By Tim Nasson
Beverly Hills, CA – What do a Puerto Rican actress-cum-singer who unsuccessfully attempts an Italian accent in her new role; a Texan who loves to dance around naked in his house smoking marijuana; and a charismatic, queeny Jew from Brentwood who has never made a film before have in common with each other? Well, The Wedding Planner.
Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey and first-time film director Adam Shankman have teamed up for what Sony Pictures hopes to be the romantic comedy of this season.
At the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, the three set a Sunday morning aside recently to chat up their film.
Jennifer Lopez had aspirations to sing but could not have even remotely predicted the success of her debut album, “On the 6″, which sold over 6 million copies in 1999.
“Dividing my time between acting and singing is not too much of a burden,” said Lopez, who was outfitted in a Dolce & Gabbana skirt and Versace boots, “because I love both equally as much. I never thought I would become a successful singer or actress. The fact that I have been lucky enough to succeed in both professions is such a great feeling.”
Lopez, who began her career as a Flygirl in 1990 on television’s “In Living Color”, grew up in the Bronx and says that she has “always had a passion for dancing, which makes being able to do videos for my songs on MTV so much fun. I still get to do what I grew up doing.”
The Wedding Planner is Lopez’s first romantic leading role. “I am so used to doing action films and sci-fi films,” she says, referring to such films as Anaconda, The Cell, Out of Sight, and Money Train, “that doing a romantic comedy was a nice change for me.”
Lopez is going to take her acting even further in her next film, Francis Ford Coppola’s Two Fridas, in which she plays the title role in the true story of an artist who decided to have a sex change and become a woman. While
Lopez is easy on the eyes, she says that “we are going to try to keep my looks as close to the real Frida [who was by no means a model] as possible.”
Matthew McConaughey, who replaced Brendan Fraser in The Wedding Planner, walked into the suite at the hotel looking a lot like Truman Capote. Wearing black sunglasses, a long, black cashmere scarf draped around his neck and over his back, and sporting a shaved head, he insisted on watching the blowout football game that was on that morning which determined that the New York Giants would make it into this year’s Super Bowl.
McConaughey, who is an avid outdoorsman, just returned from a five-week excursion into the woods of Texas, where he owns a 1,600-acre ranch, complete with a rattlesnake pit and an Emu. “I brought nothing but some camping gear and essentials,” he said. “I lived off the land. I had fresh game every day. Found water, and myself,” he said, laughing. “I walked out of the woods a little smellier and grubbier-looking than when I went in,” he laughs, “but those times, the times I go off by myself for a few weeks, are my favorite times.”
In The Wedding Planner, McConaughey saves Lopez’s character from imminent death and falls instantly in love. The only problem? He already has a fiance. When Lopez discovers his secret, all hell breaks loose.
“This is one of the first characters I’ve played where I am not really defined by my profession,” said McConaughey. “I’ve been a lawyer, a cowboy, a theologian and a lieutenant in different films. Being a doctor, in this film, though, is really beside the point.”
Too sexy for the role
“When I first met Jennifer Lopez,” said the flamboyant director Shankman, “I did not want her to be in the film. I thought she would be too sexy for the role. I didn’t think Jennifer would be someone a bride-to-be would want around her fiance.”
Shankman’s rise through the ranks is an interesting story. The 30-something Jew from Brentwood, as he labels himself, started off as a dancer. After high school, he enrolled in Julliard. After five years of work as an actor/dancer in New York, Shankman moved back to LA and began dancing in music videos, including those of Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson.
“One afternoon, I was sitting around, waiting to dance in a video,” Shankman said, “and the producer comes out and starts screaming that he needs to find a choreographer. The one he had bailed out. I lied and said I had done this and that and blah, blah, blah, and since we needed to start shooting immediately, the producer had no way of checking out my credentials. He hired me as the choreographer on the spot. I had never really wanted to become one, but at that moment, I thought to myself, ‘How hard can it be?”’
Shankman went on to choreograph scenes in such movies as Scream 2, Boogie Nights, The Flintstones, and Antz.
“It definitely is about being at the right place at the right time,” he said of his successful career thus far.
Jennifer Lopez Interview with Tim Nasson about The Wedding Planner.