the connection between Zac and Taylor was apparent.”
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