1. The director, Nick Cassavetes, is the son of famed independent film director John Cassavetes — which explains the presence of Gena Rowlands, his mother, in the film. Nick Cassavetes and his sister — Zoe Cassavetes, the director of the Parker Posey-starring Broken Embraces — grew up on set with their parents, making movies as a family. Before Cassavetes got on board, the studio wanted Steven Spielberg for it, which wouldn’t be the first surprising thing Spielberg was almost attached to. He almost directed Twin Peaks, Cruising and Return of the Jedi.
2. Pre-Cassavetes, Tom Cruise and Justin Timberlake were thrown around for the role of Noah, but Cassavetes only had eyes for Ryan Gosling — the critical favorite who had appeared in The Believer and United States of Leland, as well as Remember the Titans and Murder By Numbers. Roger Ebert, at the time, called Gosling the finest actor of his generation — and this was years before Gosling finally gained Academy recognition. This would be for his role in Half Nelson, the first Canadian in 60 years to be nominated for an Oscar.
3. Of all of the movies Gosling has done, he’s most thankful for his role in The Believer, which he believes blazed the trail for how his career would pan out, balancing mainstream work and the indie movies that meant something to him — but didn’t get the same distribution. Because of it’s neo-Nazi subject matter, The Believer never got a theatrical pickup. Almost no studio would take a chance on it. However, while winning festival plaudits for Gosling, it ended up finding a home on cable — at Showtime.
4. A number of actresses were bandied about for Allie, including Britney Spears, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Biel and Ashley Judd. If Ashley Judd is that surprising to you, remember that Gosling was dating his older Murder By Numbers co-star, Sandra Bullock, at the time.
5. If you’re paying attention, #2 + #4 means that Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears could have starred in The Notebook together. Both of them starred with Gosling in The New Mickey Mouse Club — before moving onto become a tween star in Young Hercules, Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?
6. Although his co-stars Spears, Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez and Nikki DeLoach (the mom on Awkward.) lived together, Gosling resided in a trailer park with his parents. Ryan Gosling was their meal ticket, and his parents had no outside earnings. (Later, he did end up moving in with Justin Timberlake and his mother, so he lived with the guy he beat out for The Notebook.) Gosling credits his upbringing with being a loner today, as he has next to no close friends or acquaintances outside of his work, much like many of the characters he plays.
7. Gosling is notorious for taking his role preparation very seriously, as he goes method to get into character. When Peter Jackson cast him in The Lovely Bones, Gosling envisioned his role quite differently — growing a burly beard and packing on sixty pounds. When he showed up on set with his new body, Jackson fired him due to “creative differences,” hiring Mark Wahlberg instead. (#bigmistake) To prepare for The Notebook, Gosling resided in Charleston, South Carolina to get a feel for the location — rowing down the Ashley River and building furniture to get into character. He also built the wooden table his character uses in the movie.
8. This is reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis, who is a huge fan of Ryan Gosling. (But who isn’t?) For his role in The Crucible, Daniel Day-Lewis constructed the house his character’s family lived in — all from scratch. Both Day-Lewis and the Gos are currently on a break from acting.
9. Despite Gosling’s cred elsewhere — as an actor in Drive, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Half-Nelson and Crazy, Stupid, Love — The Notebook is still his most financially successful film. It’s also the most successful film by its director (whose next biggest grosser is John Q) and just edged out Dear John as the most successful Nicholas Sparks adaptation — by a cool million dollars. The Vow grossed more money for Rachel McAdams (who also made bank on Sherlock Holmes and Wedding Crashers, which both earned the exact same amount of money: $209 million dollars) but it’s not actually a Nicholas Sparks movie. It was, however, co-written by the creator of Friday Night Lights.
10. Although The Notebook was the last actual Nicholas Sparks movie McAdams was in, she did later act in The Lucky One, an Iraq veteran road buddy comedy from 2008. This has a remarkably similar name to the Nicholas Sparks novel The Lucky Ones, which came out the same year. The book was about an Iraq war veteran who comes home and begins having an affair with a woman whose photo he found while overseas. In the movie, they were played by Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling (Piper in Orange is the New Black), and it came out at almost the exact same time as The Vow — co-starring Channing Tatum, who was in Dear John, another weepy about a soldier and the woman he loves back home.
11. Fun note: This means that Plastics Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried were in a movie with Channing Tatum — and Lacey Chabert wasn’t. None for Gretchen Weiners. Lindsay Lohan was supposed to star with Tatum in a movie in 2007, called Poor Things, but had to drop out due to her constant stints in rehab.
12. Also, check out The Time Traveler’s Wife, the 2009 movie that spent over half a decade in production before it came out. Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company bought the rights to the book in 2003 — before Audrey Niffenegger’s hit book ever even hit the shelves. It was going to be developed as a vehicle for Pitt and his then wife, Jennifer Aniston, who announced their split two years later. Following their divorce, the project got thrown around a lot. At one time, Gus Van Sant was going to direct it but it later got left to Flightplan’s Robert Schwentke to direct — with a script by Bruce Joel Rubin of Ghost. The earliest draft of the screenplay was written by Jeremy Leven, who wrote the script for The Notebook. Leven would have written his version before The Notebook ever came out — for a film that his Notebook leading lady, Rachel McAdams, ended up starring in.
13. Ryan Gosling allegedly hated Rachel McAdams on set, finding her difficult to work with. Gosling felt that McAdams was so “uncooperative” that he had a difficult time looking her in the face during his scenes — and demanded that another actress to be brought in to replace her in his takes, so he could at least look at someone else. When Nick Cassevetes shot Gosling down, the two began shouting at each other. Gosling said on the subject: “We inspired the worst in each other. It was a strange experience, making a love story and not getting along with your co-star in any way.”
14. However, it worked in the movie’s favor, making their love-hate relationship and their bickering more real — because it was real. On top of winning the MTV Best Kiss award, Gosling and McAdams got cited the Best Movie Kiss of All-Time by Entertainment Weekly in 2011. (I’m also partial to From Here to Eternity and that upside down Spider-Man kiss, for the record.)
15. After filming, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling had a much publicized romance but it’s a wonder they never met before the shoot even started. The two grew up in and around London in Ontario, Canada and were even born in the same hospital. The two sparked their romance years later while meeting up in New York City, when Gosling decided he had been wrong about her. They started dating in 2005, right before Wedding Crashers came out, and broke up in 2007. Like in the Hollywood version of their romance, they tried to get back together in late 2008 — which was short-lived. Life just isn’t the movies.
16. At the time of filming, McAdams was still working in Canada on a wildly popular (and really good) Canadian television show called Slings and Arrows, starring Guy Maddin fav Mark McKinney (SNL, Kids in the Hall) and Sarah Polley’s father, Michael, a famed Canadian actor.
17. Before landing The Notebook, McAdams’ only major film role was The Hot Chick, starring Rob Schneider. She reportedly got the call that she nabbed the part while at the premiere for the film — a movie in which she played a character remarkably similar to her Mean Girls character, Regina George. Tina Fey said that the reason they cast McAdams in the part, instead of Lindsay Lohan (who wanted it real bad) was that Rachel McAdams was Canadian and so nice — and you needed a nice girl to play mean. McAdams’ breakout roles in The Notebook and Mean Girls were released less than two months apart. 2004 was her year.
28. For the movie, Nick Cassavetes made Ryan Gosling wear color contacts — because he wanted to make sure that Gosling and James Garner had the same eye color. Garner has brown eyes, instead of Gosling’s famously piercing blue eyes. (The Guardian once referred to him as “Ol’ Blue Eyes.”) However, Cassavetes didn’t seem to care much about Rachel McAdams — who has hazel eyes, as opposed to Gena Rowlands’ blue blinkers.
19. In addition to Rowlands, Gosling and Garner, the movie features two more Oscar nominees: Joan Allen and Sam Shepard. They have eight Oscar nominations between them — with Allen in the lead at three. However, Sam Shepard (Jessica Lange’s longtime partner, until their recent split) has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three time for playwriting — and won once, back in 1979 for Buried Child.
20. In the 1970s, Shepard dated punk godmother Patti Smith, and they even wrote a play together in 1971, called Cowboy Mouth. They reunited professionally in 2011 to record music for Smith’s most recent album, shortly after Shepard’s split from Jessica Lange. Lange was recently rumored to be having an affair with her American Horror Story co-star Sarah Paulson, who semi-recently broke up with her partner, Cherry Jones (aka President Taylor on 24). They both deny it, but in my head, they would make a kick-ass couple.
20. Although The Notebook was the third book Nicholas Sparks had actually completed, it was the first to get published. Sparks got a million dollar advance on the book after a literary agent found the novel hanging out in a slush pile at her agency. The book spent over a year on the bestseller list. The Notebook debuted on the NYT list in within its first week of release. Sparks says that the novel was inspired by his wife’s grandparents, married for over six decades. Although the book came out in 1997, the movie oddly coincided with the death of Ronald Reagan, who had been fighting Alzheimer’s Disease for years. He died just 20 days before the movie came out.
21. Two Sparks adaptations came before The Notebook — Message in a Bottle in 1999 and A Walk to Remember in 2002 — but The Notebook was his first breakout success in film. Since The Notebook came out nine years ago, there’s been an average of one Nicholas Sparks movie every two years. This doesn’t include fare like The Vow, Here on Earth and Letters to Juliet — all of which fall into the category of Sparks knock-offs. He currently has three TV shows in development and two more movies. So he’s not going away anytime soon.