By Amy Kaufman
12:25 PM CST, February 6, 2013
Nicholas Sparks is the king of the chick flick.
Eight of his romance novels have now been adapted into films, the latest of which, "Safe Haven," hits theaters on Valentine's Day. But on the set of the film, director Lasse Hallström forbade cast and crew from describing the picture with that saccharine moniker.
"For me, this is not a chick flick — that's a derogatory term for this genre," Hallström said at the premiere of the film Tuesday evening at the newly minted TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. "The words 'cheese' and 'chick flick' really bother me. This is not sentimentalized. It's a little bit like a documentary of two people falling in love — or at least that's the review my wife gave me."
The film, which stars "Dancing With the Stars" veteran Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, is set in Sparks' favorite state, North Carolina. Fleeing an unhappy domestic situation, Hough's character arrives to a sleepy seaside town and quickly begins to fall for a widower, played by Duhamel.
On the red carpet, Duhamel insisted he would go to see "Safe Haven" even if he weren't in it, and thinks there are elements of the movie that men will enjoy as well.
"Movies are good if they're good, and there are good and bad chick flicks. I love 'The Notebook.' I'm not gonna lie. I saw 'The Lucky One' 15 times," he said, kidding about the latter Sparks adaptation.
Though she was decked out in a lacy gown, Hough was ill at the premiere and had to exit a couple of joint interviews with her costar because she couldn't stop coughing.
"I've got bronchitis and the flu and I just got a B-12 shot. I'm super hard-core," said the actress, adding that she had a 101-degree fever. "That's the great thing is being proud of a movie that you've done, and being this sick — your adrenaline takes over and you're so proud. I'm pretty much numb, is what I'm trying to say."
Still, Hough was all smiles as her four siblings, including fellow "Dancing" alum Derek Hough, and boyfriend Ryan Seacrest met her on the carpet to show support. Duhamel's wife, songstress Fergie, was also on hand, though she rushed inside the theater quickly after her arrival to let her husband have his moment in the spotlight.
Sparks, meanwhile, seemed to be reveling in the spotlight. The author, who says he travels to Hollywood about a dozen times a year, said he was confident that audiences "are going to love this film" — even if it shares some similarities with his previous stories. (Moviegoers may notice that one "Safe Haven" scene, set in a boat in the middle of a small pond in the rain, is particularly reminiscent of a moment from "The Notebook.)
"I think the most important thing to realize is that I write about eastern North Carolina, and there's no big cities there. There's no big sports teams to cheer for, or Broadway," Sparks explained. "So what do you do there? You walk around small towns, you talk to people, and you go out in boats. That is ubiquitous to that part of the world. If you ignore that, you're not telling the real story."
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