It’s been almost two decades since Shane West and Mandy Moore costarred in Nicholas Sparks’ romantic tearjerker, A Walk to Remember, but the 43-year-old remembers his time on set with his costar fondly. In a new interview, Shane dished about what he remembers from his time playing Landon Carter, including his real-life feelings for his on-screen love interest.

In general, the cast had a lot more chemistry off-screen than on.

Although Mandy‘s on-screen character may have been bullied by the cast, Shane says everyone got along on set.

“We all had chemistry off-screen, in the sense of bonding and in friendship, including [Mandy], which is the funniest thing because all the other characters had been bullying her,” he told Vulture. “Everyone liked each other. It was the opposite of the movie. Everyone got along and had a great time.”

Despite how sad the movie was, behind the scenes everyone was having a good time.

To hear Shane tell it, he and Mandy were exceptionally close, both on- and off-screen.

“And yeah, there was chemistry,” he told Vulture. “I think we both had a little bit of a crush, but then we were just there for each other in the most honest and purest of ways.”

Though they’re an unlikely couple at first, the movie is all about Landon, the bad boy looking for redemption, as he tries to win over Jamie, the minister’s daughter with a terminal illness. Somehow knowing now that the two shared a real-life connection makes all of their on-screen moments seem that much more special.

Shane even talked about the unforgettable moment he put the butterfly tattoo on Mandy’s shoulder.

It sounds like the moment was mostly ad libbed by the two stars, because there wasn’t much dialogue to begin with. “We were just pulled over near the alleyway. Then [Adam] put a camera inside of the car,” Shane recalled. “It was fun to do. It’s hard to not smile when you’re looking at Mandy’s cute, adorable face — to react to that.”

Apparently he struggled with the application of the temporary tattoo, which made for a lot of back-and-forth between him and Mandy.

“I couldn’t get that tattoo right. I was screwing it up constantly,” he recalled, adding that he wishes there were outtakes from the moments when he would pull back his hand just to reveal that only half of the butterfly had remained on her skin. “Then she starts laughing and then it’s all worthless. So I think the combination of us joking around made the ultimate reveal more of a success.”

Shane also revealed that Mandy’s role was almost played by another pop star.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Jamie, but the role almost went to someone else. “I do know, at one point, they may have been talking to Jessica Simpson before Mandy, and I remember thinking that would be very difficult to make happen,” he explained. “I remember thinking Mandy, even though I didn’t know her, was perfect for this.”

The two bonded over their first reading together.

“It was one of the nicest auditions ever, where Mandy and I got to read together, with the director, at Warner Bros. for an hour or two, almost like we had the part,” he told Vulture. You don’t really do that. But I think he had always said that [Mandy] was his favorite and I was his favorite, so he wanted to put us together, work with us, and see if we could have chemistry.”

Obviously the pair had enough chemistry to cause the film to become a box office smash as well as a favorite coming-of-age story for an entire generation.

Even as the film approaches a major anniversary, fans shouldn’t expect to see a sequel.

When asked about the possibility of getting a second A Walk to Remember, Shane was quick to squash the idea. “My favorite is when I’ll hear about sequel possibilities, and, well, what is the sequel,” he asks. “She dies.”

He joked that they could probably swing it if they considered writing the follow-up film as a horror-romance mashup instead. “We could turn this into a genre piece, and she comes back from the dead, and it’s a zombie movie,” he said.

Although we don’t think that’s exactly what fans have in mind, we do admit that we’d entertain the possibility if it meant we could get just one more chance to watch Shane and Mandy’s on-screen chemistry unfold.

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