Jennifer Lopez: The Wow
Because Lopez in person, is, if possible, more alluring and yet more delicate than on-screen, I can't help but say, "Looking the way you do, I'm guessing certain directors and costars must have been more than casually attracted to you. Who's made the clumsiest pass yet?" Without the slightest hesitation, she answers, "That would have to be a tie between Woody and Wesley [her Money Train costars]. Woody was more playful, but if I'd have gone for it, he totally would have. I'd say, 'Hey, Woody, how are you doing?' He'd, like, stick out his tongue and flick it at me very nasty."
Mimicking Harrelson as the 'world's horniest anteater, she continues, "He was really funny about it. But Wesley--even though I had a boyfriend at the time--went full court press. He was flirting with me--you always flirt with your costars, it's harmless--then he just started getting a little more serious. He would invite us all out together and then at the end of the night, he'd drop me off last and try to kiss me. I'd be like, 'Wesley, please, I'm not interested in you like that.' He got really upset about it. His ego was totally bruised. He wouldn't talk to me for two months. I was like, 'What an asshole.' Actors are used to getting their way and to treating women like objects. They're so used to hearing the word 'Yes.' Now, I suppose Wesley will call me going, 'You bitch! How dare you? I didn't like you.'" Lopez raucously laughs, "It's time for the truth to come out!"
Lopez says she also blocked a pass made by Stephen Dorff, with whom she made Blood and Wine. What went down? "I thought he was really charming," she recalls. "He said, 'You're the most beautiful girl I've ever worked with,' and I was like, 'Oh, that's so sweet.' And he kept on staring and then he told me, 'Seriously, you're the most beautiful...,' on and on. There was an attraction there, definitely, but not something I wanted to take further. I would flirt with him a little, but I just wasn't into him that way. He got really upset and, toward the end of filming, I said, 'Oh, what, are you not talking to me now? Look, I'm just not interested at this point in my life, but don't pull a Wesley on me!' because I had told him that whole story. He was, like, 'All right, let it go.'"
Lopez refers to Jack Nicholson, with whom she also worked on Blood and Wine, as "a legend in his own time and in his own mind--like the rest of us are peons." And how did things work out with her mercurial U-Turn leading man, Sean Penn? "He has a lot of strength and we got along great, actually," she says, sounding genuinely respectful. "He could tell right away I wasn't intimidated to be there with him and Oliver. I remember asking him, 'Why do we always see pictures of you looking like you're ready to hit somebody?' and he goes, 'Because in those pictures, I'm never with my friends.' Working with Sean and Nick Nolte, too, who is a truly amazing, great actor whom I respect so much--that was top of the line. I could never work with better actors." When I ask, "Which of your costars, in a parallel universe, say, would you have a 'thing' with?" she looks up from beneath her thick lashes and says, grinning, "Should I get myself in trouble with my husband? OK, in a parallel universe, Sean. I was engaged when we were shooting U-Turn, and one day he said, 'If I weren't married and you weren't engaged, would this have been a very different movie?' And I go, 'Yeah! Very different.' So we kind of... well, we both had our own lives, so that made a real difference."
Given that Lopez has no doubt recalled only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the come-ons she's gotten in Hollywood, I ask her, "What one thing should any woman in Hollywood never be without?" On cue, she deadpans, "Mace."
At 27, Lopez has, clearly, spent years honing the fine art of the tease, the shoot-down and the snappy comeback. Born and raised in the tough-as-nails Bronx by a kindergarten teacher and a businessman, she hails from a whole house of lookers, including two sisters. "When did you first notice guys being attracted to you?" I ask. "I had a very voluptuous body from the time I was 11," she says. "My mother used to say, 'I'm so worried about Jennifer because she's so sexy. I'm afraid she's going to get pregnant.' The taste in my neighborhood was for voluptuous women, see? I knew guys liked me. Back then, in the third, fourth grade, there were girls who already had tits and boyfriends, they were always kissing in the school closet. Not me. I was more of a late bloomer, like I didn't get into it until seventh grade, 12 years old."
Her first boyfriend, David Cruz, was to become much more than just her neighborhood Romeo. "We started dating when I was 15 and dated only each other for nine years. We were very careful. I'm not saying we weren't having sex, because we were. We lived in the same neighborhood and he'd see me in, like, a weird hat, wearing something I'd cut together from a picture I'd seen in a magazine and I'd be just going to the track to run. I was creating my own style. Everybody would look at me, like I was a nerd, 'What is she doing? What is she wearing?' Because people didn't do that in my neighborhood. People didn't work out or take care of their bodies. If people see you striving for things, it threatens them. I was into, 'This two-bit town isn't big enough for me.' My boyfriend would say, 'Jennifer has bigger plans.'"
Plans that, once Lopez got hired in 1991 as a Fly Girl on In Living Color, began winning roles on short-lived TV series like Second Chances, South Central and Hotel Malibu, and finally landed Gregory Nava's My Family, didn't feature a nice guy from the old hood? She reflects, "He came out here with me and was here with me the whole time when I first started doing television and breaking into movies. Career-wise, we weren't in the same place. He just didn't know what he wanted to do. But I had a fire under my ass, I was so fast. I was like a rocket, he was like a rock." She laughs at her own turn of phrase, but it's obvious that talking about Cruz opens something raw in her, and with that remark, she doses the book on the subject.
Lopez surprised the people around her by hitching herself in 1996 to the striking Ojani Noa a year after she first saw him waiting tables at Gloria Estefan's hip Cuban restaurant in Miami Beach while she was there shooting Blood and Wine. They began dating seriously and, during the wrap party for Selena, Noa popped the question on the dance floor. Now, with her movie star mojo working overtime, does Lopez harbor the slightest regret at getting married when she did? "A lot of people in my personal life said that I shouldn't have gotten married so fast," she admits quietly. "This business is tougher on women who are doing better than men because men are raised to be the supporters. We still live with those sensibilities. It's tough for me because the men I'm attracted to, for some reason, haven't gotten it together. Even my husband, I feel, has a lot of potential but he's not at the point where... I mean, even though he has lots of contacts, even though he's doing his own thing, opening a club and restaurant here, whatever business he gets in, he's not gonna make as much money as me. That's something he has to deal with and to live with, which is tough for someone like him.