'Safe Haven' Stars Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough on Acting in the Shadow of 'The Notebook' (Video)

The duo open up about the “pressures” that come along with joining a Nicholas Sparks project.

After the runaway success of The Notebook, Dear John and The Lucky One, there’s a level of expectation accompanying all of Nicholas Sparks’ film adaptations.

Asked about the pressure of living up to the high level of swoon-worthy romance that has come before, Safe Haven star Josh Duhamel says, “I did everything I could” not to be that dreamboat, perfect guy.

PHOTOS: The Nicholas Sparks Playbook: His 7 Favorite Plot Tricks

“There are expectations, there are pressures that you feel, but at the same time, I really wanted to focus on telling our story as honestly as I could,” Duhamel tells The Hollywood Reporter. “People are going to compare these movies, and if I worry about that -- if I worry about that moment in The Notebook when he kissed her -- if I do that, we’re dead.”

Co-star Julianne Hough isn’t worried about filling the shoes of former Sparks leading ladies Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus. “I love this movie because it’s so different. It’s not about first loves, it’s about second chances,” she says. “I think that [Sparks’] fans have grown up with his writing. This one feels more mature and goes to a darker and more suspenseful, thriller-esque level. I think people will be surprised.”  

PHOTOS: 'Safe Haven': Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel Step Out at Hollywood Premiere

And while Sparks’ projects are synonymous with romance, not since his first adaptation – 1999’s Message in a Bottle – has a Sparks film opened on Valentine’s Day weekend. (The film, which hit theaters on Feb. 12, brought in an estimated $16.7 million in its opening weekend and is currently the highest-grossing Sparks adaptation to date.) Fun fact: Message in a Bottle was among a young Hayden Panettiere’s first roles, pre-Remember the Titans. She is credited as “girl on a sinking boat.”

Safe Haven, also starring How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders, opens Valentine’s Day.

Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci