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How does a movie star work from home in the coronavirus era? That was the challenge Jennifer Lopez faced earlier this month when the superstar filmed a scene for her forthcoming movie, Marry Me, from the Miami estate at which she is quarantining. The feat involved some out-of-the-box logistics: an Alexa camera and technician who had been briefed by the film’s cinematographer were sent to Lopez’s home to stage three different setups from a safe social distance. The short scene involved Lopez’s character receiving a FaceTime while getting a massage, and the superstar seemingly used her home spa as a backdrop—with her quarantine mates working as gaffers. Lopez’s co-star Maluma filmed his end of the scene from Colombia. Producers watched remotely on a Zoom call. There were echoes and internet delays—and a single page of dialogue took about six hours to shoot. But to Lopez, the technology wasn’t the most difficult obstacle.
Speaking to Vanity Fair by phone last week, Lopez said, “The biggest challenge was to get into the acting head space with the kids holding the boom mic, you know what I mean?”
Marry Me may be the most meta movie of Lopez’s career. Directed by Kat Coiro, the film stars Lopez as a world-renowned pop star set to marry her famous fiancé (Maluma) in an over-the-top wedding at Madison Square Garden. When she is left at the altar, she plucks a math teacher out of the audience, played by Owen Wilson, and marries him instead. Explained Lopez, “Owen Wilson plays the math teacher who has a normal life, who’s not on social media, who’s not of that generation, but his kid is, and it’s about how their two worlds collide.” Lopez said she infused the script—from John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill—with ideas and anecdotes cribbed from her real-life heartbreaks, which have played out painfully in public over the years. Even though the film is a comedy, Lopez said that the process of reliving a fictional version of those low points was cathartic.
“You’re out there on your own making mistakes, and I made plenty over the years,” said Lopez. “I’ve watched my personal life crash and burn many times, and then have to live with that. People don’t understand how much it hurts to go through these things and to fail in front of the world.”
Though she didn’t specify which heartbreak may have most influenced her Marry Me trajectory, the superstar has spoken about how devastating it was to split with then fiancé Ben Affleck after their very public courtship—which played out in her 2002 “Jenny From the Block” music video, the 2003 box-office flop Gigli, and the accompanying press tour. “My relationship [with Affleck] self-destructed in front of the entire world,” Lopez told Vanity Fair in 2017. “It was a two-year thing for me until I picked myself up again.” Describing Marry Me, Lopez’s longtime producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas said the main character moves from a relationship where she “flaunts her love” to one where “she understands that it’s not about the display of [love]. It’s about the feeling of it.”
Goldsmith-Thomas also described the film as Notting Hill meets Roman Holiday but with music—and Lopez said she recorded an entire new album for the film. “I do play a pop star and she sings and performs throughout the movie, so it’s not your typical romantic comedy. It’s more a musical romantic comedy.”
The film was initially scheduled for a fall release, and the cast is doing what they can to make that deadline—even doing Automated Dialog Replacement (ADR) on their phones. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Lopez said she is still adjusting to the stay-at-home lifestyle. A prolific businesswoman and entertainer, Lopez is accustomed to operating at a turbocharged pace—flipping between cities, entertainment mediums, and business capacities on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Sitting still is something very new for Lopez, and her fiancé Alex Rodriguez, with whom she is quarantining. “We’ve never had time like this in three years that we’ve been together,” Lopez marveled. “We [usually] travel so much, Alex and I. Every single day from morning to night together with, ‘Oh, I have to go here for a second.’ ‘I have to go here for a second.’ ‘I’m getting on a plane, I’ll see you in a few days.’”
Just three months ago, Lopez was capping an awards-season run for Hustlers by maxing out her adrenaline as the Super Bowl halftime performer. These days, Lopez and Rodriguez are operating at a more leisurely pace—having dinner with their children each night and the time to engage in long conversations. A sitcom-paced life—albeit set inside a Miami mansion—has its perks. “I got to tell you, we’ve enjoyed it.”
“Once we get in a situation like this that’s high anxiety and [filled with] uncertainty, you start really examining your life,” said Lopez, explaining that the pace change has made her question her previous operating speed. “I’ve realized that I could improve on certain things that I missed from running so fast and working so much—even the simple pleasure of just being together. Me and Alex being together, having dinner with the kids every night. Because we do travel and we are away from home sometimes. So those things are really important, and we take them for granted. [It’s] like reassessing your whole life [and seeing] a balance that needs to be there that wasn’t.”
The last thing Lopez was working on the outside was World of Dance—the NBC dancing competition reality show she judges and produces. Lopez said that producers sped up filming when they saw businesses shutting down, and managed to shoot the finale—without an audience—right before the stay-at-home mandate was issued. Lopez is hopeful that the fourth season of Dance Again, which premieres Tuesday, will lift the spirits of homebound viewers.
“I did a song called ‘Dance Again’ six months after I got divorced,” said Lopez. “I found this song and it became my mantra, my anthem. The lyrics were like, ‘I want to dance and love and laugh and dance again.’ And I think that’s where we are right now. People are so full of anxiety and uncertainty and fear and a little bit anger for everything that’s going on, and you just want to get back to something that feels good. We talked about [wanting] to make the world dance again, because we haven’t danced in the past few months. We’ve just all been sitting here wondering what the hell’s going to happen.”
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