A Walk To Remember Turns 19: Celebrate with These Throwbacks and Fun Facts from the Film
From Mandy Moore and Shane West's enduring friendship to the movie's real-life inspiration, take a Walk to Remember down memory lane
Walk Down Memory Lane
For those of you who haven't seen A Walk to Remember, the 2002 movie is based off of Nicholas Sparks' 1999 novel of the same name, which follows bad boy Landon Carter (Shane West) and the bookish, minister's daughter Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) as they unexpectedly fall in love. The catch? Jamie has terminal cancer, so Landon dedicates his time to fulfilling every item she has left on her bucket list before she dies.
We're already crying.
Sparks revealed that the character of Jamie Sullivan (played by Moore) was inspired by his sister, Danielle Sparks Lewis, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Sparks' sister not only inspired the character of Jamie Sullivan through her actions – Sparks' sister "wore this ugly brown cardigan to school every day" and "carried a Bible, the author recalled – she also shared the same wish as the fictional character.
She told her brother that her one dream was to be married and, when she got sick, her boyfriend at the time (who inspired the character of Landon Carter) proposed to her. "And I remember thinking," Sparks said, "That's just about the sweetest thing that anyone's ever done for anybody."
He added that his sister never read the book because she didn't want to know how it ended. She passed away in June 2000.
The film was Moore's first leading role. When filming began, she had just a supporting role in The Princess Diaries under her belt.
Moore was just 16 years old and turned 17 as they shot the movie. She told Entertainment Weekly that West really helped her through the process: "Shane was so wonderful. I didn’t know what I was doing and he’d done movies and he was on a critically acclaimed TV show. He had a lot of respect as an actor and I was just the total newbie. I didn’t even know how to hit a mark, I was so fresh-faced and naïve. I felt incredibly lucky right off the bat that I had someone who was as willing to work with me and who was patient and understanding. He was just the perfect partner for that."
Because she was a minor, Moore could only film for 10 hours a day and had to spend 15 hours per week with a tutor.
Brown Hair, Don't Care
And she had to dye her hair – which was blonde at the time – brown for the role.
Both Moore and West have talked about her transformation, with West telling Today, "The biggest thing was dyeing her hair, because at that time she had such a look that people were used to, wearing the terrible outfits that she had to put on to just try and downplay her natural beauty, and she was a sweetheart. She had a smile that can melt hearts, and that's pretty much all she did for eight weeks."
Moore told Entertainment Weekly, "Well I was blonde then and, for the most part, haven’t gone back since. It was transformative because it came at a time in my life when I was only seen from the pop music landscape and through that lens. There was a real significance to coloring my hair. As silly as it sounds, there was a real significance in the way that people saw me, but also in the way that I carried myself and that I saw myself. It was the last little piece of the puzzle I think in terms of getting into the character.
Moore and West had immediate chemistry while auditioning for the roles. West told Entertainment Weekly that he only read for the part once. He explained, "Adam [Shankman], the director, had a lot of control, and he really liked the idea of Mandy so he was seeing if I could cut it with her. He brought us together in a room and we read a few scenes and chatted mostly, and then all of a sudden it was happening. I didn’t have a million credits at the time so I remember being very thankful for that casting process because it was very rare for it to be that laid back."
"We immediately liked each other as people, and I think that’s what actually helped," he told Today.
I've Got a 'Crush' on You
And the chemistry was, in part, very real!
Moore told EW in 2017, "Shane was so cool. Everything about him – the way he dressed, the little cigarettes that he smoked, and the music he listened to. He was the character to me and there was definitely a part of me that absolutely fell in love with him. I don’t know if I could discern the difference between him and the character at that point in time because, again, it was my first experience doing anything like this and I was a 16-year-old, impressionable girl."
(Cue Moore's 2001 song "Crush.")
For his part, West told Access Live in 2019, "I think we both [fell in love]. I was in a little punk rock band at the time and doing acting for a while and she was doing the pop star thing for a while and this was kind of her first lead in a film. So we were definitely opposites attract. So I think at first I'm not sure if we loved each other – or liked each other – right off the bat, but it quickly changed. The writing helped, the direction helped and the fact that she is one of the sweetest people ever."
West and Moore are still close friends. West even honored Moore in 2019 when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The actor gave a speech about the star, recalling how the movie brought them together.
“Not only was this film a wonderful experience in every way, but it also gave me the chance to fall for this fantastic woman,” West said.
Turning toward his costar, he shared a sweet message, saying, “Mandy, you are an absolute gem. Your smile is ridiculous, seriously it’s ridiculous, it lights up a room when you walk in. Your energy is irresistible and your heart is second to none.”
“The most memorable scene for me, though, I would say, is the school play and singing [‘Only Hope’],” she recalled. “I remember putting on that beautiful ice blue, silk dress and everyone fawning all over it. It was the first time that I wasn’t in a ratty sweater and an over-sized housedress.”
In one flashback Friday post, Moore shared a behind-the-scenes photo from the memorable moment. "Just found this one in the vault," Moore wrote on Instagram. "Getting sewn into the dress during the school play scene in #AWalkToRemember. I remembering celebrating my 17th Birthday during filming. Feeling oooolllllld."
Behind the Scenes
West posted a throwback photo with Mandy Moore and director Adam Shankman on set, captioning the BTS snaps, "#tbt to day one of this little gem (plus one more). These two will always have a special place in my 🖤."
Though he's now known for directing films like Hairspray, and the upcoming Hocus Pocus sequel, A Walk to Remember was only Shankman's second feature film. (The first was the 2001 romantic comedy, The Wedding Planner.)
The movie was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a lot of the set pieces from Dawson's Creek were used because the popular show was being filmed there at around the same time.
The first scene of the movie — in which West's character dares one his friends to jump into the water — made use of an iconic spot from the show.
West told Today that it was one of his most memorable scenes "simply because it was mentally challenging."
He explained, "Apparently the man-made lake had been used for ‘Dawson’s Creek’ in the past and they left it out there. And it was covered in seaweed, covered in plants. It was frightening. Apparently, there were eels in that. And they had to bring in scuba divers to swim around to push the eels away and push the weird creatures away as we swam in there. So for me, it was freezing, it was day one. I didn’t know any of these people yet, and we were half-naked in a man-made lake with giant eels. That was one of the more challenging things for me.”
Moore still has a prop from set! In 2016 she posted a photo from her "wedding" to West in the film that she found while moving.
She wrote alongside the photo of the pair in their wedding attire, "I think this was an actual prop from the movie. Not sure how I ended up with it but cool. Nice suit, @theshanewest! #awalktoremember"
That's Some Souvenir
West got a souvenir of his own, too: He bought the 1967 Camaro that his character drove in the film after they finished shooting. "I still have it," West told Access Live in March 2019. "I'm actually considering selling it soon."
Time for a Watch Party?
Moore told Us Weekly in 2018 that it had been a while since she had seen the movie.
“Not in a long time. It’s been like 10 years or something,” she said. “I had no idea what I was doing. Every time I had seen it, which is not very often, I just think like, ‘Aw, that little girl had no idea what she was doing.’ I didn’t know anything.”