The untold truth of The Notebook

The Notebook, penned by the prolific writer Nicholas Sparks, took the world by storm in both novel form in 1996, and in the film that was released in 2004. The touching story, combined with the onscreen chemistry of IRL (at the time) lovebirds Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, as well as James Garner and Gena Rowlands' performances, seeped into the most sentimental parts of all of us. In fact, whenever we need a good cry, we might reach for The Notebook before we reach for Steel Magnolias. But what don't we know about the story? Here are some facts you might not know about The Notebook.

Nicholas Sparks was stunned by the success of his story

In a Huff Post Live video, Nicholas Sparks talks about the great people he works with. He was selling pharmaceuticals when he found out the book sold for $1 million dollars. The story is inspiring for sure. It was Sparks' first novel, and he wrote it on evenings and weekends, with the first draft complete in just five months. Sparks was pretty sure The Notebook would be successful, and was shocked when the majority of agents who received it rejected it. He already had interest from Theresa Park (who is still his agent), and after the changes she recommended, the book sold for big bucks. It was the start of a long success story, and in 2013 it was reported that the famous author is worth $30 million. Who says print is dead?

James Garner wasn't super cool to Ryan Gosling

When veteran film actor James Garner first read the script, he asked his agent if it was going to be a TV movie. He read it again and realized it had a universal appeal and signed on to do it, and had a great experience working on the film. He especially loved working with Gena Rowlands. When it came to his young costar Ryan Gosling, however, he wasn't as easy to get along with.

According to director Nick Cassavetes, Gosling tried repeatedly to spend some time with Garner to talk about the character they were both playing. When Gosling tried to rap with Garner about the accent they might use, Garner said he didn't do accents. When Gosling tried to talk about eye color, Garner said "Everyone knows Jim Garner's got brown eyes. Do what you want, kid." Garner was totally dismissive of Gosling. He probably wasn't trying to be mean, but come on, Jim.

Garner passed away in 2014, a few months after the 10th anniversary of the film. In the VH1 special, Cassavetes told the rest of the story, and said after the exchange with Garner, Gosling looked at him and said, "Shut up — don't even say a word." Hey Ryan, we'll talk to you about whatever you want.

Ryan Gosling was cast because nobody else wanted to be Noah

According to Nicholas Sparks, not many actors were interested in playing Noah. In fact, he says "nobody" did. Many actors that were approached asked about Noah's arc – and determined that he pretty much didn't have one. The reason it took so long to develop the movie (the rights were sold in 1995 and the movie was made in 2004) was because of the simple fact that none of Hollywood's leading men were interested in being Noah. Who, incidentally, is considered one of the most romantic male characters in cinema history. And, Sparks says Gosling brought the character to life, even if he didn't write a whole lot of life into him. Take that, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, and all the other prominent actors who turned down the role.

The movie setting and the novel setting are different

Sparks sets his novels in North Carolina, his home state. The Notebook, his first novel, was set in New Bern, North Carolina, which just happens to be Sparks' home. So why did the movie take place in South Carolina? Apparently, when the film crew came down south to scout locations, they visited South Carolina and liked it. They even changed the movie's setting to an imaginary place called Seabrook, South Carolina rather than pretending the gorgeous South Carolina scenery was, in fact, North Carolinian.

The film commissioner with the South Carolina film office, at the time of the movie release, said the retirement home, in conjunction with the suppliers and crew available in South Carolina, gave New Line "the biggest creative bang for their dollar." Monk also said South Carolina wasn't above stealing from their neighboring state. Southern gentility, my Aunt Fannie's left foot, as they say.

Cassavetes wanted Ryan Gosling for Noah — because he wasn't handsome

Director Nick Cassavetes wanted Ryan Gosling, former Mickey Mouse Club alum, for the role of Noah Calhoun. Gosling went to Cassavetes' home, where the director said "I want you to play this role because you're not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood. You're not handsome, you're not cool, you're just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts." Hurrumph.

It's safe to say that many, many people have come to disagree with Cassavetes' assertion of the Hollywood heartthrob. In fact, in 2011, fans protested outside People magazine headquarters when Bradley Cooper was unveiled as that year's "Sexiest Man." There are even rumors Gosling has been in the running for the title, and refused. Jess Cagle, editorial director for People, said in 2014 that she looked forward to the day Ryan would be Sexiest Man, so it isn't for sure he's turned down the honor. But, where there's smoke, there's fire, and this boy is smoking hot.

The Notebook wasn't, in fact, Sparks' first novel

While The Notebook was Nicholas Sparks' first published solo novel, he actually had two unpublished novels under his belt when he started writing Noah and Allie's story. He did co-write a book called Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding with his friend Billy Mills prior to The Notebook. But those first two novels, The Passing and The Royal Murders, were never published, and Sparks says they never will be. He says he considers those novels "an apprenticeship of sorts," and that they weren't good enough to be published. Apparently, he never tried to publish The Passing, and The Royal Murders was rejected by publishers and agents.

The Passing came to be because he suffered a sports injury that ended his track-and-field career. He was just sitting around that summer, feeling sorry for himself, and his mother told him to "go write a book or something." He didn't write what he knew, choosing instead to go what GQ calls "a Stephen King pastiche." Sparks says the few people who have read the novel were "very kind." We'd still like to read them, Nicholas. No judgement.

The Notebook was inspired by a real couple

On Sparks' own website, he tells the story of his inspiration for The Notebook. He says his wife's grandparents were unable to come to their wedding, and that made his wife very sad. The day after the wedding, his wife asked him to do something for her. She asked him to put on his tuxedo, and she put on her wedding dress. She gathered flowers she'd brought back to the hotel from the reception, a video of the wedding and a piece of wedding cake, and went to her grandparents' house. Her grandfather even put on a sports jacket and pinned a boutonniere to his lapel. They took photographs and had a wonderful time, and the nice couple told Sparks their story.

That story, told by a couple who had been together for more than 60 years, touched Sparks almost as much as how his wife's grandparents acted together after such a long marriage. Sparks comments that after sixty years, they were acting the same way he and his wife, married one day, were. He thought it was a story of true love that lasts forever, and that's what he gave us with Noah and Allie in The Notebook.

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams hated each other at first

Despite the fantastic onscreen chemistry we saw in The Notebook, the leading actors did not get along very well. In fact, during one scene, as recalled by Nick Cassavetes, Gosling asked him if another actress could be brought in to read with him. Gosling said, "I can't. I can't do it with her. I'm just not getting anything from this." Rather than call in another actor, Cassavetes conducted an impromptu therapy session so Gosling and McAdams could work things out. Cassavetes said the session didn't result in smooth sailing, but things were better after that. Maybe natural chemistry can result in friction on set.

In a behind-the-scenes video, we learn that the casting directors tested 10 different high-profile actresses and then Rachel McAdams came in and, as far as the casting director was concerned, Allie was found. Cassavetes and Gosling agreed. So, despite some rocking filming moments, we ended up with sodden hankies and full hearts because the perfect Noah and Allie charmed us, and Gosling and McAdams went on to win Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards and be a couple in real life, until their breakup in 2007.

One of the best-loved movies and books of all time has to have some secrets. We're just glad things worked out the way they did and we still have a film to switch on or a book to grab when we need a good cry. Grab a box of tissues experience it again, now that you know more about the real story.

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