Photography lesson

“I would say Ben and I learned our lesson the first time around”

Of course, the fireplace is lit at Jennifer Lopez. It’s a rainy day just a week before Christmas, and his Spanish-style Bel-Air estate is decorated as you’d expect: a garland of pine trees strewn around the fireplace, orange roses on the coffee table, a Christmas tree tree trimmed by professionals in the living room.

It’s like a page from a Restoration Hardware catalog, right down to the star herself, dressed in the couture version of the work-from-home uniform: chunky beige sweater, cream sweatpants, Timberlands bling-out. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and a touch of makeup highlights her incredibly dewy skin. The giant diamond studs affixed to her ears are the only true telltale of her status as one of the most famous women on the planet.

Which makes you wonder, does anything happen by accident in Jennifer Lopez’s life? It’s a question to ponder, especially after her new boyfriend, Ben Affleck, came over for a kiss and whispered conversation near a giant gingerbread house that’s iced with the words “Affleck Lopez Family”.

After all, this is a woman who successfully navigated the treacherous waters of stardom for nearly three decades, endured round after round of romance and public breakups, reshaped herself from dancer to singer to actress to producer. At 52, at a time when female stars typically find themselves in ageist, sexist Hollywood purgatory, she seems more relevant than ever.

I don’t blame myself for ‘I wish I had done this differently’ or ‘Did I overdo it?’ Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

Her new film, the brilliant romantic comedy Marry Me, long delayed by the pandemic, hits theaters and on Peacock on Valentine’s Day weekend. In it, Lopez plays a J-Lo-like superstar trying to negotiate a love life amid the trappings of stardom. (Sound familiar?) She’ll play another bride in Shotgun Wedding, which is due out this summer, before swapping the dresses for a role as a deadly assassin in the upcoming Netflix film, The Mother, which she was planning to direct. finish filming in the Canary Islands after the Christmas holiday.

At some point, the streaming service, which last year signed a multi-year deal with Lopez’s company Nuyorican Productions, will also release a documentary that chronicles the year she turned 50 and all of her disparate worlds merged together. : legitimate recognition for her acting in Hustlers (she earned her second Golden Globe nomination and a nod at the SAG Awards), her 2019 international concert tour and the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show. The year, she says, “everything I had worked for in film, music and fashion started happening”.

Marry Me is a frothy pop fantasy and a glimpse into a life few get the chance to lead.  Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

Marry Me is a frothy pop fantasy and a glimpse into a life few get the chance to lead. Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

Marry Me, which Lopez began working on years ago with her former agent-turned-producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, is something of an explanation of what it’s like to exist in Lopez’s spotlight. , something she calls “a very specific life.” It’s also a high-flying act, a gamble that she can revive a genre that’s been left for dead by the studio system and rom-com stars of the past.

Once you get burned a couple times, you realize, ‘I gotta be careful’

For Goldsmith-Thomas, Lopez’s decision to switch from Hustlers, which boosted her credibility as a serious actress, to Marry Me, which aligns more closely with her earlier success as a rom-com mainstay (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner), makes perfect sense. “We loved doing Hustlers, but that doesn’t mean it’s all we should be doing,” she said. “She had the opportunity to pull back the curtain and make a movie about what it was like to live and love in a glass bowl, to have your mistakes amplified and crucified across all platforms, and ultimately to find your way despite it. . Add to that the ability to produce and perform a soundtrack for this trip, and we’d be fools not to.

In Marry Me, Lopez plays Kat Valdez, a global pop star who is intent on marrying her boyfriend, also a global sensation (played by Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma), in front of millions of fans in a TV stunt. Moments before the big “I do”, Valdez finds out he cheated on her, cancels the ceremony on stage, and chooses to marry the poor schlub in the audience (Owen Wilson) holding a “Marry Me” sign. Think The Bodyguard meets Notting Hill, with soundtrack by Lopez.

The film is both a frothy pop fantasy and a glimpse into a life few are lucky enough to lead. Any obsessive Lopez fan will surely examine him closely for clues to Lopez’s own psyche, particularly how lonely he can be at the top, where the right cocoon can often resemble a cage. And they won’t be wrong.

The film's director, Kat Coiro, admired Lopez's quest for perfection.  Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

The film’s director, Kat Coiro, admired Lopez’s quest for perfection. Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

Lopez recalled filming a scene in which her character returns home after the stunt ceremony went south, exhausted and still in her dress. She turns on Jimmy Fallon, only to see him insult her during his late night monologue, and she begins to cry. It’s a hint of vulnerability you don’t often see in Lopez, and one that took time to reach the actress.

“Once you’ve burned yourself a few times, you realize, ‘I have to be careful.’ If things are too deep and you expose them, someone might step on your heart,” she said, adding an expletive.

The film’s director, Kat Coiro, admired Lopez’s quest for perfection. “There’s choreography even in his acting,” she said. Still, to make the scene work, Coiro had Lopez rehearse it multiple times to break that veneer. The result feels real, or as real as Lopez will allow herself to be.

You can’t live life and think things are just mistakes: I just messed up there, I messed up there. No, these are all lessons

“I had to remind myself in this movie that it was actually a safe place to express those feelings,” Lopez said, sitting in front of that garland-adorned fireplace. “They laugh at me, it hurts. My instinct was to act like it wasn’t.

Lopez has spent decades trying to find that balance between what audiences expect of her and what she’s willing to give them. She always enjoys socializing with fans after concerts. Coiro, for her part, was amazed at how much time she was willing to give them.

“She’s so ubiquitous that sometimes she doesn’t get the credit she deserves,” the director said. “I think there’s something of that in this movie.” When Kat Valdez “talks about never winning any awards, I think that was a true-to-life moment,” Coiro continued. “She’s been around. She has fans like no one else, and because of that notoriety, she sometimes isn’t looked at in a certain way.

Despite the guardrails, public perception is something Lopez still struggles to achieve.

“You really just want to sing and dance and perform,” Lopez said. “All of this other stuff comes with the fact that you have to learn how to navigate – to have this public life, this artistic life and then your private life. What you want is just a normal life, like anyone in the world. other,” she said with a pause. “It’s all put under surveillance.”

Lopez had just finished telling me that when Affleck appeared. “Hi, baby,” she told him. The two set the internet on fire last year when they rekindled their relationship from 19 years ago – a relationship so extra at the time that it single-handedly fueled tabloid culture with glamorous dating and very public of the duo. (Revisit Lopez’s infamous 2002 Jenny From the Block video to see Affleck kissing her bikini bottom while the two sunbathe on a yacht.) With a backpack slung over his shoulder, he interrupted the interview to l train in the other room. They returned 10 minutes later, only to hug, kiss and whisper “I love you” in each other’s ears. “Alright my love, I’ll see you later,” he said before rushing off.

One thing seems clear: Lopez is a hopeless romantic.  Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

One thing seems clear: Lopez is a hopeless romantic. Photography: Chantal Anderson/The New York Times

It was a special moment. It was expected ? Spontaneous? My requests to speak to Affleck had been denied, yet there he was, the dutiful boyfriend sharing words of encouragement in front of the press.

I asked Lopez about the conversations they had before rekindling a romance that previously had the power to sink two movies and jeopardize their respective careers. (Gigli and the ensuing Jersey Girl both crashed out, in part due to relationship turmoil.) Had they strategized about how they would handle the media frenzy that would come with such a union?

“I would say we learned our lesson the first time around,” she said with a sigh.

And what is this lesson?

“To make it sacred,” she added. “You have to do what makes you feel good all the time. But at the same time, you learn from the past, you do things better the second time around. There’s a part of that, yes, we’re together. But there’s a part of it that’s not, you know, being as open as we were when we were so young and in love many years ago.

What about everything she’s shared with the public during her four-year relationship with former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, from constant red carpet presence to intimate Instagram photos? with their respective children? The two even attempted to buy the New York Mets in 2020, only to lose to a highest bidder.

“When you’re in things, you do what feels right to you. And I don’t blame myself for ‘I wish I had done this differently’ or ‘Did I overdo it?’ “, she said. “That’s what was comfortable at the time. I did what I did. He did what he did. And was it good. Romantic relationships had nothing to do with being public or not being public.

One thing seems clear: Lopez is a hopeless romantic, one who, despite three marriages and other failed relationships, still believes in fate. It’s the guideline of her new film and seems to be the guideline of her life as well, a line she has no plans to change anytime soon.

“You can’t live life and think things are just mistakes: I just messed up there, I messed up there. No, those are just lessons,” he said. she said, “It’s really what you can extrapolate from it that’s going to help you grow and take it to the next level to understand yourself, find yourself, and be at peace with your life, at peace with who you are.” article originally appeared in The New York Times.