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‘The Choice’ star loves Nicholas Sparks’ strong female characters

LOS ANGELES — Nicholas Sparks’ novels have clicked not only with millions of readers but a huge legion of movie fans, to the point that “The Choice” is the 11th Sparks book to be translated to the big screen.

For the movie’s star, Teresa Palmer, the secret to Sparks’ appeal is a combination of factors. “Personally, as a woman, I love the fact he writes really strong female characters — and I think a lot of women in his female demographic relate to that. But I also think men love his stories as well.

“Nick’s stories are grounded in reality. Life is not so black or white. The way that these two characters [in ‘The Choice’] fall in love is really messy and scary. There’s a reason it’s called ‘falling in love,’ because you often stumble and trip up along the way. Then it’s passionate. His books capture all of those emotions, and then it’s addictive.”

In “The Choice” (opening Friday), Palmer plays a medical student who rents the house next door to a perennial bachelor and party boy (played by Benjamin Walker), and initially it’s a case of opposite personalities mixing about as well as oil and water. After a number of adventures — and misadventures — the two do become a couple and ultimately face a life-and-death situation that threatens their blissful existence.

That led me to ask if either star had been in a similar situation in real life — initially despising a person who later became a best friend or a romantic interest.

“Yeah, I definitely have had that happen in my life,” said Palmer. “Someone will tell you, ‘Oh, you’re just going to love this person.’ Then you meet them and go, ‘I don’t know about this!’

“But then, after time, I’ve had situations where the person has gone on to become a very good, close friend.”

For Walker, it’s never happened with anyone romantically, but he admitted, “Yes, I did have that happen in my own life. I’ve met people I never thought I’d click with, but then find we have a lot in common.

“Of course, either that happens, or you never connect on any level — and they become your worst nemesis!”

The initial idea for “The Choice,” Sparks said, came from a very personal inspiration.

“Travis [the Walker character] was inspired by my older brother, who was a great bachelor until he got married. He was always having these great weekends, doing all kinds of exciting stuff.

“Bu beyond that, with this story, I wanted to explore what happens after the honeymoon wears off, and wanted to throw in some choices that can happen and add some real life-changing experiences.”

As for the coastal setting, Sparks admitted, “that was the easy part. I live in Eastern North Carolina. I love the water, boats and beaches. It’s a beautiful region, and it’s exciting for me to allow other people to experience it — either through my books or more visually through this film, based on my novel.

“I love the area. I live there for a good reason.”