Jennifer Lopez: The Wow
Flash forward to the set of Anaconda in Brazil. Lopez's agent called just after she'd learned she'd bagged the lead in Selena over some 22,000 other hopefuls. "I told him, 'You guys know I don't want to work with him.' Click!" Back in L.A. from Brazil, Lopez got another request from Stone. "I'm one of those people who usually sticks to something I've said, but I got to thinking, 'Well, he called himself and he wants to make amends. I have the upper hand here because I don't care about this movie. I've got Selena and I'm getting a million dollars for it.' That's the best way to deal with these bigwigs. I just went in there and we hit it off and I flirted with him, got tough with him and he just loved it."
By the time Lopez reached home, Stone had already phoned her agent, saying the role was virtually hers, adding, "Jennifer Lopez is like a tall drink of hot cocoa." Then Sharon Stone weighed in. Lopez recalls, "She was interested and so I heard they were going to play that out. But then she wanted a lot of money and they came back to me." With a triumphant grin, she adds, "The first day we were on the set, [Oliver] said, 'I'm sorry about the Sharon thing. When a major player calls, you have to play it out. But you were always my first choice.' He was just trying to make me feel better about it, like he wanted me to be really confident, and I thought it was nice of him to care. He's like that. He has a soft, vulnerable side."
Soft and vulnerable, huh? "What did you learn about Oliver Stone's sensitive side from being directed by him?" I ask. Letting out a hoot, Lopez observes, "That he's a wild man. He doesn't hide anything when it comes to sex in his life. He loves women, he has a lot of sex. He loves talking about how he sleeps with women. Like he'll come onto the set going, 'Aggghh, I was up fucking until four in the morning until I passed out.' Oliver is a great guy, highly sexual, and he was so good to me making the movie. Oh, and something else--I'm attracted to scent and he smells really great, like spicy lavender. You know what those expensive purple candies smell like in your mouth? The ones nobody has here but you can get in New York and Europe? That's what he smells like."
Lopez worked hard for the opportunity to follow up U-Turn by starring with George Clooney in director Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, an edgy adaptation of Elmore Leonard's on-the-run action romance between a prison escapee and a female Fed marshal. "I have this attitude--and it won't change no matter how big I get--that you have to fight for things you want," says Lopez in explaining how she won the role. "You can't expect things to be handed to you on a platter, even if you can fill theaters week in and week out. Because there's always somebody like me ready to kick down the door and steal the job right out from under you. One of the smart things George did was to screen-test everybody, because he knew he'd had trouble with the women in his movies, where maybe there wasn't as much chemistry as there could have been. Universal was pushing for Sandra Bullock because they said she'd put people in seats. George and the director met with her, but they were like, 'If Sandra really wants it, she's gonna have to test for it.' She wouldn't test, and her agent, who is also my agent, supported that. If I was Sandy, I'd say, 'Well, I'm gonna show them that I can do it. I'll read with them, make them offer me the part, then make them pay out the ass.'"
Lopez herself made them pay when she landed the role. The flat-out outrageous $5 million she asked for ended up to be an only fairly outrageous reported $2 million. "I want to make as much or more than Demi Moore when it's my time," she declares. "I think George Clooney's getting $10 million for this movie. [Universal] thought they were going to get me cheap from the beginning, but I kept telling my agent, 'No, no, no! Keep asking!' When my agent called me saying, 'What should we say to them?' I said, 'Say, Who's going to break their ass to promote this movie while George is on ER? Say, Anaconda is now over $100 million worldwide and why do you think girls between 18 and 25 went to see it more than any other action movies--because of Ice Cube?' The head of Universal called my manager, saying, 'You guys are not looking at the long run.' You know, whatever excuse they can give to keep another dollar in their pocket. I don't take it personally, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to fight for what I feel. We are looking at the long run, they're not. Eventually, they're going to pay. People don't believe it yet, but right now I'm very underpaid."
Now that Lopez has edged up to what she calls "the bottom of the A-list of actresses," how does she view the women with whom she's been in contention for roles? Like, say, Salma Hayek? "We're in two different realms. She's a sexy bombshell and those are the kinds of roles she does. I do all kinds of different things. It makes me laugh when she says she got offered Selena, which was an outright lie. If that's what she does to get herself publicity, then that's her thing. Columbia offered me the choice of Fools Rush In or Anaconda, but I chose the fun B-movie because the Fools script wasn't strong enough."
Cameron Diaz? "A lucky model who's been given a lot of opportunities I just wish she would have done more with. She's beautiful and has a great presence, though, and in My Best Friend's Wedding, I thought, 'When directed, she can be good.'"
Gwyneth Paltrow? "Tell me what she's been in? I swear to God, I don't remember anything she was in. Some people get hot by association. I heard more about her and Brad Pitt than I ever heard about her work."
Claire Danes? "A good actress. Her emotional and inner life are available to her, which is a good start. But I feel like I see a lot of the same thing with every character she does. She's not that way in U-Turn, though."
Winona Ryder? "I was never a big fan of hers. In Hollywood she's revered, she gets nominated for Oscars, but I've never heard anyone in the public or among my friends say, 'Oh, I love her.' She's cute and talented, though, and I'd like her just for looking like my older sister, Leslie."
Madonna? "Do I think she's a great performer? Yeah. Do I think she's a great actress? No. Acting is what I do, so I'm harder on people when they say, 'Oh, I can do that--I can act.' I'm like, 'Hey, don't spit on my craft.'"