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It's been 15 years since Shane West and Mandy Moore played star-crossed lovers in the tear-jerking teenage romance "A Walk To Remember" — and we recently sat down with West to reminisce about the beloved movie.
So, what does West remember most about auditioning for the 2002 flick?
"It was incredibly easy," he recalled. "It was a different time. Adam Shankman, the director, who was wonderful on set, brought me in once to talk things over. And then, they had an interest in Mandy, and he wanted to see if we had any chemistry. So he brought her in. And then, she and I read through some scenes, and then we left. And then before you knew it, we were both cast. And I like telling that story because that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Back then, it just seemed like a bit of a simpler time.”
Fortunately, the two co-stars clicked right away.
"We immediately liked each other as people, and I think that’s what actually helped," he said, adding that Shankman "didn’t want us to hang out all the time because he kind of liked how different we were. It was perfect for the actual film.”
West had fond memories of working with Moore (then known for pop hits like "Candy"), who took on the role of Jamie, a terminally ill minister's daughter.
"This was all new to her, and she was worried and concerned that she was going to be doing a credible job for something like this," he said. "The biggest thing was dyeing her hair, because at that time she had such a look that people were used to, wearing the terrible outfits that she had to put on to just try and downplay her natural beauty, and she was a sweetheart. She had a smile that can melt hearts, and that's pretty much all she did for eight weeks."
The actor also looked back on some of his most memorable scenes to shoot — including the prank that occurs in the film's opening sequence.
“The scene of daring Clay to jump into the water, simply because it was mentally challenging," he said. "Apparently the man-made lake had been used for ‘Dawson’s Creek’ in the past and they left it out there. And it was covered in seaweed, covered in plants. It was frightening. Apparently there were eels in that. And they had to bring in scuba divers to swim around to push the eels away and push the weird creatures away as we swam in there. So for me, it was freezing, it was day one. I didn’t know any of these people yet, and we were half naked in a man-made lake with giant eels. That was one of the more challenging things for me.”
And then, of course, there was the school play in which the characters have their first kiss.
"It took three days to film," he revealed. "Everyone was disgusted and sweaty. It was sort of like, are we done yet?”
He continued, “When I had to go cry on my dad's shoulders, that was one of the more difficult scenes, because I was pretty alone and I didn’t know how to do that yet. I was 24. I’d been doing a TV show for three years and there was plenty of drama in that, but I had a problem crying in life, let alone on camera. I could always be sad, but to actually get tears to flow was really difficult. And I do remember, I had a Discman on and I would listen to the Cure over and over on repeat and then they would tap me on the shoulder and say they’re ready to shoot. I didn’t know what else to do, so I guess the Cure was depressing enough for me to get into the mode to bawl like a lunatic on my dad’s shoulder.”
Despite the movie's heart-wrenching story, West said there was plenty of laughter on set thanks to his rapport with Shankman and Moore.
“What we really laughed about was when it was done, Adam said, ‘Worst case scenario: We made a really good film. Whether people see it or not, you should be proud of yourselves,'" West said. "We went to the premiere and we were kidding around, and everyone started crying. And we had no idea why. It didn’t feel that way on set. So, we were a little more shocked about that and laughed at that moment. But then realized, maybe we did make something that will resonate. My publicist at the time came and gave me the passes for the after-party, and she was bawling. She said ‘I hate you.’ We really didn’t know we had tapped into something until the premiere.”
The trio recently reunited to honor the movie's anniversary, causing a sensation on social media.
“I was suddenly part of a group text with Adam and Mandy," West said. "I woke up to, like, 20 texts and was like ‘what on earth is happening?’ We were like ‘We need to get together to begin with anyway.' It had been a long time. We had a great reminiscing session. Have definitely kept in contact."
West said he's proud of Moore's work on her hit series "This Is Us" — also known for making viewers sob uncontrollably.
“I'm sure she probably has some weird flashbacks, especially with Milo (Ventimiglia), who’s an old friend of mine as well. Almost like a grown up Jamie, in a sense.”
West understands why "A Walk to Remember" still resonates with audiences a decade and a half later.
“It happened to come out at the right time," he said. "It was real. Every actor involved was real. A lot of us were learning on the job. It had that innocence to it. And Nicholas Sparks made a great story that we were able to convert into a good film. The fact that it did resonate and become this love story for that time and even to this day is just one of those miracles that happens that’s hard to explain. But it’s wonderful to be a part of."
He added, "People can go on a career for 80 years and never have something that can resonate, so to have something so quickly at age 24 is a dream come true.”