With each new romantic drama released, it becomes increasingly difficult to put a new spin on a boy-meets-girl love story. Hitting theaters March 23, “Midnight Sun” succeeds in creating a romantic drama that separates itself from the innumerable love stories which precede it.
The PHOENIX attended the press screening of “Midnight Sun” and interviewed director Scott Speer (“Step Up Revolution”), and lead actors Bella Thorne (“Shake It Up,” “The DUFF”) and Patrick Schwarzenegger (“Stuck in Love,” “Grown Ups 2”) about their upcoming film.
“Midnight Sun” is centered around 17-year-old Katie Price (Thorne) who suffers from Xeroderma pigmentosum, a life-threatening condition which causes sensitivity to sunlight. Being cooped up in her house all her life with only her father (Rob Riggle) and best friend (Quinn Shephard) for companionship, Katie develops a crush on Charlie (Schwarzenegger), whom she secretly watched from her bedroom window every day since they were kids. After the two finally meet, they fall in love, and Katie is faced with the question of whether or not she can ever have a happy ending.
Speer said his intention in directing this film was for anyone who views “Midnight Sun” to relate to the storyline and its characters.
“I love great love stories, and I felt like the best part about a good love story is that you get swept up in it,” Speer said. “If you’ve been in love, you resonate with it. If you’re going to be in love, it’s like coming attractions, and if you were in love, you remember that time. It has that universal pull.”
Thorne and Schwarzenegger’s chemistry is just as palpable in person as it is on screen. During the conference, the two mentioned they were acquaintances prior to working together on “Midnight Sun,” and as they filmed the movie, they grew closer as friends, according to Schwarzenegger. Thorne said she would always bake Schwarzenegger sweets.
“She hit my sweet spot,” Schwarzenegger said. “She made me food all the time.”
Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Charlie in “Midnight Sun” is the actor’s first lead role. Schwarzenegger said he was nervous about his upcoming “chemistry reads,” where potential leads read lines with the already-cast actors to determine who best fits the role, so he texted Thorne — without Speer’s knowledge — to rehearse lines prior to the audition.
“Lucky for me, I had Bella’s number and we were friendly before, and so I had messaged her, and she met me a few hours before the chemistry reads,” Schwarzenegger said. “It helped me so much because this was my first [lead role] and a chemistry read is nerve-wrecking. … She helped me be comfortable and really helped me in the room, and I can’t thank her enough for it.”
“Midnight Sun” is a tear-jerking romantic drama infused with powerful familial dynamics between biological family and the family created through friendship and love. The movie is laced with funny dialogue, as a result of Thorne and Riggle’s keen comedic senses. Without this humor, the film would be a complete sob-fest.
“Comedians sometimes make the best dramatic actors because if you can laugh at life, there’s a lot going on to be able to understand [life] on that level,” Speer said. “[Thorne and Riggle] really got each other because they knew how to sit in a scene and make it funny and let it organically become something much deeper, without it feeling like a manufactured turn into something dramatic. Usually comedians follow their gut.”
Although “Midnight Sun” is almost certain to induce tears, once viewers overlook the hardships of Katie’s disease, they’ll find the beauty and inspiration in Katie and Charlie’s authentic desire for everlasting, passionate love.
“We couldn’t have had a better cast because Pat came in and had the exact contrast that I needed to Bella’s free-wheeling comedy,” Speer said. “And then comes Pat’s intuitive understanding of what he wants and what’s right in the world, which he brought to Charlie.”
Thorne, whose father died of a motorcycle accident when she was 9 years old, was drawn to the father-daughter relationship between her character and Riggle’s. Thorne said she always looks for a father figure on set, and Riggle served as that figure for her during this project.
“What I thought was so sweet was that we filmed on Halloween and [Riggle] made sure in the contract that he had Halloween off so he could fly back home and spend it with his kids,” Thorne said. “I think that’s something that really spoke to me because a lot of actors don’t do that.”
The relationship between Katie and her father is essential to the plot of “Midnight Sun,” because it proves laughter and a positive attitude can mute even the harshest pain and sadness. The pair’s unique bond is evident in an emotional scene when Katie — who wants nothing but happiness for her loving father — makes him an online dating profile, in hopes he might meet someone with whom he shares common interests, such as photography.
“The scene in the movie where I talk to my father in the kitchen and we talk about the dating app — I have dreamt about having that conversation so many times with my own mother, who’s a single mom,” Thorne said. “I felt so connected to Katie because of this relationship she has with her dad. I’ve always wanted that.”
“Midnight Sun” encapsulates the beauty of being in love through the use of music and comedy. As a result of her character’s deep passion for music, Thorne was able to reconnect with the former singer-songwriter aspect of herself.
“Music is such a big part of [Katie], so if I want to have Katie, then I can’t be choosy,” Thorne said. “I’ve got to have all of her. … I thank [Speer] for it every day because now, I’m actually doing so much music, and if I didn’t do this and if [he] didn’t push me to do all those songs, then I probably wouldn’t be doing music again.”
Thorne said music wasn’t something she was ever interested in pursuing again, but after a great deal of persistence from Speer, Thorne agreed to record several songs for “Midnight Sun” and its soundtrack.
“All the songs in the movie really serve their function and speak to both Charlie’s character and Katie’s character,” Speer said. “Whenever you can use music, you can speak to someone in a way that articulation won’t accomplish and I think that both Pat and Bella were really on board with making those moments happen.”
“Midnight Sun” will premiere in theaters nationwide March 23.