'A Walk to Remember' Turns 20! Mandy Moore and Shane West Spill Secrets on Their Iconic Teen Romance

For A Walk to Remember's 20th anniversary, Mandy Moore, Shane West and director Adam Shankman share behind-the-scenes details with PEOPLE

A Walk To Remember
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

This may be hard to believe, but A Walk to Remember just turned 20!

Directed by Adam Shankman, the 2002 film starring Mandy Moore and Shane West was based on author Nicholas Sparks' 1999 novel of the same name. The story follows the inspiring yet tragic love story between North Carolina teens Jamie Sullivan (Moore) and Landon Carter (West), both of whom grow closer after the latter is forced to perform community service.

All these years since its early aughts release, the romance — available to own on digital — has managed to last the test of time and go on to become iconic.

For its 20th anniversary, Moore, West and Shankman reflect on A Walk to Remember with PEOPLE exclusively — and the trio dish on some little-known facts about the making of the film. Scroll below to see what they had to say.

Moore and West kept things professional on set... despite having a crush on each other

Both Moore, 37, and West, 43, have openly admitted to crushing on each other at the time of filming. Despite that, West says they "always kept it professional" because they "inherently cared about each other."

"I think when you do [have an attraction] and you're doing such a sweet story that it just makes it very easy," he continues, noting that it was "very much a family" feel on set. "Everybody got along and balanced in reality. I was a bit older. Mandy was not 21, so it was more of a loving thing where we were just all out to protect her."

But their attraction to each other was even apparent to the film's director.

"They were teenagers. They were young. You could tell that they had to crush, but they were both dating other people," says Shankman, 57. "Or, I know Mandy was with somebody at that time. She had a boyfriend. I don't think Shane had a girlfriend at the time. But I could tell that there was certainly a lot of chemistry there."

A Walk To Remember
Warner Bros. Pictures

"I just knew nothing was happening because she turned 17 on our first day of shooting and she was super grounded, well brought up," he adds. "I just knew nothing was going to happen, so I did nothing to discourage it. And by the same token, I did nothing to push it. I didn't need to. It was just happening there. But they were, again, well-behaved kids that I saw no need to intervene."

Recalling her experience working alongside West, Moore believes the "natural ease" the pair had is what still "resonates" with fans to this day.

"Somehow, we sort of just had this really natural, effortless chemistry with one another," the This Is Us star adds. "And I think that comes across in the film and that's hard to get. You can't really fake that."

A Walk to Remember didn't have much support from the studio before its release

According to Shankman, A Walk to Remember "was being made as an indie" for Warner Bros. Pictures.

"I remember the head of the studio at the time didn't really see it as something that he wanted to make," he says. "So we just boldly went for it. It was a pretty short shoot. We just made it and then people really liked it."

A Walk To Remember
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Hairspray director still remembers "all the phases" of the production process "like it was yesterday."

"I remember the first time I sat down with Mandy. I remember the first time I talked to Shane. I remember their auditions really clearly," he adds. "I remember going to North Carolina and scouting it, and just all the stuff that came with it. I remember shooting days really well for some reason on that one, maybe because it was scrappy. It was really scrappy. And the odds were against us. We didn't have a ton of studio support. [It] was what it was."

Anne Hathaway was a top contender for Moore's role

Stars including Jessica Simpson were up for the part of Jamie Sullivan, but Moore's own Princess Diaries costar Anne Hathaway was also being considered. Funnily enough, the 39-year-old Oscar winner once had to remind Shankman of this very fact.

"I don't remember this, but Anne Hathaway has told me that she was down to the wire on it. And I was like, 'Really?' And she was like, 'Oh, yeah. I was one of the finals,'" he recalls. "I was like, 'I don't remember that.' I don't really remember anybody in that game because I was pulling for Mandy. But Annie told me that she was there. She and I are very friendly. So I was just surprised because I just hadn't remembered that."

Moore learned a lot from West about what "acting is"

While Moore was a fairly big pop star prior to landing the role of Jamie, she was still relatively new to the world of acting. In fact, A Walk to Remember marked the Emmy nominee's "first big job" as a leading lady.

"I didn't know anything, but I just remember completely falling in love with the process," she says. "It's really what solidified the idea of like, I want to be an actor. I want to do this. I want to follow through with this. I would love to have more roles and more opportunities. It showed me everything that I wanted to try to continue to do with my life."

But since she "knew nothing" about leading a film, Moore says she leaned on West to guide her through the process.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Mandy Moore attends the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Rich Fury/Getty

"Sweet Shane had to teach me how to hit my mark, about looking down to look at it before I completely stopped," she continues. "I would say I really learned to sort of trust my instincts, trust being present [and] trust my listening skills because that's really what acting is. I feel like I've taken so much of what I learned on that film and hopefully, have grown and evolved as an actor."

"I feel like it was such a fantastic learning experience and baseline for me to sort of work with someone as experienced and as talented as Shane, and be able to take what I sort of just picked up through osmosis of working with someone like him and bring into all of my other jobs," she adds. "I think being present and really listening, just being still — all of that were things that I really learned, I think, for the first time being on that set."

West created a yearbook during his time on set — and it has some of Moore's hair!

West reflects on the "almost" yearbook" he continued to fill up while shooting the film up through his time on E.R.

"I was having everyone sign it on any project," he says. "So, I have everybody from the film that signed it and they put in great messages."

According to West, the yearbook contained one surprising item: "I have a lot of Mandy's hair. I hope, if it's still in that book. I haven't looked at that in years."

A Walk To Remember
Warner Bros. Pictures

The A Walk to Remember crew hung out with other casts that were filming nearby

While filming in North Carolina, West — who was renting out then-Dawson's Creek star Kerr Smith's home in Wrightsville Beach — would "have people over for drinks and food and movies" to "kind of bond."

"I think we did a lot of those things behind the scenes. There was a couple other films filming there," he says, referencing Sandra Bullock's film Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

"I remember we went to their wrap party, I believe, all together to bond," he continues. "There was a movie with Vince Vaughn called Domestic Disturbance that was filming out there, so we would hang with that crew as well."

Moore and West want to work together again

Fortunately for fans of the film, both Moore and West are interested in teaming up for a new project alongside Shankman.

"I would love to. I love him," says Moore. "I would love to sort of put the band back together with Adam as well. The three of us got to find something to collaborate on. It would be so much fun!"

West reveals that the former costars "have discussed" the possibility as well.

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"Nothing necessarily in particular. Not a specific idea. I've joked around — we've all three of us joked around, I think it was maybe on the 15th anniversary or 16 or 17th or something, of Adam directing us doing it again," the E.R. alum says. "Maybe, obviously, because we're older, an older love story in that kind of sense."

West continues, "But if anyone were going to die, it's going to be me this time. You got to make it a tragedy. We got to make it even now, even Steven here. But I would love to. Maybe when she's done with This Is Us."

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