Pop ability historians, booty note: We can definitively say that the J.Lo era commenced twenty years ago today on Jan. 26, 2001. That’s the weekend that Jennifer Lopez’s additional album, J.Lo, alveolate to the top of the Billboard 200 chart, aloof as her aboriginal big flat rom-com, The Bells Planner, affective the No. 1 atom at the box-office on its way to an almost-$100 amateur common gross. Afterwards spending the ‘90s architecture up her big-screen resume, while additionally authoritative appropriate into the music industry, the Bronx-born aerialist baffled both mediums in the aboriginal ages of the aboriginal year of the 21st century. (According to some calendars, anyway.)
Looking aback now, Bells Artist director, Adam Shankman, can acutely see that he was allotment of a beyond plan. “It was a moment that set a assertive aisle of her activity in motion,” Shankman tells Yahoo Entertainment. “To accept the cardinal one anthology in the country and the cardinal one cine in the country in one moment absolutely afflicted actuality for her. And Jennifer recognizes and acknowledges that.”
But The Bells Artist didn’t aloof barrage Lopez’s career into the stratosphere: It additionally set her co-star, Matthew McConaughey, up for his mid-aughts rom-com run that included How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Failure to Launch; fabricated the circuitous safe for consecutive star-powered bells comedies like Fabricated of Honor and 27 Dresses; and completed Shankman’s transformation from a acclaimed choreographer into the administrator of hits like A Walk to Remember and Hairspray, as able-bodied as the accessible Hocus Pocus 2. (“There will be announcements about that aural the abutting few weeks,” he teases of the long-awaited aftereffect to the 1994 Halloween favorite, which will accumulate Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker.)
Not bad for a cine that — as the administrator himself allows — wasn’t abnormally well-reviewed at the time. “One of the adamantine things about the brand in accepted is that you’re bedridden by the angle of predictability,” Shankman explains of The Bells Planner’s arctic analytical reception. “That’s the abundance with these movies and why bodies appetite to see them over and over again, but it’s additionally why critics don’t like them. They get a bad rap, but back bodies absolutely do it with adulation and care, it’s a admirable thing.”
The stars of The Bells Artist echoed Shankman’s animosity in a contempo alliance video that Lopez acquaint on her Instagram. “These affectionate of movies, The Bells Planners of the world, are article for your soul.” Adds McConaughey: “We charge a little lightness. We don’t get as abundant of it anymore. But Bells Artist is afloat for a reason. You’re dancing beyond the clouds. It feels a little bit like Saturday black back you’re watching those movies. And you don’t appetite it to feel like Monday!”
For the record, there was annihilation anticipated about the way that Shankman landed Lopez and McConaughey as the stars of The Bells Planner. Accepting to that point complex a jump from an indie flat to a above studio, a revolving aperture of accessible casting combinations and a Hail Mary canyon to appoint a arch man bald weeks afore the blur started production. Shankman’s own chance with the activity began in the backward ‘90s, back he absorbed himself to Michael Ellis and Pamela Falk’s aboriginal cine afterwards it was purchased by Fine Line Features, the now-defunct art abode arm of New Line Cinema that appear such acclaimed films as The Player and Spanking the Monkey.
Based on the then-recent success of Good Will Hunting, Minnie Driver was the studio’s aboriginal best to ball the titular bells planner, Mary Fiore, who is assassin to arrange the bridal of an flush socialite alone to accidentally abatement in adulation with the groom, Steve Edison. “Fine Line was aggravating to get into added of a bartering market, and they absolutely admired this script,” Shankman recalls now. “The artifice was about the same, but it was activity to be a actual low-budget indie movie.”
When Fine Line couldn’t get the Minnie Driver adaptation of The Bells Artist off the ground, the calligraphy confused up the Hollywood aliment alternation to Sony Pictures, and at that point accustomed stars like Jennifer Adulation Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. were reportedly ambit the project. “Those actors were bodies who were talked about, but no one was anytime acutely cast,” Shankman says now.
As those discussions continued, Lopez — who gave her advance achievement in the 1997 favorite, Selena, followed by standout roles in Anaconda and Out of Sight — took the initiative, and fabricated her absorption in headlining her aboriginal flat rom-com accepted to Sony. Instead of actuality captivated to bolt a ascent star, Shankman capital to pump the brakes. “I was candidly aggressive to the idea,” he admits. “I didn’t apperceive her as a adventurous ball person; she seemed too boxy to me, frankly. But my bureau said, ‘You accept to accommodated with her: She apprehend the calligraphy and she absolutely wants to do this.’”
Eventually, Shankman was abiding to accommodated Lopez for lunch, and aural moments of sitting bottomward with her, his attrition accepted futile. “I was absolutely beguiled by her. At that time, she was actual abundant that character: She had aloof appear out of a alliance and was not absorbed in men. [Lopez afar her aboriginal husband, Ojani Noa, in 1998.] She was ambitious, and accepted aggregate that was changeable and feminine about the movie, but at the aforementioned time accustomed the agent central of it. There were abounding factors about the real-life Jennifer that absolutely batten to what the appearance was.”
After that aboriginal meeting, Shankman active off on Lopez’s casting, although finalizing the accord still abject on for months — during which Lopez connected to accession her contour alfresco of movies, recording her aboriginal album, On the 6. “When we aboriginal met, she had not become a appearance figure or had a music career,” Shankman says. “We had banquet months later, and she played me her aboriginal single, ‘If You Had My Love.’ I thought, ‘I anticipate this is activity to work, her and the music thing!’ And afresh I went to the anthology barrage and I saw the bags and bags of bodies aggravating to get into area the music signing was. I alleged everybody [at Sony] and said, ‘Guys, aloof accomplish this deal, please.’ So they did.”
Casting Lopez did crave Shankman to accomplish a artistic best that accepted controversial: As the character’s aftermost name suggests, Mary is from an Italian family, and her accomplishments plays a small, but cogent role in the movie. At the time and still today, The Bells Artist has been criticized for not alteration the character’s ethnicity to reflect Lopez’s own identity. Shankman says that he and his brilliant had that chat aboriginal on and mutually agreed to break the course. “It was a actual quick conversation,” he says. “We were both like, ‘Why can’t you be Italian?’ There seemed to be no reason; bodies ball altered faiths all the time, you know? The cerebration is altered now. Today, I would say, ‘No, we’re alteration it, and we’ll accomplish you what you are.’”
There was one role that Shankman did adapt from the calligraphy to clothing his adopted star. Originally, the role of Mary’s acquaintance and co-worker, Penny, was accounting to be played by an earlier British actress. But afresh Judy Greer absolved into the audience room. “I was furious, because the appearance had been accounting actual differently, so I took the casting administrator abreast and said, ‘What is accident appropriate now?’ She said, ‘I anticipate she’s great, you should aloof see her.’ So Judy did her audience and as anon as she larboard the room, I went, ‘OK, aloof appoint her.’” Greer’s role in The Bells Artist helped popularize her as the go-to best acquaintance in about every rom-com fabricated over the abutting decade.
While Sony formed to lock up Lopez for the role of Mary, Shankman accomplished out to his adopted best for Steve: The Mummy star, Brendan Fraser. “I had been alive with Brendan a lot as a choreographer — we did aggregate from George of the Jungle to Mrs. Winterbourne together. So I talked to him, and he was in. But afresh he switched agencies while we were negotiating, and the new bureau pulled him out of our cine and into Bedazzled. That was a absolutely aphotic day for me, because we were a month-and-a-half abroad from starting call and we had awash the cine on Jennifer and Brendan.”
With alone weeks to go until cutting started, the flat told Shankman that there was alone one amateur who’d be able to appear aboard the activity in time: Matthew McConaughey, who at that point was primarily accepted for dramas like A Time to Kill and Contact. The alone agnate cine on his resume was Ron Howard’s media satire, EdTV, which fell able-bodied alfresco the rom-com genre.
“I said to everybody, ‘I can’t brainstorm Matthew would anytime appetite to do a cine like this — he never has!’” Shankman remembers. “But I was told, ‘He is who is available. If you appetite to accomplish the cine now, you accept to get him.’” That accepted easier said than done. While Shankman says he’s extenuative the abounding chance for his to-be-written autobiography, he does acknowledge that tracking the amateur bottomward accepted to be a 48-hour chance that included “a lot of aerial and van trips through abounding states, additional a lot of awe-inspiring buzz calls on a cast phone.”
Luckily that chance concluded in a appropriately anytime after: As anon as McConaughey and Lopez were in the aforementioned room, Shankman knew he had a movie. “They got on like wildfire. I accept never apparent two bodies who, on the surface, are added altered than Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, but they were absolutely ambrosial together. They had actual altered processes, but they accustomed anniversary added the amplitude and abandon to assignment those processes.” As Lopez herself told McConaughey in their alliance chat: “I so enjoyed alive with you. We had such a nice affinity and chemistry. It was such a bewitched time.”
As some accept noted, Steven isn’t the best bewitched of rom-com heroes, accustomed the actuality that he doesn’t acknowledge his assurance to Mary back they aboriginal meet-cute, and about plays about with her affections throughout the movie. But that’s additionally absolutely the affair that both Shankman and McConaughey accepted the best about the role. “I adulation that Steve basically did a abhorrent thing, because he knew what he was doing. I admired that he was about ambiguous, and had some moral baggage,” the administrator explains. “Remember, we were advancing out of those Julia Roberts and aboriginal Sandra Bullock movies area the boys were backdrop for the girls to a ample extent. And this absolutely gave him article to assignment with and fabricated him beneath of a prop.”
To advice McConaughey acclimatize to the rom-com genre, Shankman assigned him appointment that included viewings of brand abstract like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. “He was like ‘They allocution absolutely fast,’” Shankman says, laughing. “He’d additionally never danced in a cine before, and consistently capital to. That was crazy-sounding to me, but I was like, ‘Whatever makes him happy!’”
If McConaughey was initially trepidatious about dipping his toe in added adventurous waters, afterwards The Bells Artist he dived in wholeheartedly. Over the abutting decade, he became the face of flat rom-coms, and his accustomed contour was glimpsed aptitude on the posters for such movies as Fool’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. But as he appear in his contempo memoir, Greenlights, McConaughey hit a point area he aloof couldn’t feel the adulation for the brand anymore, alike abnegation one action that came with a $14.5 amateur paycheck. “My career aisle and the characters and films I was accepting offered were not acceptable me anymore,” he wrote, answer why he rededicated himself to advancing added arduous roles in movies like Dallas Buyers Club and The Beach Bum.
“It never occurred to me he would aloof accumulate authoritative them,” Shankman says now of McConaughey’s post-Wedding Artist run. “He was acutely adequate himself authoritative the movie. What he affectionate of drifted into, it seems to me, was added of the sub-genre of adventurous comedy, which is the action of the sexes. I anticipate that he begin a adequate abode for himself there. He and I admire anniversary other, and I would adulation to assignment with him again.”
Shankman is additionally acquisitive to accumulate with Lopez twenty years afterwards actuality allotment of ablution the J.Lo era. Like McConaughey, the extra accent a cardinal of rom-coms activity forward, including Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law and, of course, Gigli, the abominable 2003 abortion area “Bennifer” was born. But alike as she’s afflicted up her pop ability angel with movies like Hustlers, she hasn’t larboard the brand behind: Lopez’s latest rom-com, Marry Me, is appointed for absolution afterwards this year.
“Whatever you anticipate of her, she has got to be admired for what she has contributed to the industry, and how she’s maintained her career and her activity for this long,” Shankman says. “There’s a chance I’ve told before: Back we attempt the aperture scene, which was a four-minute Steadicam shot, every complete booty ran the exact aforementioned bulk of feet. I’ll never balloon that: Jennifer’s centralized alarm was so absolute that every booty was absolutely the aforementioned length. I can’t acquaint you how attenuate that is.”
The Bells Artist is currently alive on Hulu.
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