James Marsden Says Fans of 'The Notebook' Still Come Up to Him and Say They're 'Team Lon'

"I feel really proud to be a part of it," the actor tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of the 2004 romance

Not even The Notebook star James Marsden thought the 2004 film would go on to be the most iconic romance movie of a generation.

"We had hoped that it was going to be a touching romance movie, but we did not see how iconic of a movie that would become," Marsden, 48, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "No one anticipated that. And I feel really proud to be a part of it."

Fans still come up to the actor to comment on his role as Allie's jilted fiancé Lon Hammond. "That's a movie that I still get talked about to this day, when people pass down the street saying, 'I'm Team Lon,'" Marsden says. "I hear quite a bit."

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James Marsden Rollout

Today Marsden brings the love in a family-friendly film, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, in which he plays the speedy animal's father figure Tom.

"That's what Sonic was looking for in the first film, was a connection. He felt like an outlier. He was an alien," Marsden says. "And he found Tom and Maddie [played by Tika Sumpter]. They took him in and they were friends at first. I don't think Tom woke up one morning and said, 'I want to be a father to this kid.' It just sort of evolved into that. It's nice to take some of the ideas I've learned as a parent and incorporate them into some of these beautiful scenes with Sonic."

James Marsden Rollout
Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

Raising sons Jack, 21, and William, 9, and daughter Mary, 16, gave him that off-screen parenting experience.

"Each kid is just so different," Marsden says. "They have their own personalities and you find yourself parenting in slightly different ways for each one — same principles, but each one requires their own specific type of care. There's no real handbook for how to do it."

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Marsden admits that when his two older kids, from his marriage to actress Lisa Linde, "were really young, it was tricky for them to see me on TV or on the big screen because they don't see that you're Dad, but you're also this person."

His oldest son Jack ended up following Marsden into show business and has released his own music.

"He's trying to figure out where he is in the world," the Dead to Me star says. "He's got that creative gene. He was never that interested in the acting thing. It was always music. You have to allow your kids to blossom at their own pace, in their own time, and along the way provide guardrails to keep them safe place and allow them to make mistakes. That's how you learn."

james marsden
Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

Now, his youngest child, who Marsden shares with ex-girlfriend Rose Costa, "is obsessed with Sonic," the four-time Emmy nominee says. "He dresses like him. He wears the red shoes to school. He's super proud of me. So that has been amazing to share the experience with him."

Despite Marsden's Sonic costar Jim Carrey saying he plans to step back from acting, the Oklahoma native hopes to stick with the franchise. "I'd love to keep doing these," Marsden says. "It has been a fun ride."

He feels that way about his nearly 30-year Hollywood career as well.

"I've been really fortunate to look back after almost 29 years now and see this really interesting, colorful mosaic of projects that I've done over the years," the father of three says. "I don't do one specific thing, and that's exciting to me. If you lead with your heart or what makes you feel passionate about something, you're lucky."

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hits theaters Friday.

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