By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—arkulti-hyphenate entertainment powerhouse Jennifer Lopez has returned as a judge on the 14th season of Fox’s hit talent show “American Idol.” She also is a bestselling author—her 2014 memoir “True Love,” about preparing for her first world tour after her divorce from singer Marc Anthony made “The New York Times” bestseller list. She released her eighth studio album “A.K.A.” last summer. Her Lopez Family Foundation is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of needy women and children. On top of all that, she is a raising twins as a single mom.
The 45-year-old New York native returns to producing and acting in her new psychological thriller “The Boy Next Door,” in which she plays a high school English literature teacher who makes the mistake of having a one-night-stand with her elderly neighbor’s teenaged nephew, who turns out to be a bit of a psycho. The film is directed by “Fast and Furious” helmer Rob Cohen based on a script by Barbara Curry.[private]
The 19-year-old boy (played by former MMA fighter turned actor Ryan Guzman) enrolls at the school where her character teaches and starts to make life difficult for her when she refuses to continue their relationship. Lopez’s Claire also is trying to decide whether to patch things up with her estranged husband (John Corbett), while trying to parent their bullied teenage son, who sees the slightly older neighbor kid as a cool role model.
Lopez, who is mostly known for her roles in romantic comedies including “Maid in Manhattan” and “The Wedding Planner,” recently spoke about taking on the flawed teacher character, why she wanted to produce the film, and what’s ahead.
Q: Back when you were Jenny from the block in the Bronx, was there a hot boy living next door or nearby?
Lopez: Actually, my first boyfriend was the boy next door when I was like 13 or 14 years old. Yeah, it was the summer I turned 14.
Q: Did he live next door? Was he cute?
Lopez: Yeah. He was cute. Cute enough, I guess, at the time.
Q: You’re a producer on this as well. Why did you want to produce this film?
Lopez: When it came to us, we got it made. We produced it with Blumhouse; they’re the ones who got us the financing for it. The character was something that seemed a perfect fit for right now. I really could relate and I think a lot of people can relate to what she’s been through and what she’s going through—being at the point in your life where your relationship falls apart and you’re left feeling that sense of worthlessness, like you don’t belong anywhere, and that everything you thought was true is not. That’s something that at the base of Claire’s character is very, very understandable. People can understand that. They can understand making a mistake in a moment like that.
Q: This is the first film you’ve done since 2013’s “Parker.” Were you itching to get back on the big screen?
Lopez: For me, it’s just about what feels right at the time, and I was very much in music land in 2014. I’m always thinking about all of it. Certain things take precedence at different times, and I go with my gut and what feels right at the time. While I was working on my album, I started working on this project. We found this script and started developing it with the writer. It just seemed like the right time to do it. It came together very quickly. Sometimes projects that do that are meant to happen. It just felt like the right thing at the right time. I’ll do two movies this year. (The other is “Lila and Eve” with two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis.) I’ll do a series (NBC’s upcoming police drama “Shades of Blue”). I’m doing “American Idol.” I’ll do a lot of different things this year that we already have planned.
Q: What was the appeal of this particular project?
Lopez: I liked the script. Actually, my producing partner and I kind of had a vision of me doing a role like this. I think she manifested it into being and found it through our agency and was like, “I really think this would be a good next project for you.” And we just took it on and championed it and got it made. It was made on a micro-budget of $4 million in 25 days, which was super-intense. I’d never done a film like that in my career. It was very liberating as an artist because it made me realize I can make whatever movie I want like this. I don’t have to wait for a big studio to green light something or hire me as an actress. It really is very empowering. It’s just a new day and a new time for artists where we have more power in that way than we’ve ever had before.
Q: Did you use a body double in the intimate scene with Ryan?
Q: How was the chemistry in that scene? It looks natural.
Lopez: That is our job to make everything look natural. That it felt that way is great. Scenes like that are always uncomfortable. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in. It’s not something you ever get used to as an actress. But it’s just as hard to bare your soul emotionally sometimes. They’re difficult scenes to do. This was a very important scene in this film, so if that scene didn’t work, the rest of the film doesn’t work, because that’s the moment that they share together. If it wasn’t intense, passionate, real enough, then the rest of the movie doesn’t make sense. I’m glad that it was something that people are responding to.
Q: You’ve played in various film genres—from comedies like “The Wedding Planner” to dark dramas like “The Cell” and this. Which genre do you prefer?
Lopez: I prefer romantic comedies. They’re just fun. That’s a fun set. You’re just seeing how silly you can make things. They’re romantic and I’m a hopeless romantic as well. So I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. But as far as the type of acting, like being more dramatic or being tougher or being more vulnerable, it’s all the same. It’s all about trying to find the reality in the moment, making it real, making it feel like I’m constantly reminding myself, “Okay, your best friend just died. If you walked in and saw this, what would that be like?” And then, all of a sudden I have this high-pitched scream that I’ve never heard myself do. And that’s when I know I’m tapping into something real. But that’s what it’s about. It’s just about the moment. All of it’s fun as an actor and exhausting, to be honest. It’s really, really exhausting on your emotions sometimes but fun when you feel like you’ve done it well.
Q: In this, you deal with a scary stalker. Have you ever dealt with a situation like this?
Lopez: I’ve never had to. I’ve had people kind of obsessed with me, but not like obsessed in a dangerous, scary way. No, thank God. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that.[/private]