Jennifer Lopez took on an enormous challenge with This is Me … Now: A Love Story, the “narrative driven, cinematic original” film that hits Prime Video this week. It wasn’t the singing, acting or intricate choreography featured in the 65-minute musical, as the multihyphenate can do all of that in her sleep. The real hurdle arose when the money disappeared and Lopez opted to open her wallet to pay for the whole thing.
“Everybody thought I was crazy when I said I would do it. We did have financing, and then that fell out. They pulled out at the last minute, and then it was that moment where you go, ‘OK, do we just make a video or do we go ahead and do this thing?'” explained the 54-year-old entertainer during an interview at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills while sitting alongside her Nuyorican Prods. producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. (Though she didn’t say how much she plunked down, Variety has since reported it was a hefty $20 million sum.)
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They went full steam ahead, even though Goldsmith-Thomas admits that when the money fell out, she was terrified. “But I believe in her so much. She was open to anybody’s notes. She understood that she had to do it. She understood it was a fool’s errand to finance your own thing, and yet sometimes the fool is the genius because you’re following your heart and this really is her heart.”
This Is Me … Now: A Love Story drops on Prime Video on Feb. 16 in tandem with her first studio album in a decade. It features a host of stars including Jane Fonda, Trevor Noah, Fat Joe, Post Malone, Keke Palmer, Sofía Vergara, Jay Shetty, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Kim Petras. Another one sure to snag headlines comes from Lopez’s real-life husband, Ben Affleck, and below she tells The Hollywood Reporter the strategy behind his role in a script she co-wrote with Matt Walton based on an original story by Lopez, the film’s director Dave Meyers and Chris Shafer.
Where did the idea come from?
LOPEZ Once the album was done, obviously. I did This Is Me … Then 20 years ago and never thought there would be a This Is Me … Now. It captured a moment in time when I first experienced this type of love and when I had a second chance at it, I got very inspired to go into the studio and make this record. When it was done, which happened in a couple of months, I was like, “Wow, this is a very special, magical moment right now.” I didn’t think it was right to throw out a video and do the normal thing. I wanted to do something really different with this. I called Dave Meyers, we sat down together and I played him some of the music. He says that I sang some of the music to him, too.
I told him that I made this album 20 years ago, and now we’re here, and he said, “That’s the story. The story you just told me is the story.” I told him that I didn’t want to tell the story of Ben and I because people know that story. I wanted to do something different. So we embarked upon how to do that in a visual way with singing, dancing and funny in a life-like way.
I’m glad you said funny, because there’s such a sense of humor in this. Why was that important?
LOPEZ Because life is funny. The most heartbreakingly great moments in life are when you’re crying and laughing at the same time. To me, life is really funny. Maybe that’s why I love romantic comedies — not that this is anything close to a romantic comedy, but those moments for me are the ones in life that show you how important it is to be able to laugh at yourself. You have to, because it’s absurd sometimes the things that you find yourself in or that you go through. You think, “I never thought I would be this person. How did this happen?” It’s hysterical, but it’s also heartbreaking. The reality of life is something that I really wanted to put in there. It all kind of fits in an organic way.
GOLDSMITH-THOMAS Comedy and tragedy. And she was compelled to do it. She was compelled. I’ve never known anyone like this, seen anyone like this, and all you could do as her partner and her friend was hang on.
And help her bring it to life. It’s a producorial challenge and I admire the feat of it. It looks expensive, too. Not that I expect you to answer this, but how much did it cost?
GOLDSMITH-THOMAS Here’s the truth, here’s what I did, I hung onto her. It all came out [with the help] of our extraordinary filmmaker Dave Meyers, who’s a visual artist. I mean, it was Jennifer’s vision and it was difficult to understand it. It was difficult. Originally it was set up and then people didn’t really understand what it was as it was forming and reforming in her mind with Dave.
LOPEZ Like he said, [Nathan Scherrer of Freenjoy] who helped us produce it, we went in over budget. It was a challenging project in that way. It’s like there could have never been enough money for the project. We didn’t have endless funds from a studio. This was a very independent project that I was self-financing. So it was very challenging producorially.
GOLDSMITH-THOMAS Underscore that she was financing.
LOPEZ Everybody thought I was crazy when I said I would do it. We did have financing, and then that fell out. They pulled out at the last minute, and then it was that moment where you go, “OK, do we just make a video or do we go ahead and do this thing?” Elaine and I talked about it. We talked about whether or not I do this or I just go make two videos and go the normal route. I decided that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to see this vision through.
GOLDSMITH-THOMAS The songs poured out of her and it was electric to watch that as it was happening, and she had to do it. When the money fell out, I was terrified. So my job became watching it. “Do we really need that scene?” It wasn’t less creative and more financial, but I believe in her so much. She was open to anybody’s notes. She understood that she had to do it. She understood it was a fool’s errand to finance your own thing, and yet sometimes the fool is the genius because you’re following your heart, and this really is her heart.
Let’s go back to the comedy. I want to ask about the cameos — everyone from Jane Fonda to Trevor Noah — and Mr. Lex Stone, who is played by your husband Ben Affleck.
LOPEZ When you’re doing this kind of surrealistic magical odyssey, you can have a lot of creative license. There were different ideas that we wanted to infuse in this piece and for people to figure out what does this actually mean? What I wanted to put in there was a kind of the Greek chorus. We have this protagonist who’s a hopeless romantic, and she has the people in her life who are commenting — her friends, her family, and then everybody else like co-workers and in my case, it could be the media. Not that they’re not rooting for you, they’re actually rooting for you, but they have an opinion.
Then there’s this idea when you really love somebody, they’re always a part of you. There’s a presence that they have, even when you move on. Maybe you never wind up together but they’re a part of you. This story wasn’t about Ben and I. This was about a hopeless romantic’s journey through life in her search for love. But there was a presence and how did we have that presence of this person? That was the heartbreak that we talk about in the beginning. And so we came up with this device of this person [Lex Stone, a television anchor] in the background who was a presence, but not really in their life.
After bankable success at the box office, you have found success in streaming and are back in business with streamers right now, on This Is Me … Now: A Love Story for Prime Video and the upcoming Atlas for Netflix. How are you navigating the Hollywood landscape right now with getting new projects off the ground?
GOLDSMITH-THOMAS You have to be a bit of an architect. You have to allow for things to gestate. You have to understand what the business is and not so much yearn for what it was. You have to be able to pivot. It’s embarrassing to say this in front of her, but Jennifer is a generous, brilliantly creative actor and filmmaker, and I love working with her. We talk five times a day. We update each other on everything. We get excited when one of us is excited. We agree, we disagree. We have an inordinate amount of respect, and we really try to put diversity first in the people we work with, we hire and that we try to amplify. It’s inspiring and it’s fun. As long as you’re having fun.
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