Lopez and Ralph Fiennes play out the Cinderella story.
Cinderella role fits JLo like a glass slipper
December 19 2002
With success in movies and music, Jennifer Lopez is living a modern-day Cinderella tale. So it's no surprise that her latest role, in the movie Maid in Manhattan, fits her like a glass slipper.
In the romantic fable, currently at the top of the US box office, she portrays Marisa Ventura, a chambermaid in an upscale New York City hotel who is mistaken, through manoeuvres of her own, by a Senate candidate for one of the affluent guests.
The politician, Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), falls head first for her, never realising - even after seeing her in his suite - that she is a maid.
Lopez said that her life experiences helped to make Marisa a complete character.
"In a way she's very close to who I am," Lopez said during an interview at the Waldorf Astoria, where much of Maid was shot. "I do understand kind of the certain elements of her character (that) were very real to me."
Indeed, Marisa is a self-determined woman who grew up in New York City's outer boroughs. Lopez lived for 20 years in the Bronx. And growing up in that area, certain attitudes prevailed. One was that you didn't try to rise above what was expected of you. Marisa gets flak from her mother for wanting to succeed in Manhattan, a goal her mother views as hopeless. It's something that Lopez confronted in more subtle ways.
"For someone like me who had big dreams, a lot of aspirations and a lot of passion for what I wanted to do, being from where I was in the Bronx, being Puerto Rican and a minority, it was really like 'What are you thinking about? This is crazy. You will obviously not succeed in that business and you obviously will have wasted your life.' Then you go proving yourself little by little."
Actually she's proved herself by leaps and bounds in recent years. She released three albums - On the 6, J Lo and the recently released This Is Me ... Then. Maid in Manhattan represents her fourth film inside two years, with The Wedding Planner, Angel Eyes and this year's Enough being the others. Lopez also has her own clothing line.
One would think that all of her success came as the result of some grand scheme, but her former agent and Maid in Manhattan's producer, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, said that's not the case.
"I will tell you as an ex-agent, you never have a plan," she said. "If you have a plan, you're finished. If someone tells you they have a plan, they're not on top."
Whether she has a strategy or not doesn't matter. Right now, Lopez possesses a touch that would make King Midas envious. And although her other recent movies have been somewhat uneven, Maid in Manhattan's consistent tone could put her over the top as a box office star.
But with that fame a price must be paid, and in her case it's her anonymity. Such was the case when a throng of fans and paparazzi delayed the shooting of Maid in Manhattan on its first day.
"It was difficult for shooting. I think it was a tremendous show of affection," she said, choosing her words carefully. "But it's difficult enough to block out the whole movie crew. It made for a challenging shoot."
Maid in Manhattan's director, Wayne Wang, found it to be a bit overwhelming. "That (first) afternoon was my first Beatles experience. That hit me all at once and I was not prepared for it," Wang said. "I think she was upset that the paparazzi wasn't letting her work."
Even she admits that the celebrity is more noticeable now than it has ever been, especially given her high-profile romance and subsequent engagement to actor Ben Affleck.
"I think it's kind of at a fever pitch right now. It's kind of strange. I've gone through my period where it was so surreal and weird," she said. "And it made me feel like kind of a panda in the zoo. It makes you freak out a bit.
"I've learned to realise that along with my job, which I happen to love very much, this is part of it. You kind of have to adjust and deal with it or you won't be happy."
During the interview, she smiles easily, frequently suggesting that she could very well be in a good place in her life. If she's stressed by her multiple careers, it doesn't show. But perhaps that's because she manages each one so well.
"I always see my career as one whole thing. I'm just an artist who expresses herself in different ways and that happens to be in song, dance, acting, designing and doing all the things I love doing," she said. "There are different sides to it, but I don't think of it as separate."
Indeed, in industries where crossover is the norm, a J Lo tune in Maid in Manhattan or any of her movies would be a natural fit, or so you'd think. But she resists the urge to stick any song in a film just because she's starring in it. "I have to be really motivated to really do that," she said.
She admits that she wouldn't think it's too much of a gimmick, though. "I don't think it matters as long as the song is good and it works with the film."
There would be a certain synergy there, but she said that's not important to her. She'd rather grow as an individual in each of her career endeavours. And Bob Hoskins, who co-stars with her in Maid in Manhattan, would like to see her challenge herself in the acting arena.
"I hope she takes some chances and does some really great roles," Hoskins said. "I think she has the chops for it. I hope she doesn't listen to the studios."
She is well aware of being typecast in Hollywood, which would explain a movie such as Enough, where she battles an abusive husband. She'd like nothing more than to be able to latch onto a pet project, in the way Salma Hayek did with Frida, and make it her own, taking a gamble in the process. But that's not her reality right now. Her image in the tabloids and in other media sticks preconceived notions into the minds of Hollywood power brokers, she said.
"Unless they sit in a room with you, and they see you can be a blank slate and do whatever or be that character when you walk into a room, then they won't even think of you," she said. "Now it's harder for me to get in with the really big directors, and not that I haven't worked with great directors. I have and on some projects I'm really proud of.
"I think it (image) works against me a little bit and it's something I have to combat."