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The Last Song is an upcoming 2010 American coming of age drama film starring Miley Cyrus and directed by Julie Anne Robinson. Nicholas Sparks was approached to write both the film's screenplay and the novel by the same name. Sparks completed the screenplay in January 2009, prior to the completion of the novel. Imagined as a star vehicle to introduce Cyrus to older audiences, the film's storyline follows a troubled teenager, played by Cyrus, and her estranged father, played by Greg Kinnear, as they reconnect with each other through music during a summer in a quiet Southern beach town. The film also stars Kelly Preston and Liam Hemsworth and is produced by Offspring Entertainment for Touchstone Pictures, an alternative film label of The Walt Disney Company. The Last Song is Sparks' first screenplay to be brought to film as well as Robinson’s feature film directorial debut.

The plot, originally set in North Carolinamarker like the novel, moved to Georgiamarker after states campaigned for months to host production. Upon beginning production in Tybee Island, Georgiamarker and nearby Savannahmarker, The Last Song became the first movie to be shot and set in Tybee Island. Filming lasted from June 15 to August 18, 2009 with much of it occurring on the island's beach and pier. The film was originally scheduled for release on January 8, 2010, but has since been postponed to April 2, 2010. The Last Song has been rated "PG" by the United States' film rating system.

Plot

At seventeen, Veronica "Ronnie" Miller remains as rebellious and distant as she was the day after her parents' ugly divorce and father's subsequent relocation to Georgia. Once a classical piano prodigy under the tutelage of her father, Steve, Ronnie now rejects the instrument in favor of partying with her friends and has not spoken to her father since he left. Although Ronnie has been accepted to Juilliard Schoolmarker, she refuses to attend.

Now, Steve is given the chance to reconnect with his estranged daughter when her mother, Kim, sends the rebellious teen and her younger brother, Jonah, to spend the summer with him. Steve, a former Juilliardmarker professor and concert pianist, now lives a quiet life in Tybee Island, the small Georgia beach town where he grew up, working on a stained glass window for the local church to replace the one the church lost in a fire.

Upon arrival, Ronnie is miserable, hostile and defensive toward all those around her, including handsome, popular Will Blakelee - until, after both she and Will become involved in protecting a Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest, she discovers he is deeper than she believed. As Ronnie falls in love with Will, she also manages to bond with Steve through the one thing they have in common- music.

Cast

  • Miley Cyrus as Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, an angry seventeen year old forced to spend a summer with her estranged father.


  • Bobby Coleman as Jonah Miller, Ronnie's younger brother sent along with his elder sister to Tybee Island.
  • Kelly Preston as Kim, Ronnie and Jonah's mother who raised her children in New York City after her divorce.


  • Greg Kinnear as Steve Miller, Ronnie and Jonah's father and former Juilliardmarker professor and concert pianist who moved to Georgia after his divorce. During the summer, Steve reconnects with Ronnie through their mutual love of music. With Jonah's help, Steve also works to reconstruct the centerpiece of the local church, a stained glass window, after the original was destroyed in a fire.




  • Nick Lashaway as Marcus, the leader of a gang of thugs who hustle money from beach carnival crowds through spectacular fire juggling performances.


  • Carly Chaikin as Blaze, a rebel who befriends Ronnie when she is sent to Georgia. However, Blaze betrays Ronnie when she frames Ronnie for shoplifting a watch.




  • Nick Searcy as Tom Blakelee, Will's father.
  • Melissa Ordway as Ashley. Will broke up with Ashley after a two-year relationship shortly before the start of summer, and Ashley is desperate to win him back. Ashley is close friends with Cassie.
  • Carrie Malabre as Cassie, Ashley's best friend who aids Ashley in antagonizing Ronnie.
  • Rhoda Griffis as a Doctor


  • Lance E. Nichols as Pastor Charlie Harris, the kind, devout Pastor of the local church. He was Steve's first piano teacher, parental figure, and best friend while Steve was growing up.
  • Hallock Beals as Scott, Will's jealous best friend who tries to create trouble between Will and Ronnie.
  • Stephanie Leigh Schlund as Megan Blakelee, Will's elder sister who is engaged to be married. She and Will developed a close bond following the drowning of their younger brother, Mike, five years ago.


Production

Development

Actress Miley Cyrus sits in make-up on set.
The Last Song began when Disney executive Jason Reed met with Miley Cyrus to discuss her future career plans. At the time, Cyrus had been known mainly for starring as a secret pop star on Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, a children's television series that expanded into a globally successful media franchise. As the series neared its end, Disney hoped to create a star vehicle to help Cyrus break out of the pop persona she had developed through the franchise and to introduce Cyrus to older audiences. In her meeting with Reed, Cyrus expressed a desire to film a movie similar to A Walk to Remember, a 2002 film based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Coincidentally, A Walk to Remember helped Mandy Moore, then a teen pop star much like Cyrus, launch an acting career. Disney called Adam Shankman, director of A Walk to Remember, who signed on to produce the potential Cyrus film along with his sister and Offspring Entertainment production company partner, Jennifer Gibgot. Cyrus' mother, Tish Cyrus, became the film's executive producer. Cyrus' acting representation, United Talent Agency, then contacted Sparks, also a UTA client, to ask if he had plans for a novel appropriate for a film adaptation starring Cyrus.

At the time, Sparks had been wrapping up The Lucky One and beginning to ponder an original plot for his next book. The author told himself he could "either go younger than 20 or older than 50", having recently written about every age in between. Wary of venturing above 50 again after his memorable hit The Notebook, Sparks was already leaning toward writing a teenage story when he received a phone call from Gibgot on behalf of the film in August 2008. Sparks recalled, "Jennifer asked if I had anything laying around? I said no, but funny you should say that…" Sparks returned with a premise by the end of July 2008. Once the proposal had been agreed upon by Cyrus, her family, and Offspring Entertainment, Sparks began work on the screenplay before starting the book. Sparks explained that such an arrangement was necessary in order to accommodate filming in summer 2009, as Disney had scheduled, but that "this is similar to the way it’s gone with movies based on my novels; it’s just out of order." Sparks completed the first draft of the screenplay in December 2008, the first rewrite later that month, and the second and final rewrite in January 2009, following the hiring of the film's director. Both rewrites took approximately one or two days, and Sparks found them relatively simple. The finished screenplay was approximately 100 pages long. The Last Song is not the first screenplay Sparks has written, but it his first to be optioned for film. The novel was completed in June 2009, the same time shooting for the film began, and was published on September 8, 2009 by Grand Central Publishing. The plot of the film and novel remained secret throughout development.

Director Julie Anne Robinson talks to stunt coordinator Cal Johnson while Liam Hemsworth is coached on beach volleyball.
In March 2009, Disney announced that Julie Anne Robinson would be directing the film. The Last Song is Robinson's first feature length film, although she is a veteran of television episodes. Robinson previously helmed episodes of American series such as Weeds and Grey's Anatomy and earned a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA award for her work on the BBC series Viva Blackpool.

In a June 2009 entry on her official blog titled "A New Start", Cyrus said she had "always been a fan of Nicholas Sparks" and that she had been waiting to do a production separate from the Hannah Montana franchise "for a long time", but had not found the time to do so due to her tv show, music, tours, and Hannah Montana: The Movie. In order to film The Last Song, Cyrus' contract for season four of Hannah Montana included an extra long hiatus.

Writing and title

Recognizing the popularity of A Walk to Remember as both a novel and film, Sparks "put all [his] thoughts into that, trying to make the story as different from A Walk to Remember as [he could], but try to capture the same feelings." Sparks' experiences as a father and as a high school track and field coach also inspired the novel and helped to shape the family dynamics in the plot. The characters Jonah Miller and Will Blakelee are partially based on Sparks' sons Landon and Miles. Sparks felt Ronnie was the hardest character to write for because he had "never been a 17-year-old, angry teenage girl". Ronnie became a composite character inspired by several young women Sparks has known, such as his nieces. Cyrus herself influenced Ronnie fairly little, although her singing career did inspire the musical elements of the story. However, Ronnie plays only the piano and Cyrus does not sing in the film, though she does contribute to its soundtrack.

Disney did not give Sparks limitations on the topics featured in The Last Song, which include underage drinking, infidelity, terminal illness, and a gang of thugs, but Sparks says that Disney desired to work with him in part because "they’ve read my novels. My teenagers… don't do bad things. I just don’t write that. I don’t write about adultery, I don’t write profanity... I’ll certainly have love scenes in my novels, but they’re always between consenting adults.” Still, Sparks acknowledges that elements of the screenplay may have been toned down by the director or the studio after he finished. As dictated by the Writers Guild of America, Sparks receives full credit for his work although the amount of his original screenplay retained in the film is uncertain. For example, Sparks says the character of Marcus, leader of the gang of thugs, was likely altered for the film.

The project remained nameless for several months after Sparks' initial meeting with Disney in July 2008. Sparks wrote in a September 2008 online chat that "I have the idea completed, but no title. That's common for me though. Titles come last." The film was referred to as the "Untitled Miley Cyrus Project" and the "Untitled Nicholas Sparks Film" among other names. In March 2009, Variety magazine called the "The Last Song" a "tentative" title.

Casting

Cyrus chose the name "Ronnie" for her character in honor of her grandfather, Ron Cyrus, who died in 2006. Sparks altered the name to be short for "Veronica", but the character refers to herself as Ronnie throughout. The character had previously been named "Kirby" by Sparks and later changed to "Hilary" by the studio before Sparks offered Cyrus the chance to name her. Although Ronnie was created specifically for Cyrus, Sparks says he imagined Cyrus in the role "only a little" during the writing process and that her future portrayal bore no influence on his writing. Upon completion of the screenplay, Sparks was concerned that Cyrus would not be able to successfully execute the role: "The first thing I thought when I finished the screenplay was, wow, I hope she can do this, this is a tough role because I'm bringing you through a whole gamut of emotion and you're just a 16-year-old girl who's done the Disney Channel. Are you able to do this as an actress?" said Sparks. However, upon visiting the set and watching Cyrus film, Sparks' worries abated. To play the New York teen, Cyrus worked with a dialect coach to lose her Southern accent. After she finished filming, Cyrus said that in a case of life imitating art, she had matured and "changed a lot" over the course of her summer in Georgia, similar to the way Ronnie does in the film. "Showing this movie, I feel like I'm really showing a part of my growth as a person as well. So I'm really excited for people to see it."

In April 2009, Disney officials chose Rafi Gavron for the part of Will Blakelee, but switched to Australian actor Liam Hemsworth by May. According to Nikki Finke, Hemsworth had been in Los Angelesmarker for just three weeks and had not yet found an agent when he was cast. On May 18, 2009, the decision to cast Academy Award-nominee Greg Kinnear as Steve Miller was made final. Kelly Preston's part as Kim is the first role she has accepted since the death of her son, Jett Travolta. Adam Barnett landed the role of Teddy in May 2009 due to his already developed talent in juggling and hackey sack after being introduced to Cal Johnson, the film's stunt coordinator.

Filming

Move to Georgia

Nobody knows what's going to happen [...] Georgia wants them badly, and we want them badly, and by Monday, there'll be four or five other states that want them badly.—Bev Perdue, Governor of North Carolina
Sparks had originally set The Last Song in Wrightsville Beachmarker and Wilmingtonmarker in North Carolina. Though they wished to shoot on location, filmmakers also examined other states and identified Georgia as the next best filming site.Georgia’s housing prices were higher, but the state’s filming incentive package refunds 30% of production costs such as gasoline, pencils, and salaries. North Carolina’s package refunds 15% and excludes salaries of over $1 million. Still, Disney remained interested in North Carolina and offered to film there if the state would cut the amount they would save in Georgia, $1 million to $1.5 million, in half. North Carolina officials searched for ways to accomplish this, including applying unsuccessfully for state and Golden LEAF Foundation grants. They also introduced legislation to improve the state’s refund to 25%, which eventually passed on August 27, 2009. However, Disney decided to work within existing incentive laws and agreed to film in North Carolina as long as the film rights they had bought from Sparks counted as a production cost, thereby saving an additional $125,000 to $225,000. North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue set up a press conference on April 1, 2009 to announce N.C.’s victory. However, tax collectors refused to consider the film rights, forcing Perdue to cancel the conference at the last second. "I was hopeful to say that it was coming and now I don't know that I'll get to say that," Perdue said. "Nobody knows what's going to happen [...] I don't know what figures they got from Georgia, but Georgia wants them badly, and we want them badly, and by Monday [April 6, 2009], there'll be four or five other states that want them badly." Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, explains: "Disney makes feature films. They also make television series; they make individual movies for the Disney Channel. By losing this one project, in essence, we've lost all of those opportunities.” He also notes the loss of jobs and tourism created by Cyrus fans.

On April 9, 2009, after three months of deliberation, the decision to move to Georgia was made final. To determine the specific town, location scouts were sent to scour the state for an aged, isolated, oceanfront property to use as the Miller family’s home in the film. After another three months and the discovery of the “Adams Cottage” on the southern tip of Tybee Island, Tybee and neighboring locations became the sites of filming in late March, with the intention of masquerading the area as Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. However, the locale proved too unique to disguise. “We had a hard time trying to hide the fact that this was Tybee and Savannah was Savannah," said Bass Hampton, the film's location director. Filmmakers convinced Sparks to change the setting of the film and to Tybee Island, thus allowing them to incorporate landmarks such as the Tybee Island Light Stationmarker and the Savannah Historic Districtmarker. The setting of the novel remained in North Carolina. Though other movies have been filmed in Tybee Island, The Last Song is the first to actually be set in Tybee. With the city’s name plastered on everything from police cars to businesses, Georgia officials predict a lasting effect on the economy. In addition, The Last Song is estimated to have brought 250 to 500 summer jobs to Georgia, $8 million to local businesses, and $17.5 million to state businesses.

Sets

The Last Song crew members install propane pipes and gas lines to create a controlled burn for the bonfire scene.
Nelson Coates is the production designer for The Last Song, responsible for all visual aspects of the movie. Coates, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the Stephen King television miniseries The Stand, arrived 11 weeks prior to the start of filming to do prep work. While most of the filming took place on the natural Tybee Island beach or on pre-constructed private property, Coates oversaw the re-painting of the pier and the construction of the carnival and church.

Location scouts had searched the entirety of Georgia for an aged, isolated oceanfront property to use as a home for the Millers for nearly three months before scout Andy Young came across the "Adams Cottage" on the southern end of Tybee Island. "It was getting down to zero hour," said Young. "Often, it's about the house. It can be a character itself in the movie." The house's owner, Sam Adams, welcomed filming as "an opportunity to sort of immortalize the house," in case it is destroyed by storms. The two-story, six bedroom house was built by Adams' great-grandfather in 1918 and was made entirely out of hard pine wood with very few painted surfaces. According to Savannah Morning News reporter Lesley Conn, it "was built in classic rambling beach style [... designed] to allow ocean breezes to sweep through wide, wraparound porches into cool, heart-pine rooms."

The church set was built over a six week period in a vacant lot on the corner of 13th Street and Sixth Avenue, near residential homes. The one-room, 2,000 square foot building seats approximately 80 people and is estimated to be worth $250,000 to $350,000. Special-effects coordinator Will Purcell subdued concerns about the church burning scene by stating that the building would not actually be set on fire. The intended menacing effect is "all camera angles. It is a safe environment for actors to do their work." Several techniques were used to simulate the fire, including the use of propane pipes to shoot flames through the church windows. At the end of filming, Cyrus hoped to fly the church set back to her family's estate in Tennessee. However, Disney agreed to donate the building to the island after Tybee officials lobbied to keep it. The set will be moved south of the Tybee Island Light Station and brought up to code for use as a regular church.

Shooting schedule

Remnants of the carnival set, such as these flags and light strings, were re-established to create the illusion that the beach scenes filmed in late July had taken place during the festival filmed in June.
Cyrus' busy schedule necessitated that filming take place over the summer. Sparks noted, "She’s got a fall music tour and then she’s back filming Hannah Montana in the spring again. So the only time she had free in her schedule was over the summer."Principal photography began on June 15, 2009 and finished on August 18, 2009. Filming did not take place during weekends.

On the first day of production, Cyrus and Hemsworth filmed a kiss in the ocean. Other scenes which took place in June included the carnival and volleyball tournament, both of which were filmed on the beach near the Tybee Island pier. Filming at the pier wrapped up on June 23, 2009 after shooting the scene in which Kim drops off Ronnie and Jonah to live with Steve. Scenes of the church fire were shot on July 10, 2009. Filming at the Georgia Tech Savannah campus began on July 16. Kinnear finished taping on July 17, 2009. Wedding scenes and a key driving scene were filmed at the Wormsloe Historic Sitemarker between July 20 and July 23 for twelve hours each day. Driving scenes in Isle of Hope, Georgiamarker continued to the 28. By July 30, the movie had returned to Tybee Island for more beach scenes. Chaikin's character framed Cyrus' for stealing a watch on August 6. On August 10, Hemsworth performed an oil change and Cyrus browsed an upscale boutique in downtown Savannah for the movie. The funeral was filmed from August 11, 2009 to August 13, 2009 at the church set in Tybee Island. On August 15, further church burning scenes took place. The wrap party was held on the 16, and the cast and crew arrived in Atlanta, Georgiamarker the following day to spend the last days of filming at the Georgia Aquarium. After analyzing the area on the 17, the movie began shooting in public areas at dawn on the 18 to avoid crowds. Once the aquarium opened to the public at 10:00, filming shifted to behind-the-scenes areas.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Due to the conflicting personalities of his protagonist couple, Sparks faced difficulty in finding a vehicle that would draw Will and Ronnie to spend time together. “It had to be during the summer, she [Ronnie] had to be new in town, and whatever happened had to start in June and end in August. Because you always want a conclusion,” said Sparks of his requirements. He mentioned summer camp or a summer job as typical vehicles used in books, but dismissed them as unoriginal and boring. “So it’s got to be original, it’s got to be interesting, and at the same time it’s got to be universal, that you feel like it could happen to anybody.” Sparks eventually chose to have Will and Ronnie bond over a Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest, knowing that Loggerhead eggs often hatch in August. The scene of the hatching nest took place during the first week of August and involved 26 live Loggerhead Sea Turtle babies, called hatchlings. Hatchlings have an innate sense to head toward the ocean water as soon as they are born, so scenes of the nest hatching had to be taken swiftly. Said Mike Dodd of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the biologist who supervised the scene, the hatchlings "did all they know how to do: They crawled down to the water and swam off." Sparks told an interviewer he suspected filmmakers would digitally add more turtles to the scene. At the time of filming, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle was listed as a threatened species. The environmentally friendly theme was an added bonus to Tybee Island, which was then promoting ecotourism.

Post-production

The Last Song entered post-production following the end of filming on August 18, 2009. Automated dialogue replacement took place in mid-September; Beals and Chaikin stated they had gone in to record on September 11 and September 18 respectively. Chaikin said she had worked for five and a half hours. The director's cut was presented to the studio on October 1, 2009. The Motion Picture Association of America reviewed the film and issued it a PG rating for "thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language" three weeks later.

Score and soundtrack

At the launch of his album Cradlesong on June 30, 2009, Rob Thomas told the New York Daily News, "My buddy Adam Shankman, who just directed Miley’s movie, called me on the phone the other day and was like, ‘You have to write a song for this movie.'... I would definitely write a song for her [Cyrus].”

On August 1, 2009, songwriter and Grammy-award winning music producer, John Shanks, said he was working with Cyrus in a studio on a song for the film, entitled "When I Look at You". Shankman later confirmed the song as Cyrus' new single, for which he directed the music video on August 16, 2009. "When I Look at You", written by Shanks and Hillary Lindsey, is used as the second single from Cyrus' The Time of Our Lives extended play, which was released on August 31, 2009. Shankman tweeted that the music video would be released in October 2009, but it appeared on the internet on September 11, 2009. The video features Cyrus playing a grand piano and frolicking with Hemsworth in various Georgia locations while singing. A second version of the music video replaces scenes of Hemsworth and Cyrus frolicking with clips from the movie. Reception of the song has thus far been positive, with Variety magazine's Lael Lowenstein calling it an "almost inevitable hit single" and Allmusic's Heather Phares noting that "When she lets her [...] ballad-singing diva come to the fore, Cyrus really shines."

Release

Marketing

Upon the release of the novel on September 8, Sparks began a book tour reaching around 13 cities and gave several interviews. During these events, he discussed writing both the novel and the screenplay. Cyrus and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook discussed the film on September 11, 2009 at the first D23 Expo.

The first clips from the film appeared online on September 11, 2009, interspersed within one version of the "When I Look at You" music video. The film's first trailer was integrated into Cyrus' Wonder World Tour and premiered during the tour's opening night on September 14, 2009 in Portland, Oregonmarker. Midway through each concert, the trailer was shown on large video screens surrounding the stage. After it finished, Cyrus played a white piano and sang "When I Look at You" while film clips continued to play on the screens behind her. On November 16, 2009, the first three film stills were released via the film's Facebook page. The following day, the film's trailer premiered online.

Theatrical release

The Last Song had originally been scheduled for a January 8, 2010 release, but on September 22, 2009 it was announced the release had been delayed. The film is currently scheduled for a wide release on April 2, 2010. The delay was confirmed by statements from representatives for Disney and Cyrus, one of whom said "Easter weekend/spring break" would be a "better release date than January" for the film.

References

  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1294226/fullcredits#cast


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