Director Michael Hoffman has dabbled in love stories throughout his career.
He’s explored the complexities of relationships through the tempestuous love/hate push and pull of Leo and Sofya Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren) in the 2009 Oscar-nominated “The Last Station,” and wacky struggling single parents Jack and Maggie (George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer) in the 1999 romantic comedy “One Fine Day.” But his latest film, “The Best of Me,” is his first pure tale of romance and drama. It follows the lives of a couple from their adolescent passions to their mature longings, tinged with tragedy.
“It’s almost an old Hollywood romance in the vein of ‘Now Voyager’ or ‘Dark Victory,’ filled with love and tragedy and redemption,” Hoffman says of the two Bette Davis films. He spoke last week from Los Angeles, where he was finishing up the film.
Hoffman will be in Boise this weekend for an advance screening of “The Best of Me,” a benefit for Agency for New Americans and Boise Contemporary Theater. The film will be released nationally Oct. 17.
He also will bring two of the film’s stars, Michelle Monaghan (“Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” “True Detective”) and Liana Liberato (“If I Stay”), who play older and younger Amanda, respectively.
The stars will be on hand for the screening at the Egyptian Theatre and a post-screening reception at Berryhill and Co., 121 N. 9th St., Boise. Hoffman’s daughter, Phoebe, also will be there to perform a song she wrote and performed on the soundtrack.
This is one of many Boise premieres Hoffman has created to benefit the community. For past films, he has brought Sally Fields (“Soapdish”), Pfeiffer (“One Fine Day”) and Calista Flockhart (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) to Boise to help raise money for different causes.
Telling a love story like this was a joy, he says.
“This kind of movie is great material to work on with good actors,” he says. “And I had some great actors to work with. I think people will be really impressed with what they do.” Hoffman is known as an actors’ director and for honing scripts with nuance and intelligence.
He co-wrote this screenplay with J. Mills Goodloe and Will Fetters, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel.
“It’s a big part of my job to protect the story,” he says. “To do that, you need to be clear about what happens in each scene, and listen at the deepest level for the little pockets of truth that emerge. It felt like, more than any movie I’ve made, that I was really intuitive about what actors needed at any one moment.”
“The Best of Me” came together in fits and starts. It took time to get the initial script and for Hoffman’s calendar to clear. Then the project stalled when one of the original stars, Paul Walker of the “Fast and Furious” films, died in a car crash. Walker agreed to play the male lead the day before he died Nov. 30.
“That was such a tragedy,” Hoffman says. “He was such a lovely, lovely man and very talented.”
But the wheels of the production were in motion. Hoffman had relocated to New Orleans where the film was shot, and the production team scrambled to find Walker’s replacement. It turned out to be James Marsden, best known as Cyclops from the “X-Men” series. Luke Bracey, who will play Johnny Utah in the upcoming “Point Break” remake, plays his younger counterpart opposite Liberato.
It’s been a whirlwind since Hoffman started filming.
“I can’t believe we finished filming just two weeks ago,” he says. With the power of author Nicholas Sparks’ popularity, the film based on his 2011 book the film will be released on 3,000 screens nationwide.
“That’s really exciting,” Hoffman says.
The film’s story centers on the deep love between Amanda and Dawson, teens from the opposite side of the tracks torn apart by tragedy. They reunite 20 years later to find their fires still burning, and the forces that separated them still at work.
Hoffman is not sure what his next move will be, he says. He’s working on several ideas for television — one with longtime friend Hugh Laurie (“House”) and the other with his son Atticus, a writer who lives in Beirut, Lebanon.
Atticus was Hoffman’s initial connection to the Agency for New Americans, an organization that helps refugees settle in the Treasure Valley. The younger Hoffman founded the One World Soccer Camp for refugee kids in 2007.
He describes refugees as “the embodiment of the American dream,” and maintains his connection to the agency with events like this weekend’s screening.
“Their hearts are big and they are so brave,” said Hoffman. “They come here with almost nothing and are able to make so much out of so little.”
Details: ‘The Best of me’ Screening: 7 p.m. Oct. 12, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise. $25 screening only, $100 screening and reception at Berryhill & Co., 121 N. 9th St., Boise. 387-1273, egyptiantheatre.net.