ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with actor Justin Hartley and director Charles Shyer about The Noel Diary. The two discussed holiday movies and the original novel the film is based on. The Noel Diary is now available for streaming through Netflix.
“When a best-selling author returns home at Christmas to settle his mother’s estate, he finds a diary that holds secrets to the past,” reads the film’s synopsis.
Tyler Treese: Justin, there’s such a rich history when it comes to Christmas movies and Netflix does such a great job of putting out some fun ones each year. So what was most exciting about being part of this cinematic tradition with The Noel Diary?
Justin Hartley: For me, it was the players involved — Charles, and then the script as well. I thought the script was really great and I thought the character had a place to go that was difficult to get to and quite a journey from beginning to end. For those reasons, it was an easy decision for me. Those are all the things that you look for, or at least all the things that I look for. It checked all the boxes. So for me, I can’t wait. Let’s do it.
Charles, the book was so successful. What really stood out about that original novel that made you want to adapt it, write the screenplay, and then direct it?
Charles Shyer: To be honest with you, I didn’t really read the novel from start to finish. There was a script that somebody else had written based on the novel that I read, and I thought, “I know how to make this the kind of movie I want to make.” So I didn’t feel it was necessary to go back. I knew the novel was successful, but it was a very serious approach. I skimmed it, but I didn’t go page by page. So I knew how to make it my own, and I told Netflix what I would do with it, and I had a lot of ideas and they went for it.
Tyler Treese: Justin, you know, this story goes throughout the whole emotional gamut. Your character’s dealing with grief, forgiveness, and opening up. You talked about the script really grabbing you. What did you find most interesting about Jake’s journey here?
Justin Hartley: I really loved, when I read it, the idea that … when I take on a job and I get intimidated by the journey that the character goes on, that’s when I get motivated. I get giddy and I get anxious to do the part. When you feel like “that’s a lot, this is a really well-written character, a really great script, and I hope I can deliver,” that’s when the juices start flowing. It’s almost like an athlete. You almost want that challenge, and this movie absolutely had that. So I love the fact that he goes on this journey — for several reasons, actually, and it’s difficult. It’s not easy. It’s hard and he might not get what he wants. That, to me, was what sealed the deal.
Charles, there’s a really great scene in the film featuring It’s a Wonderful Life. Is that your favorite Christmas movie
Charles Shyer: Yeah, I would say it is. That’s the scene that we came up with that wasn’t in the book or in the other script. I wanted to pay homage to that movie, to [ director Frank] Capra. I like the idea that they were the only ones left watching the movie at the end with the dog. I just like the whole concept. It was paying homage to Capra, really. That’s what I wanted to do. And that Barrett (Doss) says it’s the best movie she’s ever seen. I love that.