FILM Say what you will about films adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels: there's no denying they attract some genuine talent. Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried know that many will dismiss Dear John as a "chick flick," but both believe there's more to the movie than that. "It's not just Channing Tatum without a shirt on," Seyfried insisted during a recent visit to San Francisco with her costar. "It's a real movie. It has a real message. It has a really good theme. I think everybody's going to leave feeling a little inspired."
And while Tatum admitted it's likely not the kind of film he'd go out and see with his group of male friends, he maintains that the story will appeal to a wider audience than just young girls. "It's the ultimate date movie," he said. "I really do think people will go and like it for that."
Talking to Tatum and Seyfried, it's clear that these are two actors committed to their work. With their careers on the rise, they're receiving plenty of offers. That's why both express the importance of playing characters they can connect with. For Seyfried, the role of Savannah in Dear John was one she'd been waiting for. "When this script came about, I thought, 'Wow, how amazing would it be to play a romantic lead.' That's like my dream," she explained. "I wanted to be Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet (1996) when I was 12. This is finally my chance to inspire other young girls to be in love."
Tatum plays John Tyree, the third soldier he's taken on after roles in Stop-Loss (2008) and G.I. Joe (2009). He's had a lifelong "fascination with the military and what it takes to be a soldier." But his interest in Dear John reflected the film's treatment of its soldier character, which focuses more on his relationships than on wartime violence or politics. "We try to take a lot of the war and soldiering out of it," he said. "Any time we could take John out of a uniform or not show him in a military atmosphere, we did."
But while Dear John's leads enjoyed their experience filming the movie, don't expect to see the pair doing the same thing next time. They're looking for variety: eclectic roles that will surprise audiences. "We all want to be challenged in our jobs," Seyfried said. "It's more satisfying at the end of the day when you're connecting with somebody you don't know."
DEAR JOHN opens Fri/5 in Bay Area theaters.