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LOPEZ, JENNIFER: THE CELL

A JENNY TO JENNY TALK
Putting out the flames of infamy fanned by the media about her, Jennifer Lopez has a ĎJenny to Jennyí talk to our Jenny Cooney Carrillo in Los Angeles, in the course of promoting her latest film, The Cell.

Jennifer Lopez is one of the hottest actresses in the world, but itís not all about her on screen talents. The savvy girl who grew up in the Bronx, a rough neighborhood outside New York, is just as famous for her clothes - who could forget the infamous Versace dress she almost wore to the 1999 Grammys - the company she keeps (her boyfriend, rapper Sean Puffy Combs) and her penchant for danger (the night they spent in jail when the couple were arrested for possession of an illegal firearm).

He was indicted, she was exonerated but was subsequently dogged by the media, who reported her only request from jail was to demand cuticle cream! So when you meet with Lopez in person, dressed in a stunning red Donna Karan dress with a slit exposing a lot of cleavage that still somehow looks suitable despite the fact weíre meeting early in the morning at an ultra-conservative Beverly Hills hotel, one doesnít know what to expect. Is she all of these things or none?

Ironically the title of her latest movie is The Cell Ė but this is one that Lopez is happy to talk about. In the drama, she plays a psychologist who literally goes inside the mind of a serial killer (Vincent DíOnofrio) now in a coma, in her efforts to help FBI agents locate one of his missing victims still alive somewhere.

More than most actresses, you seen to be given a rough time by the press. How do you feel about all this media attention?
I guess when they stop talking, Iíll worry! As long as theyíre talking, it means they are interested. And whether itís made up or not, that is part of being a celebrity and being popular. You've got to take the good with the not so good. I would say about one percent of the stuff thatís written about me is true.

Ok, so letís find the one percent. What about you sending for cuticle cream from jail?
Yeah right, like that happened. As Iím handcuffed, thatís exactly what Iím thinking about!

Where did they get the idea that you were dying of a brain tumor, another recent tabloid story.
I donít know. I think they see you walking into a doctorís appointment and theyíll run with it and blow it out of proportion. Do I look like Iím dying to you? If I was, I wouldnít be spending my last breath here!

And what about reports that you deliberately wear outfits like that Versace dress to attract publicity for your career?
I know itís hard to believe but I dress how I feel like dressing that day. Itís not as premeditated as people think. I put something on because I feel like it. I wear my hair a certain way because I want to. I change the color of my hair because itís right for the role. Iím not trying to fool the public or be one step ahead. I love fashion. I love hair, makeup and all that stuff. Iím a girl! Iím just being me.

And that night in jail and your reputation as a party girl?
I suffered an unfortunate experience last year. That was something that was not a pleasant thing for me. But as far as being a wild party girl, Iíve been to two parties in the past thirteen month; my 30th birthday party and a party in Paris hosted for me by Donatella Versace. Iím much more of a homebody and I wouldnít say that if I really loved going to parties. I would be comfortable telling you that but thatís just not who I am.

OK, so now weíve got all that cleared up, tell us about The Cell and why you took a chance on a first-time film director, Tarem?
Maybe Iím really naÔve about certain things but it was never an issue. I just go with my gut instinct. I went to New Line and they had the script of The Cell in development, and I remembered it from years before, when I was doing television and I had read it back then and I felt like it had that Silence of the Lambs feeling because that film had just come out. So I said this was something that could be exciting and they said, letís do it, letís get a director. People say things like that all the time in this business but it was the first time in my experience somebody had actually gone out and done that for me, which was wild!

How did you get into playing this character?
I loved her and what was interesting to me was that she was very passionate about her work and sheís very driven, but sheís driven from a feeling inside. She is driven by a genuine care for people, of not wanting to see anybody hurt, so she almost wants to save everyone and I think we all have that aspect inside us. I know I do. But the fact that she would do it to her own detriment to me was interesting. And as far as the script goes, the idea of a thriller and the fact that it had all that creative license in it of going inside someoneís mind, that was exciting. When I finally saw the finished film, I was stunned. Iíve never seen anything like this so it just blew me away.

You said you could relate to the characterís empathy. In what way?
I think thatís a big part of who I am that people donít know. I donít even like to tell jokes because I donít want to hurt anybody. Thatís the thing that maybe the public doesnít know about me. It kills me if I have said something and then realise it really bothered another person. I can see their face change and I feel so bad because all along I was just trying to make them laugh.

A lot of actors who play serial killers talk about the emotional toll it takes on them. How rough was it for you when you are literally inside the head of a serial killer?
When I read the script, I thought to myself, Ďthis is going to be really toughí. I have been through a lot when I did my first few films, especially Oliver Stoneís U-Turn and that stuff really had an effect on me in a way and it took time to shake it. I donít know if it is because Iím more experienced now or Iíve been through it already, but it wasnít as bad as I expected this time. It was actually much easier for me to go home at the end of the day and leave that world at work.

Do you have any special criteria to decide on your movies?
When I read a script, I donít read it because itís an action movie or because itís this or that. I read different scripts and whatever I respond to inside is what I go with. If I feel that I can tell this story, that I understand this person, I want to do it. If I feel I have something to contribute or that there is a bigger picture here, I do it. It has to be something from the inside that says, I want to do this, from my soul. Thatís how I choose my stuff and that means I donít do like twelve movies a year. I hadnít done a movie since Out of Sight because I hadnít found the right thing. Next Iíll be making a movie about the life of (Mexican artist) Frida Kahlo, which has been a dream of mine for years. Whatever fascination the media has with me, I canít sit here and analyse it. All I know is that Iím a good person and Iím hardworking. You can tell by the fact that I have finished three movies and Iím in the middle of doing my second album. Iím working a lot more than Iím doing anything else!

What can we expect of your second album?
Music is an expression of who you are. My first album was that and this one is going to be very much the same. I was surprised the first one did so well, but pleasantly so. I had hoped people would respond because you put your heart and soul into something and then you can only hope. This one will only be different in that Iíve grown since the first one, a lot of different life experiences have happened to me so that will be reflected in the contents of the album. But as far as the music goes, it will be the same type of music, pop music with an R&B and Latin flavor to it.

You turned 30 earlier this year. How does it feel?
I still see myself as little girl. When I hear thirty, I donít see myself like that! I see myself more as just a vibrant, energetic person who is very excited about what is happening to her. As far as what my parents think, of course I care what they think and the press and all that kind of stuff is probably harder on them than me because I know whatís not true. When Iím away in Europe and they hear something about me demanding to only sleep on sheets with a high thread count - which was one story about which you didnít ask me ! - even they will call me up and say, Ďwhy do you need those sheets?" and I have to say, I donít have sheets like that, itís just something they made up. I want them to be proud of me and I guess that will never changeÖ

Published: November 16, 2000

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