At some point, you’d think seeing his work converted from the page to film would be no big deal—or at the very least, would lose a little of its luster.

But author Nicholas Sparks is just as excited about the April 20 release of The Lucky One, even if it’s now his seventh best-selling novel that’s been adapted for the big screen.

Not straying far from the love-across-the-miles formula that’s worked so well in The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe and Dear John, The Lucky One is the story of a love that’s tested by rather complicated circumstances. In fact, Sparks says it’s the first book he’s written that was inspired by a single image, namely of a soldier finding a picture and pulling it out from the sand where it’s half buried.

“I became obsessed with what happens when he begins to view this photo as his lucky charm,” Nicholas shares. “That’s how The Lucky One all began. This photo serves as the catalyst for a journey of discovery and healing.”

Exploring the age-old question of fate, and whether destiny was involved in his character’s discovery, Zac Efron was intrigued by the story of a soldier named Logan who recently completed three tours of duty in Iraq. A marked departure from his usual singing, dancing, requisite heartthrob roles, Efron (High School Musical 3Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) jumped into the role with gusto and embraced the rigorous training it required to convincingly portray a soldier.

“Being a big-time perfectionist, I wanted to get it right, and initially, I was convinced I could pull it off,” Zac shares. “But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to Scott [Hicks, the film’s director], I realized if there was ever going to be an opportunity 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.”

A Walk to Remember

To get in character, Zac traveled to Camp Pendleton, which is located on the coast of Southern California, so he could spend time with Marines and see what life is like through their eyes.

“When I got there, it was like stepping into a different world. They stood with a purpose. They had laser focus and never broke contact,” Zac shares. “I thought ‘This is my generation on the frontlines. They’ve experienced some pretty gruesome things.’ We sat and talked for several hours, and they were some of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had. In terms of research, it was priceless, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Aside from a buzz cut and the strict diet and rigorous military workouts that helped him gain the 20 pounds of muscle he needed to play the character, another quality that made Logan stand out to Efron was his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Broken, searching for healing, and struggling to acclimate to regular life after moving in with his sister post-Iraq, Logan eventually finds sanctuary in a long, long walk. Making it his mission to track down the girl in the picture, the proverbial good luck charm he believes saved his life on the battle field, he eventually makes the trek from a small town in Colorado to New Orleans, where the pretty blonde named Beth lives.

"The post-war situation is different for everybody. It's as different as the individuals,” Nicholas says. “When they come back, they are different. The differences manifest themselves in a lot of ways. You have some people who commit suicide or they drink too much or they're unemployed. Logan is one of them. Here is a guy that says: I lost all my friends; this profoundly moves me. My solution is not to drink; it's to walk across the country."

A New Life in Louisiana

Like most love stories, the two attractive leads don’t initially hit it off. But for Logan, an unshakable desire to get to know Beth keeps him moving forward emotionally.

“Just the act of finding the picture directly saved his life. He was in the right place and the right time and after that, he seems to survive situations he shouldn’t be surviving, while others around him aren’t as lucky,” Zac says. “So that photo takes on a special meaning.”

When it comes to her own feelings on whether destiny plays a significant role in what happens in our lives, newcomer Taylor Schilling, who plays Logan’s love interest, Beth, says she “definitely feels there’s a guiding force” in her life on some level.

“I’m pretty clear on that,” Taylor says. “But I also feel that we’re creating what’s going on, too, so maybe a mix of both.”

Thanks to an abundance of natural chemistry between the two leads, The Lucky One has often been compared to Sparks’ most famous work, The Notebook.

“That’s always the great unknown, the question of what it’s going to be like when you put your stars together. Is there any chemistry?” says Scott, whose resumé includes everything from under-the-radar films like 2009’s The Boys Are Back to box office winners like 2007’s No Reservations. “From the first moment, the connection between Zac and Taylor was apparent.”

Faith on the Big Screen

While The Lucky One emphasizes themes of family, faith and whether life is merely a series of coincidences or carefully crafted scenes written by a master storyteller, not everything about The Lucky One will likely sit well with everyone watching.

Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence, there are some racy scenes with Logan and Beth engaging in pre-marital sex, not to mention an instance where God’s name is paired with da--.

As a believer in Jesus and a regular churchgoer, Nicholas is admittedly well aware of what aspects of The Lucky One might not connect with certain Christians and was happy to comment. While he didn’t pen the screenplay for The Lucky One and says he wouldn’t have included the harsh use of the Lord’s name in vain, his mission has always been to create “really believable characters and really believable stories.”

“As much as some people dislike this expression [go-da--], and they’ll probably dislike the shower scene as well, these are things that happen in the real world,” Nicholas shares. “I can speak for my own faith, and Denise [DiNovi, the film producer Nicholas has worked with on several adaptations of his work] and I call each other ‘the church people’ because we’re people in Hollywood who go to church all the time, and we make no bones about it. But there are no perfect people in the world, and you want to find the kinds of people for your stories who aren’t flawless.”

Emphasizing that “no one who makes it to heaven will be flawless,” Nicholas says what ultimately inspired The Lucky One was the journey of growth that happened for both Beth and Logan.

“In this real-life journey, they heal through love, which is God’s primary message,” Nicholas says. “We struggle with a lot of these issues of what to include—and what not to include. We don’t include anything objectionable just to put it in there. It’s in there for a reason. You want to see their humanity.”
 


Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Adam Lefevre, Blythe Danner, The Lucky One is rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.

For more information about 
The Lucky One, including the film’s trailer, please click here