There are too many to mention, but here are a few of the biggies:
The book took place in the 1950’s; the movie in the present (mid 1990’s-early 2000’s) day. [Originally they had picked the date 1996, but later decided to not be specific about it.]
The book had a frame story where Landon tells us the story of how his life was changed back when he was 17. The first draft of the screenplay kept the frame and had Landon visit the Reverend Sullivan 35 years after Jamie’s death and return the wedding ring because he had met someone new. The first part was deleted and was changed to the coda in the movie where he returns only 4 years later, having achieved his goals (getting out of Beaufort, graduating college, getting into med school), and returns the book that Jamie gave him to her father. These changes were made to add sympathy to London’s character. It was felt — and rightly so — that the audience would react negatively to the movie starting out the original way. These changes were made after they began filming. The shooting draft still had the frame story.
In the book Landon got the lead in the Sunday school Christmas play. In the movie it was the high school spring musical. [It’s interesting to note that while they completely replaced the play in the movie, the lead character Tom Thornton remained the same.]
Landon’s friends were changed quite a bit in the script (and later on stage by the actors). The only noticeable similarity was that his best friend was still named Eric.
In the book, Landon was the ring leader of his friends (sort of; that’s how Sparks describes it in the DVD commentary, but I got the impression that Eric was the real leader). In the movie this role was given to Dean to create an adversary for Landon.
In the book Jamie was much sicker at the wedding than she was in the final version of the film. In fact, this was included in the early cut of the film, but these things were cut out by the director because he felt that the second half of the film was depressing enough.
Hegbert [Rev. Sullivan] was more developed, and much older in the book
The circumstances of Jamie’s mother’s death were explained in the book (and in the script, but the scene was deleted). She is only mentioned once in the finished movie, where Hegbert and Jamie are talking in the hospital.
Nicholas Sparks explained some of the changes with the following on his website:
One thing that I’d like you to remember [when seeing the movie] is that the movie will be different from the book. It has to be, not only because films and novels are different mediums and do things different ways, but also because every single reader saw the movie in their own mind and it’s impossible to match everyone’s imagination. But please, see the film anyway. It stars Mandy Moore (Jamie), Shane West (Landon), Peter Coyote (Hegbert) and Darryl Hannah (Landon’s mother), and they all did a fabulous job.
As for specific differences between the novel and the film, I’d like to touch on those briefly.
First, the film is set in the 1990s, not the 1950s. This was done because both the producer and I thought this was such a wonderful film for teenagers because of the message it provided (strong faith, kindness, forgiveness, charity, redemption, looking past the obvious to see the person within), especially compared with most movies geared for teens these days. A simple fact of Hollywood is that if we’d set the film in the 1950s, teens wouldn’t have gone to see it. To interest them, we had to make the story more contemporary.
Secondly, the play was changed. I won’t go into details, but it’s not the Christmas Play. The reason for that was because the Christmas Play was Hegbert’s way of showing that he’d once struggled as a father and the struggle was difficult to overcome. Yet, due to time constraints in the movie, this involved a sub-plot that simply couldn’t be worked into the story. People who’d read the book would understand it, but people who hadn’t read the book would question whether Hegbert was a good father. Because he is a good father and we didn’t want that question to linger, we changed the play. Thus, the end result for Hegbert is the same, it was just handled differently.
And finally, the things that teen boys did in the 1950s to be considered a little ‘rough’ are different than what teen boys in the 1990s do to be considered ‘rough.’ Landon’s a little rougher in the beginning of the film, but his redemption is that much greater by the end. In my mind, that was a fair trade.
The book was written by novelist Nicholas Sparks. The screenplay was written by Karen Jansen with input from Sparks, but is only LOOSELY based upon the book.
In the audio commentary on the DVD, Janzen states that her philosophy for writing a script based upon a book is as follows: read the book a couple times to get the “broad strokes” or “spirit” of the story. Write a detailed outline of the book. Throw the book away. Flesh out your outline making any changes you feel the need to, keeping in mind the “broad strokes” and “theme” of the original story.
Janzen went through 99 different drafts and made many changes (more were made after she turned in her final draft, on stage during filming, and in the editing room).
Yes. The following errors have been identified by fans, as well as cast and crew:
Landon’s scar/bandage disappears and reappears throughout the film.
Landon’s script is folded several times while it is in his pocket, however whenever he is rehearsing, there is no crease in the script where it should have been folded.
The clasp on Jamie’s necklace moves around during the play’s music sequence.
When Landon takes Jamie out to dinner by the water the sky alternates light/dark between shots.
The day after the play, Landon goes through the library to go to the cafeteria, he has a white shirt and blue vest on. When he goes into the cafeteria, he is wearing a white tee shirt under a green shirt. Then when he is with Eric later, he is wearing the blue and white outfit again.
In the scene in which Jamie receives the certificate about the star he had named for her from Landon, she is clearly holding the paper and drops it as she moves to sit down. As soon as she is seated, the paper is completely missing from the scene. (This is revealed by the director’s commentary on the DVD.).
During one scene in the hallway, Landon is hooked arms with Tracie for no apparent reason. The actors (who are friends in real life) did this because they did not realize the take was still rolling.
During play practice, Jamie/Mandy breaks up laughing when Sally pushes Landon. Again, this was not in the script.
During the scene on the Sullivan’s porch (when Landon gave Jamie the sweater), red and blue lights are seen in the back ground. These lights are from police cars. A car-jacking had recently taken place nearby. All of the dialog was redone in ADL (“dialog looping”) because none of the original dialog was usable.
During the first date the time of the day and clothing seem to change periodically. It is actually LIGHT again when Rev. Sullivan tells them that the evening is over. [This may have been meant to be a montage of different dates, but it isn’t made clear in the film.]
The day that the flyer is made about Jamie, all of the characters are wearing exactly the same clothes as they were a few days before when Dean asked Landon if they were still cool. A few days later, when the flyers come out they all have the same clothes back on.
When they made the flyers, the body on the flier that we see close up has a bikini on, but on the other flyers, she doesn’t have any clothes on (mentioned in DVD commentary)
First ‘date’ night. The Virginia/North Carolina state line is about 300 miles from Beaufort, North Carolina, too far to drive to drive in an evening after dinner and be back in time for a strict curfew.
When Jamie sings her solo “Only Hope” in the play, the only visible accompanist is a piano player, but we hear strings as well.
Some fans have said that if you watch Landon’s final scene with Rev. Sullivan that he is not wearing his wedding ring anymore. This seems out of character for him since he says he still thinks of her often. Also the book makes it clear that after 40 years he has never had the desire to remove it. This may or may not be a costuming mistake. [NOTE: I have been unable to confirm this personally. Has anyone else seen this?]
Crew or equipment visible:
When Landon shows Jamie the new telescope for the first time, Landon’s wireless mic. transmitter is visible as he walks towards the telescope to see the comet.
AWTR was budgeted at $11 million. This is actually quite low by today’s standards and a lot of the cost was due to location shooting. Money was saved in other ways such as using redressed sets for all but the Sullivan’s house and the church where the wedding took place.
By contrast, the movie Love Story (Paramount, 1970) cost $2 million
The actors were required to read the scene after the play when Landon is talking to Jamie, trying to make up with her, when she is eating lunch and reading a book.
Shane reveals in the DVD commentary that this scene was hard for him to film because they had him take the character a different direction than he had when auditioning. It is interesting to note that the slurping in the scene was augmented in post-production because it wasn’t loud enough, even though Mandy swears that she tried to make it as loud as she could.