Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, the film centers on Allie (McAdams) and Noah (Gosling), who were star-crossed lovers in the 1940s. Their story is recounted by a man in the present day named Duke who reads it to a woman at a nursing home. It’s later revealed that the modern duo are the older versions of Noah — using an alias — and Allie, who is suffering from dementia.
Years after its premiere, The Notebook still hits home for viewers of all ages. Gosling previously opened up about being approached by director Nick Cassavetes because of his ability to convey determination on camera.
“[He] called me to meet him at his house,” the Gray Man star recalled to the U.K.’s Company in 2011. “When I got there, he was standing in his backyard, and he looked at me and said, ‘I want you to play this role because you’re not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood. You’re not handsome, you’re not cool, you’re just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts.'”
Three years later, the filmmaker joked to VH1: “When I told [New Line Cinema] I wanted to hire Ryan for the lead, they kind of looked at me like I was out of my mind.”
Of Gosling’s scene partner, Cassavetes told the outlet, “We found Rachel through an audition process and she was wonderful. A lot of studios wouldn’t have had the courage to put two relatively unknown people in a movie like this. But they did and, gosh, weren’t they terrific?”
According to the New York native, his leading man improvised what has become one of the movie’s most memorable lines. “There was a scene at the end where Ryan improvised, ‘What do you want? What do you want?’ And it became one of the most iconic things from the film [that] wasn’t in the script,” Cassavetes recalled. “He just knew it. … We just let him go. They deserve all the credit in the world, those guys. They were committed to their characters and both of them are terrific artists in their own right. Really, really top-notch artists. I would love to work with them [again].”
Gosling and the Sherlock Holmes actress went on to spark a romance in real life — but they didn’t always get along on set. “Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick come here,'” Cassavetes claimed. “And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ He says, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it with her. I’m just not getting anything from this.'”
Their flame eventually fizzled out, and McAdams even admitted that she never saw her relationship with Gosling being more than platonic. “Which goes to show you that you can engineer chemistry on screen just by telling the audience that these two people love each other,” she told The Times while reflecting on the film’s success. “And, unless your actors are doing a really terrible job, I think people will want to see that. As an actor, you don’t have to feel it. You don’t have to feel anything. Just imagine it.”
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