News Column

Robertson makes her mark in new Sparks film

July 24, 2014

By Hunter Ingram, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.

July 24--Actress Britt Robertson steps away from her mark in the center of a crowded gallery wing of the Cameron Art Museum. She's just been told her high heels are too loud on the room's hardwood floors. A nearby production assistant rushes up with a roll of black tape in hand and places a few strips on the bottom of the actress' heels.

With the impromptu sound buffers in place, Robertson jumps back up to where fellow actors Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) and Gloria Reuben wait with smiles. Robertson taps her feet on the ground to test the new cushions. The sound crews signal their approval. "Action!"

Robertson won't be in the towering shoes for long. Just a few seconds after finishing the shot -- though not the scene, which will be reset and shot from different angles -- she heads to her cast chair and quickly sheds the heels for something a bit more comfy: a pair of fluffy slippers.

And because there is no quick fix for hours in high heels, this won't be the last time she beelines for the slippers.

Robertson, 24, is on the Wilmington set of "The Longest Ride," the latest entry into the Nicholas Sparks film adaptation series, which she refers to as a genre in itself.

Following the trademark of Sparks' romance-driven films, love is in the air for Robertson's leading lady, Sophia, a New Jersey transplant in North Carolina to attend Black Mountain College. There, the driven art major crosses paths with Luke (Eastwood), a handsome bull rider looking to keep his family's ranch afloat. The two quickly begin a passionate relationship despite their divisive backgrounds.

During a break from filming, Robertson, once again nestling into her comfy footwear, said she was very attracted to the idea of making her mark on the lucrative Sparks film series, but was initially nervous about the weight of the movie resting solely on the shoulders of Sophia and Luke's relationship. Unlike most Sparks fare, however, "The Longest Ride" splits the action between two couples, separated by many decades.

"There is less pressure when there are multiple story lines, multiple relationships," Robertson said. "It is not just the love story between Scott and I's characters."

The dual romance also follows Ira Levinson, a character in his 90s played by Alan Alda. After a car crash that connects his life with Sophia and Luke's, Ira reminisces about his life as a younger man (played by Jack Huston) with his late wife (Oona Chaplin), through their love letters read to him by Sophia.

"It is also very much a love story between myself and Alan, and also his love story with his younger self and Ruth," Robertson said.

Featuring flashbacks to several decades beginning with the 1940s, the film traces Ira and Ruth's story while paralleling the present-day romance between Luke and Sophia. That dynamic is something that Robertson feels makes her character and the movie itself a defining Sparks story.

"It is a really well-rounded story," she said.

Shooting a film in the heat of a Wilmington summer is nothing new for Robertson, who also stars on CBS' locally filmed series "Under the Dome."

Fans of the show will know that, in the Stephen King-penned premiere, which aired June 30, Robertson's fan-favorite character, Angie, was brutally killed, launching one of the new season's biggest mysteries.

Robertson was first informed of her fate on the show by costar Natalie Martinez, whose Sheriff Linda Esquivel was also killed during the episode.

"Natalie called me and left a voice mail and said, 'Britt, I haven't seen you in a while. I hear we're dying. Let's grab a drink,'" Robertson said, laughing.

Even though she was literally given the axe on "Under the Dome," Robertson holds no hard feelings about being let go from the show. In fact, when she learned it would be at the hand of King himself, she was even "flattered."

"I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty cool. When I heard that he was writing the first episode, I was so excited to hear his spin on what's going on," Robertson said. "Then when I heard I was going to die, I was like, 'If there is any way to go out, it would be (being) killed off by Stephen King.'"

Robertson shot her scenes for the premiere in early March -- including one scene that featured a cameo from King -- before heading to Los Angeles to star in the drama "Cake," opposite Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick.

Following that role, Robertson said it was complete coincidence that her next gig brought her back to the Wilmington and, in effect, her "Dome" family.

"At one point in time it could have been Charlotte, which would have been cool because I was born there and my family lives there," Robertson said. "But I'm glad it was Wilmington. I love Wilmington, especially in the summer."

At the start of production on "The Longest Ride," which filmed a few scenes on the EUE/Screen Gems Studios lot, Robertson snuck over to the stages occupied by the CBS series to sneak a peek at her old stomping grounds.

One person, in particular, that Robertson looked forward to reuniting with was former costar Alexander Koch, who played Angie's volatile ex-boyfriend Junior. Fans of the show will be happy to know that, off screen, the two are best friends.

But with "Under the Dome's" second season now wrapped, Robertson, who wouldn't reveal if she pops up in any episodes later in the season, is fully committed to "The Longest Ride" and making the most of her new role in Sparks' cinematic universe.

"It's cool to be a part of the Nicholas Sparks genre in some way," Robertson says.

"The Longest Ride" wrapped production in Wilmington this week and before moving to Jacksonville and Winston-Salem, where it will film on Wake Forest University's campus.

The film, directed by George S. Tillman, hits theaters April 3, 2015.

Hunter Ingram: 343-2327

On Twitter: @WilmonFilm

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(c)2014 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)


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