Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes star in "Maid in Manhattan," a modern day spin on the classic Cinderella story. In this movie, Jennifer Lopez plays Marisa Ventura, a hotel maid and divorced mom who is mistaken by a handsome playboy politician (Ralph Fiennes) for a wealthy socialite. With help from her young son and her hotel co-workers, Marisa conspires to maintain the 'Cinderella' charade as she transforms into a princess for one romantic night.
In this interview promoting "Maid in Manhattan," Jennifer Lopez discusses the service industry, working with the cast of "Maid in Manhattan," Ben Affleck, and relationships.
JENNIFER LOPEZ ('Marisa Ventura')
Are maids really as persecuted as we see in this film?
I don't think they're persecuted or portrayed as persecuted in this film. I just think that there is definitely something to be said for them kind of blending into the background, just having this invisible thing. I mean, you guys [the press] all stay in hotels all the time. You know [what] it's like - you go about your day, you have a lot on your mind, you're busy, you're this, you're running out. You've got to make it to your appointment and these people come in and they make it all right for you, and you don't take notice. I mean, none of you can tell me in the hotel you're staying in what your maid looks like today. It's just how it is.
Did you gain a new appreciation for maids?
Absolutely. You can't not when you do something like this. You always wind up learning something.
Did you have to do research?
You know, it's funny. I spend so much time in hotels. I've lived in hotels for the past seven years. They have this, which I didn't know, instructional videotape for each hotel. It shows you how to fold the corners and how the towels should be hung and where everything goes in the room and how the suites are and how the regular rooms are. It's kind of just very militant, like the military. This is how it is and this is how we run our hotel. It's actually kind of interesting.
Was it hard to get into playing a mother?
No. I guess I have a lot of maternal instinct anyway, I think. I'm a real caretaker anyway with everybody in my life, so even though I don't have children, it wasn't that hard for me to understand what it is to love and care for somebody in a very deep way. Plus, I had a great mom myself.
Did you enjoy the interaction with the young actor who played your son Ty?
I did. He's a super really, really smart kid. I know what it is to act and how difficult it is and how to concentrate and block everything out and everything. Most child actors just say the lines. They don't have an understanding like "Oh, be sad" or "Be this..." He would actually really have an understanding like, "This is what's happening in the story right now and I have to put across that this is really disappointing for me." He wouldn't say that, but I could see him doing it. Or like the director would say, "Don't forget," and he'd pepper that in. He was this really amazing little person.
Was this the most important year of your career?
It's been one of them up until now. I mean, I would've said that last year, "This was the busiest year," and then I surpassed that. It's been kind of interesting. I don't know. It's been a busy year. It's been a tough year but a great year, too.
What would be the lesson you learned from this year?
For me, it was really transitional. Not a transitional year, but a year of growth for me where I really felt like I got... Where I went through something, came out the other side, and was actually the person that I was supposed to be my whole life. You know what I mean? Where you just feel really, really comfortable with who you are and accept yourself for all the things that you are and what your life is and what it's become and what it means and all the different things like that.
What is your idea of romance?
My idea of romance? Oh God, commitment. Really being committed to something, which is tough in this day and age.
Do romantic comedies set an unrealistic standard for real relationships?
No. Because this is just like the beginning of a relationship. I think it should give the idea that you can be with Prince Charming or the President of the United States or whoever. It doesn't matter who you are. I think that's actually a good thing.
The film deals with being in the public eye with paparazzi and such. How close to home did that hit?
Well, when I was filming this movie... I mean, I have had romances in the public eye before but never, I don't think, to this degree. But I didn't even think about it to tell you the truth. I know what it's like, so I guess it was just a second nature thing to me. I think the funniest line in the whole movie for me was when I said, and I get a kick out of it every time I say it, was when I said, 'All those cameras all the time. I don't know how you do it.' I was like, "I think that was really badly delivered." I might've had a false note in my performance there.
How do you do it?
You just get used to it. I think I went through my time where it was just really strange and kind of surreal to me and now it's just par for the course, kind of part of my life. Like I said, kind of knowing who you are, what you do, and what that is, and being okay with that. This is part of it and that's part of it, and I love this part and I'm not crazy about that part. You learn to take stock in all of the great things and just say it's a part of the whole deal.
What happens when you go to The Bronx and get in touch with the girls, your fans?
They go crazy. They're like, "Oh, my God..." They're very affectionate with me, like they'll hug me and hang onto me and all want to be in a big circle. It's actually really, really sweet. I think it's important. I didn't have that as much when I was growing up, somebody that I could go, "She's right where I'm from, right there she lived, and she did this. I have those kind of dreams too and I want to do that too." I think a lot of people try and a lot of people do, but they weren't... like, Rita Moreno never came to The Bronx and in my neighborhood. I did that the other day and that's not to say anything about her, but I think it's great and important that people have that in their lives. I think it makes a huge difference.
How often do you visit The Bronx?
We were just there last week. I wouldn't say it's very often. My mom still lives in Westchester and so does my sister, my niece and my nephew, so I go up there all the time. But to the old neighborhood, the most time I spent there in the past few years was when we did this movie this summer.
Is it a conscious effort to show people your roots?
It's funny. I think people think it's a little more calculated than it is. For 20 years I lived in the Bronx, okay. I grew up there Puerto Rican, that's not going to change. I just feel like that's going to manifest itself in everything I do. It's not a conscious [thing] like I have to put that I'm from the Bronx in this song. It's not like that. It's just whatever you do, who you are comes through. I'm sure in your writing, who you are and whatever background you come from manifests itself in that way. As unbiased as you have to be, you still have that come through. It's all you bring with you. For me as an artist, when I express myself, that is always going to come through. Sometimes it's going to be as overt as "Jenny from the Block" and sometimes it's going to be as subtle as something else I've done, a movie where just one little element of the character has something to do, has the street smarts that I had when I was growing up because of where I'm from. It's going to be different like that.
Getting back to commitment, why is it so hard to find especially in your industry?
It's kind of a gypsy life. It's the traveling salesman in a way, but the traveling entertainer. It's just tough. It's a tough business.
What was it like to work with Bob Hoskins?
There are certain actors that you work with, and there are very few that I've worked with that I feel like I do about Bob Hoskins. There are certain people that the minute they open their mouth in their craft, they just captivate you. They cut right through to your heart. It's a gift. It's an ability where they just [WHOOSH] and you just go "Wow," and not many people have it. He's just one of those people. Just to be in the same scene with him. I mean, at the table read he made me cry. He's just one of those very special actors and it was a pleasure to work with him and very much like in the movie, Marissa and his character, and Lionel's character in the movie, had kind of a thing where it was just like he's realizing that she has this potential and it needs to be nurtured. It's kind of like a father. We had the same type of thing where he was like a father figure and teaching me and guiding me along the way. So, it was actually a really nice relationship.
Are Latinas making a difference in Hollywood this year, with "Frida" also out?
I think we're trying. It's hard. The fact that "Frida" came out this year and that we're telling stories about our kind of icons, I think it's very encouraging. But at the same time, I feel like just like in this movie where it's like that thing where you can't rise above that, that attitude has to go away. We have to push and we have to want more to get more.
Are you sad you couldn't do your own "Frida" project?
You know, I always had a thing for that project, for "Frida." Ours just didn't get made. It just fell to the wayside like a lot of things do. One of the reasons is because they had another project. It's just silly to try to do two movies about the same thing.
What did you think of your character's mother telling her to accept the status quo?
Something I liked about this movie is that it dealt with that a little bit. For me personally, having dealt with that on a subconscious [levell], I don't think anybody does it consciously when you're growing up, but when you grow up where I grew up and you are a minority, there is this little feeling like, "What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you trying to do with your life?" Because it's just not the norm, it's not expected and there's also a little bit of a fear. There's a fear of success because there's a fear of failure. It's like, "Don't push it. Just let's stay right here. We're eating. Everybody's paying the bills. What are you going to mess it up for?" You know what I mean? Because there's a risk that goes with wanting more and there's a mentality among many people, not just minorities, where it's like don't push it.
Do you relate to that in your own family?
Absolutely. I think in my family, in growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in, [it was] the same thing. And I don't think it's a conscious thing where they're like, "You can't do this. You shouldn't do that." It's not that. It's just a feeling. It's like a resonating below the surface feeling that what you're doing is totally insane. And to overcome that is very difficult, which is what this movie deals with, overcoming that conditioning. It's tough and it's this generation as well.
Acting or singing, what do you find most challenging?
It's all very challenging for me. I think the acting is in a different way much more far away from who I am really, and the music is much more closer to who I am really. So, in different ways, that can be very challenging, trying to tap into who you really are and express yourself through music, can be a very kind of naked, vulnerable feeling and very difficult to do or to be willing to do as well as kind of trying to be kind of an honest character in a movie telling a story who is not who you are. As close as this character is to me, it's not me. It's not who I am and I don't act like that in my real life, so it's also very difficult.
How much input did you have while shooting "Maid in Manhattan?"
A lot. This was a really, really collaborative project, which actually made it fun and stressful at times. Because when you have a lot of people putting in their opinions in the day, it's almost better when just one person goes, "No, this is what it is, I'm the director and that's it." But this was much more collaborative.
How do you feel about the film's 'butt' jokes?
It wasn't supposed to be about me. It was a gag. People think that because it's me that they put it in there, but it was actually in there already. With me, it takes on a whole different life.
We were surprised you were so open about it.
You know what? If you can't laugh at yourself, nobody else will.
If you're J-Lo, is Ben B-Af?
B-Af? I can say safely no.