In her new psychological thriller, The Boy Next Door, Jennifer Lopez gets steamy with her handsome young neighbor (Ryan Guzman) after she separates from her cheating husband (John Corbett) of 18 years. The charismatic 19-year-old befriends her and her teenage son (Ian Nelson), but when a harmless flirtation leads to a momentary lapse in judgment, a dangerous and violent obsession develops. The film is directed by veteran helmer Rob Cohen and also stars Kristin Chenoweth. Blumhouse Productions is producing with Smart Entertainment and Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions.
At the recent press day in Los Angeles, Lopez discussed her role as producer, the appeal of the material and her character, following her instincts when it comes to picking projects, her steamy sex scene with Ryan, how they found ways to break the ice beforehand, why she feels she’s in a good place in her life right now, the intent to make a fun popcorn thriller where audiences root for the main character, why it’s a win-win for everybody to be able to produce this kind of independent film, and her preference for romantic comedies. Check out our interview after the jump.
JENNIFER LOPEZ: Actually my first boyfriend was the boy next door, when I was like 13 or 14 years old. Yeah, it was the summer I turned 14.
Was he cute?
LOPEZ: Yeah. He was cute. Cute enough, I guess, at the time. (Laughs)
You’re a producer on this as well as the star. What made you want to produce it?
LOPEZ: When it came to us, we got it made. We produced it with Blumhouse. They’re the ones who got us the financing for it. The character for me was something that seemed a perfect fit for right now. I really could relate, and I think a lot of people, men and women, can relate to what she’s been through, what she’s going through, and being at the point in her life where her relationship falls apart. She’s left feeling that sense of worthlessness, like she doesn’t belong anywhere, and that everything she thought was true is not. That’s something that at the base of Claire’s character is very, very understandable. People can understand that. They can understand making a mistake in a moment like that.
You had What to Expect When You’re Expecting in 2012, Parker in early 2013, no movies in 2014, and now two movies this year.
LOPEZ: Yes. It’s so unpredictable.
LOPEZ: For me, it’s just about what feels right at the time, and I was very in music land last year in 2014. I’m always thinking about all of it, and then certain things take precedence at different times. I go with my gut and what feels right at the time. While I was working on my album, I started working on this project. We found this script and started developing it with the writer. It just seemed like the right time to do it. It came together very quickly. Sometimes projects do that are meant to happen. It just felt like the right thing at the right time. I’ll do two movies this year. I’ll do a series this year. I’ll do American Idol this year. I’ll do a lot of different things this year that we already have planned. Again, I just go with what feels right at the time.
What was the appeal of this particular project? Was it the script or the creative team?
LOPEZ: I liked the script. Actually my producing partner and I had a vision of me doing a role like this. She manifested it into being and found it through our agency and was like, “I really think this would be a good next project for you.” We just took it on and championed it and got it made on a micro-budget of $4 million in 25 days. It was super intense. I never had done a film like that in my career. That was the first time we did that, but it was very liberating as an artist because it made me realize I can make whatever movie I want like this. It’s the material that really matters, like “Do I feel like doing this at this time?” and not waiting for a big studio to green light something or hire me as an actress. It really is very empowering. It’s just a new day, a new time, in the kind of trajectory of artists that we have more power in that way than we’ve ever had before.
Both you and Ryan are dancers. Did you guys have any behind-the-scenes dance-offs?
What did you guys do to break the ice before some of the more intense scenes?
LOPEZ: We had a great relationship – me, Ryan, John Corbett, even Ian. We had a great time together. And again, being so intense, being 25 days and knowing we had so much to accomplish in each day, it was sometimes looking at the call sheet and going, “How the hell are we going to do this all in one day?” We have to be a real team, and so we did have fun and we did have great communication. It was always like, “I’m going to do this. You’re going to do this.” “How do I do this?” “This is how I see it. What do you think?” “Okay, well let’s try that next time.” There was lots of that, whereas sometimes when you have more time, everybody’s on their own. They come to it with their point of view. You come to it with your point of view. You’re not as communicative. You’re holding things close to the vest. We had no time for that type of bullshit to be honest. We just had to go for it.
You’re really hot in your steamy sex scene with Ryan. Did you use a double?
That was all you?
How was the chemistry in that scene? It looked so natural.
LOPEZ: That is our job to make everything look natural. That it felt that way is great. Scenes like that are always uncomfortable. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in. It’s not something you ever get used to as an actress, I don’t think. But it’s just as hard to bare your soul emotionally sometimes. It’s difficult. They’re difficult scenes to do. But at the end of the day, this was a very important scene in this film, so that if that scene didn’t work, the rest of the film doesn’t work, because that’s the moment that they share together. If it wasn’t intense, passionate, real enough, then the rest of the movie doesn’t make any sense. I’m glad that it was something that people are responding to.
Where do you get all that energy? You never seem to stop. You take a little break, and then you’re doing a book, next you’re in the studio, and now this project. You’re living the life.
LOPEZ: (Laughs) Yes, I’m living the life.
But do you have time to enjoy life?
LOPEZ: I do. I’m in a good place in my life right now. I love what I do. I’m just one of those people who have a lot of energy and can work very long hours. If I’m inspired or passionate about something, I don’t really think about time. I don’t. I just keep going. And then, as time has gone on, I’ve learned to take better care of myself, which is why I think I’m in the best time of my life right now. It’s because I’ve become more aware of that. When you’re younger, you don’t realize you have limitations and that you are the one who has to take care of yourself. Nobody else is going to do it for you. And so, with all of that time, maturity and realizations, I’m in a much better place to be the best that I’ve ever been and to continue growing as a person and as an artist.
Speaking to the business side and to the producer side, we see a lot of independent films being made right now and then the giant blockbuster. Do you find that it’s harder to make a medium budget film at this moment in time?
LOPEZ: Yeah, absolutely. The business changes all the time. We’re in that moment like you said where it’s big franchises, big computer-made movies and action films, those type of things, The Avengers, and all that kind of stuff, which I love. Or it’s somebody trying to get some little story made or some little fun movie made that the studios can’t make a million dollars on. That’s just the nature of our business right now. I think it’s fine. What you realize is it’s not about financial success as an artist. A lot of actors and actresses, producers, writers, and the creative people in the business realize that. It’s not about that. Yeah, we all want to be successful, but we all just want to create and we want to tell the stories. We want to continue creating the opportunities to be able to continue doing what we love. So, at the end of the day, I feel like it’s a win-win for everybody to be able to make these independent films.
I really enjoyed this movie. It was fun to watch and very entertaining. The audience I saw it with loved it. They were applauding, laughing, screaming and clapping.
LOPEZ: It is funny at times, and it’s not a comedy.
Obviously, you’re dealing with some serious subject matter. As an actress and as a producer, was that the intent of the film to make something that was fun and that the audience could enjoy?
LOPEZ: Yes. We knew that we were making a popcorn thriller. We knew that. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want it to have themes that resonate with everybody. Or else, it just doesn’t matter. Then you’re just making a bad movie. That wasn’t the intention. The intention was to make a fun popcorn thriller that made people feel something, made you root for the main character, and I think we do. At the base of it, there’s a broken family, and it’s about that family coming back together through this terrible thing that happens. That, for me, was what it was always about – her being broken in the beginning and finding the strength and realizing that her family is worth saving, whereas at the beginning she’s not sure — “Do I go back with him? Do I not? Is it the right thing for me? Is it not?” — and realizing that their family is worth everything, that that’s the most important thing in life, and she fights for that to the death.
You’ve played women that have felt vulnerable and a little bit weaker, but you’ve also played women who are much more badass and kickass. This was a mix.
LOPEZ: She has to find the strength.
Which one do you prefer and which one is the easiest for you?
LOPEZ: I prefer romantic comedies. They’re just fun. That’s a fun set. You’re just seeing how silly you can make things. They’re romantic, and I’m a hopeless romantic as well. So I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. But as far as the type of acting, like being more dramatic or being tougher or being more vulnerable, it’s all the same. It’s all about trying to find the reality in the moment, making it real, making it feel like I’m constantly reminding myself, “Okay, your best friend just died. If you walked in and saw this, what would that be like?” And then, all of a sudden I have this high-pitched scream that I’ve never heard myself do, and that’s when I know I’m tapping into something real. But that’s what it’s about. It’s just about the moment. All of it’s fun as an actor and exhausting, to be honest. It’s really, really exhausting on your emotions sometimes but fun when you feel like you’ve done it well.
In this, you deal with a scary stalker. You’re obviously a beautiful woman. Have you ever dealt with something like this in real life?
LOPEZ: I’ve never had to. I’ve had people kind of obsessed with me, but not like obsessed in a dangerous, scary way. No, thank God. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that.
The Boy Next Door opens in theaters on January 23rd.