This past weekend, I had the chance to catch up with the Britt Robertson (Sophia), Scott Eastwood (Luke), Alan Alda (Ira), Oona Chaplin (Young Ruth), George Tillman, Jr. (director), and Nicholas Sparks (author) in New York City to talk about the making of the The Longest Ride and hear about casting the characters.
For those working on the film, it seems like the casting came pretty naturally. When casting Sophia and Luke, George recalled, “The very first scene [Britt and Scott] read together was the first date, Scott kept touching his hair instinctively and I thought, ‘Man, this guy is good. He keeps touching his hair.’ It felt so natural. It was the energy between them that I knew was what we needed for the film.”
“It’s really a luck of the draw,” said Britt, “because you never know what you’re going to get. I didn’t know Scott from Adam. We really did luck out that we had a great director, a lot of time to rehearse, and we get along.”
When asked about bull riding and getting grounded in the role of Luke, Scott said, “I was a big fan of [bull riding] before the film so I knew a bunch about it, the stars and the space, and I had gone to rodeo as a kid. I took it pretty seriously. They never [let me on a bull]. I bucked a bull after filming wrapped though. I just didn’t want to go around talking like I knew what riding was about without really bucking a bull. I lasted about two and a half seconds.” Britt replied, “Hey, that’s pretty impressive. Come on!”
On the character of young Ruth and casting Oona, George recalled that a lot of actors came in and read for the part. “Some of them were great, some were not, some had potential. It was the spirit that was missing, like a magical quality that the character had to have on top of the words and subtext. When [Oona] came in to read, I was blown away by the spirit more than anything. I knew of her, but not too much, and I knew that she was actually on a plane going to Europe after she auditioned and I was told that she wasn’t interested in the role after she read. Everyone loved her. We tracked her down and I called her and I just wanted to tell her the story and how I saw the vision. Ruth had to have this magical spirit about her so that you really would think about her after she left the screen. As I got to know her, I realized she was just like the character. The spirit, the culture, she already had the quality. I just knew she was the one that was perfect for the story. It was tremendous working with her. She’s really amazing.”
When casting young Ira, George mentioned bringing in five actors for Oona to read with but each were different. “It was so much fun,” Oona stated.
“Jack Houston (Young Ira) was doing a play in London so he wasn’t able to read,” said George. “I already knew his work so it felt like I knew what he could do. He’s a great actor. We went out to dinner and sat and talked with Jack and Oona watching them talk and they had this European sensibility. I just spent most of the time watching. I just thought, ‘These are the guys.’ No rehearsal or scenes, just the energy and chemistry that they brought. With them, I knew they already had it.”
On working with a younger version of himself, Alan said, “We both paid attention to how the other one talked. He asked me to record some lines to see how they would come out of my mouth. I would listen while he was reading his scenes and made mental notes on his voice so we were each trying to copy each other’s voice.”
When asked if he ever thought about retiring from acting, Alan said, “But then I would have missed Oona. I love this. It’s wonderful to do what you know how to do. And to get better at what you know how to do. Those are the two greatest pleasures for me.”
On the romance and relationship between Ira and Ruth, Alan said, “They have what people can front when they go from the pleasure of young love and infatuation to having to figure out how to live together. They suddenly find out that each one wants things that are very hard to come up with, or impossible. Somebody has got to give, somebody has got to make an adjustment. I don’t think of it as a sacrifice because when you do it because you care about the other person getting what they need and what they want, then you don’t feel like you’re losing it or that it’s a sacrifice. You make that allowance, you make that adjustment. That’s what makes this movie unusual to me. Most movies stop right at the part where this one really picks up steam which is ‘how do you stay together for a long time.’ And the writing really gives them obstacles that are tough. They aren’t just things you can solve with a little conversation. You really have to give.”
The Longest Ride hits theaters everywhere on April 10th.