This weekend brings Nights in Rodanthe to theaters. It’s an unapologetic tearjerker, a love story starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane (click here for Rex Reed’s review), based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and directed by…George C. Wolfe?
It’s certainly not an obvious partnership. After all, Mr. Wolfe has made his reputation as being an edgy and inventive playwright (The Colored Museum, Spunk, Jelly’s Last Jam), theater director (he staged Tony Kushner’s Angels in America for which he won the Tony), and producer of the Public Theater (he was the man behind Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk). Nicholas Sparks spins tales of big gut-busting romances like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember and Dear John. Though Mr. Wolfe directed Lackawanna Blues for HBO, Nights in Rodanthe is his directorial feature film debut. We couldn’t help but wonder…why this?
“The rules I sort of live by for my theater career, which I hope to live for my film career, is that if there’s something that intrigues me or fascinates me, or I don’t know how to do it, then I should do it,” Mr. Wolfe said, going on to admit he had never read a Nicholas Sparks book before. “My agent wasn’t sure if I was going to like it! But I was just intrigued of people having an act two in their life. I had never done anything so intimate before.”
In the film, which is set along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Richard Gere and Diane Lane play two people who are wary at the thought of love, but (of course) can’t help falling into it anyway. “They’re guarded – this is not spring break weekend love,” Mr. Wolfe said. “It’s easier to be cynical and edgy and tough rather than overly emotional. I’m perpetually interested by living in places as an artist confronting challenges I’ve never confronted before and approaching them with as much craft and humanity as I can.” And was it, we wondered, a challenge? “Uh yeah,” he laughed. “I couldn’t hang out with two thirds of what I love about myself, you know? I feel like I’m edgy and I’m funny and I got this bite, this outrageousness…I couldn’t hang out with any of that on this project. But you know, it’s going to another land. I don’t live there. I took the vacation to The Outer Banks, I met a house and we fell in love, and now I’m back in New York and ready to be hostile George again. I just wrote a very hostile screenplay so that helped.” He laughed again. “You know, I like living in different corners of my mind – hey, that sounds like a 1960’s theme song for a movie, doesn’t it?”
Speaking of the 1960s, Mr. Wolfe is looking at a few possible film projects that all take place in New York City during that time period. “The question of that time was, whose city was it going to be? The answer then is certainly not the answer now, because New York has become so incredibly cosmetic. I miss the edge of New York. It feels so damn precious. I feel like I need to be in eyeshadow and makeup just to set foot outside my house.” In the meantime, he’s directing John Guare’s Free Man of Color. Of Rodanthe he said, “I’m proud of it. It was fascinating and I learned things about myself, playing around and creating a romance. I’m proud of the performances and how the movie looks and how when people approach the movie with an openness it can be deeply moving…and when they don’t they don’t. What else can you do?”