It’s no doubt that folks in Southport NC were chomping at the bit last week, waiting for the local and national premier of the movie Safe Haven on Valentine's Day. The town has never looked so good and many were heard leaving the theatre saying the real star of the movie was indeed Southport. As a long-time resident, I can't disagree. Our little town of Southport fit Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven script like a glove... as it was the author's first movie that takes place in the same NC town as the book. The local scene was quite a hit with the actors and production crew as well, with many local business benefitting by the filming and patronage at many of our favorite local haunts including, Fishy Fishy, Old American Fish, Moore Street Market, Ports of Call, Taylor's and Loco Jo's. Here is some of what they had to say... Quotes are from Wilmington Star interviews by Cassie Foss
A: "It was one of the best movie-making experiences I've ever been a part of. You've got little town, you've got all these great people, you've got these beaches and warm water. Fourth of July was awesome. It's a really hoppin' little place. How often do you get to shoot a movie in the town that the story is written about? It was something I won't forget."
Q: What kind of reception did you get from the locals?
A: "It's a very small-town feel, similar to what I grew up in. It was just a very friendly kind of community that welcomed us and made us feel very at home. I actually loved hanging out …with the people from Southport and Oak Island. How can you not be talkative when everyone's showing love? I've been places that were not as welcoming or easygoing."
Q: Do you think that easygoing charm will come across in the film?
A: I think Southport's personality will come across in the movie. Lasse Hallström does an amazing job of capturing that feel of, there's a simplicity and appreciation for life that you feel. It's a slower pace, which is nice, and there's a pace and a tone to this movie that is really cathartic in a lot of ways. It ramps up as you go, but you can really feel the essence of Southport in the movie.
Q: What was filming in Southport like?
A: "I had a little place just above the marina. I would wake up every morning – it was just me and my dog – I'd go down and grab some breakfast down by the water. It was beautiful and the people there were beautiful. I cannot speak highly enough of the way we were treated in Southport and also just the general beauty of the people and the place. It holds a very special place in my heart now.
If the film goes really well, then I think Southport's gonna get a lot of attention … It's not like when you go to a town and you're like, "It kinda looks the way it did in the film." It totally is the film. It's like a character in it. You see the Yacht Basin, you see Fishy Fishy and all these places along the waterfront and Oak Island. It's just so Southport, which is awesome. I think if it somehow helps the town, then that will be fantastic. Southport helped us so much, so hopefully the film will also help it."
Julianne Hough from juliannehough.com
"It’s not every day that you get to shoot in the location where the story is set. It’s gorgeous in Southport and I just loved it. It’s kind of a hidden gem. Everything about it was amazing. It was honestly one of the best summers of my life so far because it was so calm. I loved the breeze, the nature; the people on the street were so lo-key and chill. Instead of running up to us, like, ‘Oh, my God,’ they were like, ‘Hey, how are you enjoying our town?’ It was really nice. And, oh my Gosh, the Christmas store. On down time, we’d go there – Christmas in the summer! – and buy Christmas ornaments. It was a really cute place. I think something about the South in general, you have more time in the day and you get to enjoy each moment and not rush to the next."
"I think Southport is one of the most beautiful towns. Ten years ago, I was here for the filming of A Walk to Remember. I remember walking down here and I said, “I have to find a book for this place one day."
And he did! Sparks has a lot of nice things to say about Southport in an interview with VisitNC … The box office numbers for it’s Valentine’s Day opening and first weekend, Safe Haven brings in 30 million, more than it cost to produce the entire movie!
And Don’t forget the kids! They did a terrific job. Watch them here.
The local pride was overwhelming for some. "To see my hometown of 60 years on the big screen like that – I can’t describe how that feels," said City Clerk Regina Alexander. "I’m so, so proud."
Bravo Southport... well done!