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James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan get candid

Hollywood stars James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan on their upcoming film The Best of Me, Bollywood and why they aren’t shy of television

It’s not often that Hollywood actors come to Mumbai to promote their films. Given the fact the market share of American movies backed by Hollywood studios is only 10 per cent in India, it’s indeed a rarity to spot film stars from the West. Unless they are on a secret vacation and avoiding shutterbugs at all cost! These are the some of the reasons why we were intrigued to learn that James Marsden (of the X:Men fame) and Michelle Monaghan (feted for her strong part in True Detective) were in town for the promotions of their latest film based on Nicholas Sparks’ romantic novel: The Best of Me. Making the most of the event, hitlist sat down with the two and had a freewheeling chat.

James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan
James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan are on their maiden visit to the country. Pic/Sameer Markande

Q. The late Paul Walker was the first choice for the role you play in the film. What was your reaction when you were offered the part?
A. James Marsden (JM): I don’t remember my first reaction. It was really tragic to learn about his demise and I can’t say enough about how good he was not only as an actor but also as a person. When they finalised me, all my thoughts were directed towards making sure I do justice to the role.

Q. Michelle, what exactly do you look for when you’re offered a script?
A. Michelle Monaghan (MM): I look for material that I haven’t come across before. As an actor, you don’t want to repeat yourself. If you do that, they’ll stereotype you and you don’t want that to happen. I took up The Best of Me because I always like Nicholas Sparks’ writing. Besides, I was getting an opportunity to work with a director such as
Michael Hoffman.

Q. As the film is about a classic love story, did you two hit off easily on the sets?
A. JM: I always wanted to work with Michelle as I’ve been a huge admirer of her work. I’d only heard nice things about her — how amazing she is and all — so when the script came my way, I took it. Sometimes, you not only want to work with someone but also know beforehand that you will. This was certainly one of those cases. Also, we had time to know each other before actually get down to shoot in New Orleans. So that really helped.
MM: And we both are very easy-going people (laughs).
JM: Absolutely.

Q. Did you read the novel as a part of your preparation?
A. MM: No, I didn’t. Did you?
JM: I didn’t, either. But I’m sure Nicholas was okay with us not reading the novel because he knew that the script is relatively different from the novel. So we had our blueprint ready and we focused on the script as well as Michael’s direction.

Q. Would you call yourself a romantic?
A. MM: Totally.
JM: My biggest challenge was to act romantic because I’m not at all romantic in real life.
MM: That’s a lie.
JM: (Laughs)

Q. James, do people happen to call you Cyclops on the street?
A. JM: Yes, all the time. And they do this thing (places two fingers on his temple, a symbol associated with the X:Men character he plays) asking me to not take off my sunglasses or else I’ll kill them all (covers eyes with his palm).
MM: (Laughs) That’s hysterical!
JM: I know, but it’s fun at times.

Q. Will you be part of the upcoming season of True Detective?
A. MM: No, I don’t think so. They are coming up with something totally different from the first season and I’m not part of it.

Q. If you were asked to describe Matthew McConaughey (co-star in True Detective) in one word, what would that be?
MM: Let me think.
JM: “Alright”?
MM: (Laughs) No, no, he’s a very open person in every aspect of his life, be it in his work or with his family. And he’s very dedicated. When you’re working with him, he inspires you.
JM: That’s two words there. You can pick only one.
MM: Okay, okay. I’ll go with open.

Q. Speaking of television shows, do you see yourself going back to the small screen anytime soon?
A. JM: Why not? It’s not the medium, it’s the quality of writing that appeals to me. If a role is fascinating enough, I’d happily go back to television.
MM: Same here. I don’t think the medium makes much of a difference as long as you’re enjoying being part of something you believe in.

Q. Michelle, is it true that you once wanted to be a journalist?
A. MM: Yes, I pursued journalism in college but I didn’t wait to complete it as I had other plans. And here I am!

Q. How familiar are you with Indian cinema?
A. JM: Not as much as I’d love to be. Now that I’m finally here I’ll definitely enlighten myself.
MM: Ditto (smiles).

Q. Have you been to India before?
A. JM: Nope. This is my first visit and so far, I’ve only seen this hotel (smiles) but I hope to step out in the sun and explore for myself. I’m already loving the place.
MM: I reached a few days ago and I’ve been out and eating a lot (laughs). The food is amazing. But more importantly, I like the people. They are so warm and don’t seem bothered by the harsh weather.

Q. James, your work in Hairspray (2007) was all about music and dance. Do you fancy doing something of that in a
Bollywood movie?
A. JM: I simply love the way Indian films embrace musical elements so beautifully. I believe Hollywood needs more of that. Hairspray was one of the most joyous experiences for me as an actor. Every day was like a camp, trying to learn a new dance step or something. It was always about being in sync with the team and not just one actor on the stage. That’s something I love about filmmaking — the collaborative aspect of accomplishing something together.

Q. Lastly, are there any downsides of being a Hollywood star?
A. MM: I can’t think of any. Can you?
JM: I’d say the only downside is that you don’t get to spend as much time with your family as you’d normally like to. You’re constantly travelling and away from home.
MM: I’d second that.

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