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Monday, February 17, 2014

Endless Love: Casting the Drama.

Endless Love: Casting the Drama

Endless Love stars ALEX PETTYFER (Magic Mike, I Am Number Four) and GABRIELLA WILDE (The Three Musketeers, Carrie) in the story of Jade Butterfield and David Elliot, a privileged girl and a charismatic boy whose instant desire sparks a love affair made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart. Although separated by class boundaries, their gravitational pull is undeniable and unstoppable.

Finding talented young actors who could provide the essential chemistry of David and Jade was the filmmakers’ top priority. They found the ideal performers in Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde. Shares Schwartz: “In a love story, this is the whole ball game. The first time we saw Alex and Gabriella on screen, everyone was very aware of their chemistry. You just felt it was there. Beyond the fact that they are both very attractive people, you felt this real connection between them.”

Schwartz admired his director’s knack with the talent. “Shana is wonderful working with young actors and getting them to open up to one another and letting the audience into that love story,” she says. “She spent so much time in rehearsal with Alex and Gabriella helping them forge that connection and open up not only to each other, but to the camera as well. It’s such a challenge for an actor to be exposed, and her patience and guidance have resulted in terrific performances.”

As part of the rehearsal and bonding process, Feste says Pettyfer and Wilde spent a good deal of time together off set and did a lot of fun exercises, including dancing to loud music. As filming started, the director felt inspired by the talent and commitment of her young actors. She shares: “They came to respect each other so much. When you’re doing a love story, you have to know that the other person has your back.”

When they meet, the temperaments of the soon-to-be young lovers are as different as their cultural and economic status. Feste praises her leading man, who plays David as a young man you root for: “Alex is a total romantic. What struck me the first time I met him is how open he was talking about the love he wants to find. Most 23-year-old guys are not talking openly about love! David believes that he deserves love and Alex believes that he deserves love, and that translates in the movie.”

Pettyfer discusses his director’s process: “We did some interesting rehearsing, and that helped. Shana guided us along the path. She comes from such an interesting place of wanting people to relate and connect. It’s not so much about a sole performance; it’s about collaboration. She’s given me a new look into how to connect with who I’m playing and where I’m going in the story.”

Stuber adds that the care his director put into the on-screen couple finding comfort in one another was one of the virtues of the production: “There’s a complete and utter believability to all of their interactions. Gabriella and Alex are natural and organic; they have chemistry and feel like people in love. That’s a testament to their work as actors, as well as Shana and the time she put in so that they could talk through the places that they were going to have to go with each other.”

When David connects with Jade, he finds a girl who has suffered a loss in her fa
mily that has taken her out of the social world of school. Even though she’s beautiful and bright, she’s not outgoing and hasn’t become a part of the high school. While he encourages her to see that she is a free spirit and that someone could fall in love with her, she gives him the confidence to believe in himself.

The filmmakers found that the British-born Wilde embodies many of Jade’s traits. Feste explains: “I pictured Jade as gorgeous, and Gabriella definitely is that. But how Gabriella wears her beauty is her strongest suit. She has no idea how gorgeous she is. As we were starting to rehearse, I saw Gabriella open up. She is close to the character of Jade: aware of what people think of her and quite shy. She’s an introvert, and I imagined that Jade would be an introvert. Seeing Gabriella as Jade let love change and inspire her has been fun to watch. Her arc is so strong in this movie, and that’s when you forget how beautiful Gabriella is and just realize that she is an amazing actress.”

Wilde walks us through the story’s beats: “David awakens Jade to her own voice and to her youth. At the beginning, she’s quite serious and burdened by a sense of guilt toward her family following the death of her brother Chris. She’s someone who’s trying to make it all okay all of the time, and this is where David gives her license to be herself. She finds her voice in the movie as she’s falling in love. Jade goes from being suppressed to putting everything aside to fight for love and what she believes in.”

Feste wasn’t the only one impressed with Wilde’s demeanor. “Gabriella is amazing,” praises Pettyfer. “She has this beauty that takes you aback. She looks like a supermodel, but she also is grounded and actually quite shy—the most beautiful girl mixed with the quiet girl. She was perfect for Jade.”

To play Jade’s parents, the production cast the accomplished veteran actors Bruce Greenwood as Hugh Butterfield, a father whose desire to protect his daughter leads to awful results, and Joely Richardson as Anne Butterfield, Jade’s sympathetic mother who is just as romantic as her only daughter.

Greenwood, an award-winning actor who has starred in such acclaimed films as Star Trek Into Darkness and Flight, brings to life Jade’s menacing, if well-meaning, father. Discussing the part, the actor offers: “One of the foremost things that interested me about the character was that he was a father learning to let go of a child that he loves beyond all measure, after having lost a child. Trying to keep her from harm, but at the same time guide her is a tremendous struggle for him; he begins to overreact and becomes rigid in the way he looks at his daughter’s aspirations.”

Hugh is a successful surgeon in Atlanta who strongly objects to the relationship that’s blossoming between Jade and David. It was important to Feste to have the audience also see the warmth of his character, so as to not have Hugh appear as a clich├ęd villain. His on-screen daughter reflects on Greenwood’s talent. “Bruce is a brilliant actor,” lauds Wilde. “There’s a danger that Hugh could have just been a villain, but Bruce has kept the humanity in Hugh. While he is a villain—what he does is frightening and wrong—you can understand where it all comes from; he’s done that brilliantly.

Producer Schwartz was taken with Greenwood’s performance and ability to bring an incredible humanity to stoic Hugh. Schwartz shares: “When you see Bruce on screen, you sense a strength and integrity to him. This makes the fact that he’s the antagonist of the movie very interesting. Hugh will go to great lengths to keep his daughter from David in ways that the audience may not agree with, but can always understand.”

Feste shares that they conceived of the parents by seeing them in shades of gray. Both Hugh and Harry protect their children the best way they can. The director explains: “Do either one of them understand the love that David and Jade have? I don’t think so. I think maybe toward the end of the film they start to. Are they afraid of it? Yes, sure, because that intensity is frightening to see because it’s all-consuming. Anne is the one character who is not afraid of that love, but is drawn to it and wants to celebrate it.”

Anne is a published author who hasn’t written in years. Like Hugh, she mourns the loss of their eldest child, but while her husband’s grief pushes her away, she wants to hold on to their marriage. Stuber explains why this character is so pivotal to Jade and David’s arc: “Anne has a husband who’s cheating on her, and she’s aware of it. She’s living a lie. But seeing this young man who’s being honest with who he is and authentic in his love for her daughter…that’s a big deal to Anne. That’s something she respects to the point that she gives David information she likely shouldn’t.”
For her part, Richardson was impressed with Feste’s directorial style, one that allowed her to play Anne as a forgiving character who operates from a base of love for others—as well as a woman who has lost herself to a controlling husband. Richardson shares: “Shana is precise, thinks outside the box and knows exactly what she wants. As an actor, you can be used to self-directing. With Shana, she thinks of these imaginative scenarios to get you to do the scene the way she’d like.”

Endless Love is now showing in cinemas nationwide and is distributed by Solar Entertainment Corporation

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