This Valentine’s Day Alex Pettyfer find romance with Gabriella Wilde in “Endless Love,” a moving portrait of a young couple that fights against all odds for love. The romantic drama centers on the story of Jade Butterfield (Wilde) and David Elliot (Pettyfer) whose instant attraction sparks a love affair made only more reckless by parents trying to keep them apart. Opening February 14th, the entertaining film directed by Shana Feste also stars Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick and Rhys Wakefield.
At the film’s recent press day, Pettyfer talked about his favorite romantic movies that inspired him, what it was like working with Wilde, getting to know one another, filming their romantic scenes together and striking the right romantic tone, what he learned from veteran actors Greenwood and Patrick, why he enjoyed bonding with the multicultural cast, his favorite songs from the movie’s soundtrack, what he remembers about his first love, his advice for guys dealing with parents, and his special plans with his mom for Valentine’s Day.
Here’s what he had to say:
QUESTION: How did you strike the right tone of romance and romantic feelings in this? Also, what were some of your favorite romantic films before this and what informed your character on this?
ALEX PETTYFER: What I love about this movie is that it’s about two young people falling in love for the first time and that naivete that they have which was very inspiring for me to do the movie. It’s also a love of these movies, like “Love Story” which is one of my favorite love films of all time with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, that touch on the basis of what they have to do when they fall in love and then get married and have children. This movie doesn’t touch on that subject. It’s about pure love and the consequences that come with that of being a young man and a young woman. My favorite film is “Love Story.” For romantic comedies, I’ll give you “Love Actually” and “Bridget Jones.” Please do not judge. (Laughs) This film was great. I’m 23 and turning 24 soon. I think when you’re my age, you want to have an aura of a man. You want to be a man. To do this film, you had to go back and become a child again to feel all those feelings for the first time. I think that’s a really scary thing for anyone to act like a child and have those innate feelings that come to you. Shana (director Shana Feste) was great guiding me at that. I guess that’s why I wanted to be a part of this.
Q: For you, going mano a mano with Bruce Greenwood, did you find him intimidating at all, even outside of his character being such a mean guy?
PETTYFER: People ask me, “Why do you love making films?” and I always turn around and I say, “Because I love film. I hope that I can call myself a movie buff.” To work with Bruce Greenwood, and even Robert Patrick, is an incredible experience for someone like me, someone who’s just starting out and hopefully will have longevity. To work with him and his work ethic and the way he approaches a scene is mind blowing to me. The guy picks out things that I don’t even notice. I could go on for days. There was a scene where we sit down for the dinner. He gives the telescope to Gabriella (Wilde) and he says, “I want the placematting set for my lost child.” He goes, “I want an empty seat there. My character would still set the table because I’m still in mourning.” I wouldn’t even think of that. In the original scene, which I don’t think made it into the movie, I go to sit down in that seat and he goes, “Don’t sit there.” That’s something that he comes up with. He adds layers to a scene. As a young actor, that’s amazing to walk away and realize I would never look at something like that before. And now, as I go on in my career, I can hopefully do the same and look into that kind of stuff.
Q: In the original incarnations of David, he’s a little more unstable and there’s definitely some volatility to him. As much as we empathize with him, as the end of the process comes along, we realize he’s not this wonderful guy. How much was it a process in the making of this movie to tone that down and make it more accessible so audiences have an empathy with him?
PETTYFER: The thing with Shana’s “Endless Love” and the movie that I’m part of, we wanted to start the movie where David has made a conscious decision to change his life for the better. We access the movie at a point where he’s already a little bit in love with Jade, and when they meet at the valet, that is just a moment that’s been waiting to happen for four years. We didn’t want to indulge in something that he was a part of in the past. We just wanted it to be his past and something that loitered around him. We wanted a guy, and I think I can say this and speak on behalf of women, that I think every woman wants, a man that just loves them and wants to lust after them, and we didn’t want to have any baggage with that. We wanted the baggage to be history that came up in the movie. So, you see David in hopefully one of the best times in his life and meeting this woman is an incredible thing for him. It only makes him want to strive to be a better man and change the way he’s going in his life and want to go to college.
Q: Robert Patrick has my favorite line in this movie where he says, “Embarrass yourself. It builds character.” I’m curious if you have any favorite character building experiences you’d like to share with us?
PETTYFER: (Laughs) Character building experiences? On dates with women? Wow! I’m literally lost for words. I’m trying to think of something that has built me. My father. I’m going to go sentimental. Nothing embarrassing, but hopefully I can call myself a gentleman because of my father. I know that doesn’t really answer the question but…
Q: If you think of something…
PETTYFER: I’ll dive right back in.
Q: Also, in the movie, we’ve seen this replicated many times, the curse of the super attractive person and “Nobody wants to ask me out. Woe is me!”
PETTYFER: Yeah, which by the way was one of the problems I had signing onto the movie. I sat down with the studio, and excuse my language, I said, “Whoever wouldn’t fucking go out with that girl is nuts because she is beautiful!” I said, “How is she going to play someone who is awkward?” I know what you’re saying, but Gabriella comes across like she does the awkwardness to a T. And I don’t mean to say this, because she’s not like this. She’s a very beautiful woman, but she has this in the movie and it’s how she plays Jade. She’s very awkward and shut off. People say, “How can someone that beautiful not have friends?” I certainly know if there was a beautiful woman standing there, I would have a very hard time going up to her.
Q: How comfortable are you with going up to somebody that you’ve never met before who you find attractive? Do you have to wait for a particular moment or are you brave and bold?
PETTYFER: When I was 18 years of age, I was at a party and I had just done a movie, and I didn’t know what it was like for someone to recognize you. She’s my friend now. She’s a mother now, but she was probably 24 at the time and I was 18 and she comes up. This tall brunette comes up to me and she says, “Excuse me. Are you Alex?” and I turned around and went, “Uh, uh, uh…yeah” and she’s like, “I really thought you were good in the movie and I just wanted to come up and say hi.” I was like, “Uhh…” I couldn’t speak. I’m so terrible. When it comes to talking to women, I’m the worst. I don’t know what to say. I come over very, very geeky.
Q: What was it like working with Gabriella and how was the chemistry between you guys?
PETTYFER: Gabriella was amazing. She was actually a part of this movie before I was. I mean, just to work with her, it was great. She’s very easy going. She’s English, I’m English, and there was a connection that we could build off there. Shana set the atmosphere and the environment for us to become close and become friends, because you’ll find that it’s very hit and miss with that kind of stuff. I had a lovely time with her and hopefully it came across on screen.
Q: Can you talk a bit about the kissing scenes with Gabriella? Did you do any preparation for that?
PETTYFER: (Laughs) It’s so awkward. We had a scene where we make love for the first time. She’s very awkward. She’s never done it. You think these things are romantic and sensual. You come in your robe, and it’s all quiet, and you take off your robe. You start to kiss Gabriella, and you look to your right, and there’s a big, burly man standing there with a light over you going, “Just move to the right a little bit, mate.” And you’re like, oh, okay, this is not so romantic, so the nerves go away very fast.
Q: Bruce has a moment when he says to you, “Do you want her to see the real you?” In that moment, I thought the real him is somebody who punches a guy who’s being a jerk. He’s really standing up for the woman that he cares about. Do you feel like there should be more guys like that out there?
PETTYFER: It’s so hard nowadays because I’m a hopeless romantic. I say it very loudly and proudly and I get a lot of stick for it. We live in a world where it’s so accessible to date now, which is great. I mean, I don’t judge that. We have so many ways of meeting people. But, in romance, I like to meet someone and have the chivalry to take them out on a date and to actually be a gentleman. I think it’s becoming rarer and rarer when I consider the experiences that I’ve had in my life between my dad and my brother and all the men in my life who have all been gentlemen and have looked after women. I don’t know if we would go so far to say that we would punch someone in the face, but we would definitely stand up for our ladies.
Q: But there is something a little romantic about punching out a guy for your lady? Let’s be honest.
PETTYFER: (Laughs) Sometimes it’s more attractive to use your words and intelligence than your fists.
Q: You look so All-American in this movie and the Butterfields is such an All-American looking family, but you, Gabriella and Joely are all British. How was that on set and were you making tea and talking football?
PETTYFER: Gabriella and Joely did not talk about football. I tried to talk to them about football, but it didn’t work. No, it was so nice to be on a movie with other English people and just have that. In our culture, English people love to bond together, and it was amazing to be able to be doing a movie with them. But also, Bruce is Canadian and Rhys is Australian, so we had a multi-cultured film going on with different personalities. It was nice. Everyone was lovely.
Q: Is there a song on the movie soundtrack that you prefer over all the others?
PETTYFER: Yes, I love the song, “Endless Love.” But is there a song on the soundtrack? Let me see. Let me have a look. I’ve been saying all day I love “Don’t Find Another Love” by Tegan and Sara Quin. That’s a great song. I also think “Ends of the Earth” is a great song. It’s a great soundtrack. Shana and Universal did an amazing job.
Q: What do you remember about your first love?
PETTYFER: I think that first love defines you and your relationships for the rest of your life. I had a great first love. I mean, my heart ripped out of my chest but I think that happens to everyone. When you fall in love for the first time, and I know this because I’ve experienced this in the movie that I just made, you’re naïve to every feeling that you’re feeling. You’re almost obsessed with that person or addicted. Your life consumes them and everything you want to do revolves around them. I think it’s great.
Q: Do you still try to find the same emotion?
PETTYFER: I think your emotion changes between person to person as you get older. That’s why a lot of people become cynical because of the experiences that they have had and haven’t been able to let go of, whether they’ve been cheated on or whether it hasn’t worked out. It’s so easy to turn around right now and say, “Just let it go and you may have good relationships and you may have bad.” You just have to roll with it and still truly believe and not be cynical, but it’s hard. You go through four relationships where you’re not happy and you’ve been cheated on or whatever. I’m not saying this has happened to me. I’m not saying this has happened to [others]. I’m just talking in the broad scope of things. You have to still believe. I think that’s what upsets me the most and why I wanted to make this movie. It’s because I truly believe in love, and I think that every relationship should start the way that our relationship started with our first love when we were 16, 17 or 18.
Q: Do you have any advice for guys on how to deal with girls’ parents? How should they behave? What’s the way to win them over?
PETTYFER: Win them over? Ask this guy, he thinks punching them in the face. (Laughs) I don’t know. I’ve been asked this all day today. I have never been in a situation thankfully where I haven’t gotten along with my girlfriend’s parents. I’ve been very lucky to have girlfriends that have had such amazing families that have brought me in. I’ve really actually grown with my girlfriends and the people that they’ve introduced me to and the way that I’ve been welcomed in by their families. I’m a very, very lucky man.
Q: This is a Valentine’s Day movie. If you haven’t had the greatest Valentine’s Day yet, what would your ideal Valentine’s Day be like?
PETTYFER: Well, I’ve tried to get the sympathy vote today by telling every interviewer that is female that I have no date, and not one of them has turned around and said, “Oh, I’ll be your date.” My mom is coming out on Valentine’s Day and she’s going to be my date. I said to her, “What do you want to do on Valentine’s Day, mom?” and she went, “I want to go see ‘Endless Love.’” I said, “Okay. I’ll set up a screening for you.” She said, “No. No screening for me. We’re going to The Grove and we’re going to sit there and we’re going to watch it in a movie theater.” So I said, “Alright.”