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After years of playing the love interests and sidekicks to quipping action heroes in movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Mission: Impossible III, Eagle Eye and Source Code, Michelle Monaghan is finally stepping into a lead role in the romantic drama The Best of Me. THR reports the American actress will headline the project, which is based on the 2011 Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. This production will mark the ninth movie made from Sparks' tragedy-strewn romance novels, following A Walk to Remember, Dear John, The Notebook and Safe Haven, which proved a hit for Relativity Media earlier this year.
Set in 1984 North Carolina, within the small town of Oriental, The Best of Me follows the troubled love story of Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole, two high schoolers who come together despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks. But their relationship turns out to be short-lived, and they break up the summer of their senior year. Leap ahead twenty-five years spent without each other, and the two, whose lives haven't turned out as they'd hoped, are forced to return to Oriental and reunite at the funeral of a beloved and departed mentor, Tuck Hostetler. Urged by Tuck's final request to reconsider the past they once shared, Amanda and Dawson have a second shot at love and the life they truly want. But will they be brave enough to take it?
While the THR piece never says so directly, we expect Monaghan is set to play Amanda, though no hint is given to who might play opposite her as Dawson. Former leading men in the Sparks adaptations include Josh Duhamel, Shane West, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum. So presumably only the strapping and dreamy need apply to this casting call.
Perhaps more than any other Sparks adaptation, The Best of Me was made to be a movie. The rights to the book were bought by Warner Bros. executives based on a pitch Sparks had offered back before he'd written a word of the would-be novel. However, WB dropped the project last summer, selling to Relativity, who was eager to get back into business with Sparks following the success of Safe Haven, a $28 million production that pulled in more than $71 million worldwide. Back in September of 2012, Warner Bros hired One Fine Day director Michael Hoffman to helm the feature, and J. Mills Goodloe to pen its adaptation. Even with the studio shift, both names are still attached to the project. However, The Lucky One scribe Will Fetters has since been added as a co-writer.
It's unclear when production on The Best of Me will begin. But considering how well these movies tend to play in the first quarter of the year, I'd bet that we'll see this romance debut around Valentine's Day 2015. In the meantime, you can look for Monaghan in the upcoming drama Fort Bliss, the star-studded dramedy Better Living Through Chemistry, and the Chris Evans-fronted comedy A Many Splintered Thing.