IAR INTERVIEW: Jennifer Lopez Talks 'The Boy Next Door'

Thursday, 22 January 2015 09:23 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Jennifer Lopez Talks 'The Boy Next Door'

Jennifer Lopez recently realized she has a certain unexpected connection to her new movie, The Boy Next Door.

"Actually my first boyfriend was the boy next door when I was like thirteen or fourteen years old.  Yeah, it was the summer I turned fourteen. He was cute," she said with a laugh at the Los Angeles press day for the film.  "Cute enough, I guess, at the time."

Lopez's romance with a neighbor turned out less dramatically for her than it does for Claire Peterson, her character in The Boy Next Door

In this psychological thriller, Claire is a high school classics teacher freshly separated from her philandering husband (John Corbett, Sex and the City).  She strikes up a flirtatious friendship with Noah (Ryan Guzman, Step Up All In), her charismatic nineteen-year old neighbor, and before long, the two share a momentary indiscretion on a dark and stormy night.

Claire, who immediately regrets it, never imagines that their one night stand will lead Noah into a full-blown obsession.  Before long, he's threatening Claire at home and school, using her son teenage Kevin (Ian Nelson, The Best of Me) as a pawn, and escalating his dangerous fixation until Claire's life is no longer her own.

The film, which opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, January 23rd, is directed by Rob Cohen, the director who kicked off The Fast and the Furious mega-franchise.

IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand at the press day to discuss The Boy Next Door with star Jennifer Lopez.  The multi-hyphenate star of screen, television, and music enthusiastically discussed the appeal of the project, making a lower-budget thriller, acting and producing, the camaraderie among the cast, the discomfort of shooting sex scenes, creating a crowdpleasing experience, and what the future holds for her.

In addition to starring, Lopez produces the movie through her Nuyorican Productions banner.  She explained the lure of The Boy Next Door as a producer, saying, "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 can relate to what she’s been through and what she’s going through – men and women – and being at the point in your life where your relationship falls apart and you’re left feeling that sense of worthlessness, like you don’t belong anywhere, and that everything you thought was true is not.  I think 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."

"I liked the script," she said of the screenplay by Barbara Curry. "Actually my producing partner and I kind of had a vision of me doing a role like this.  I think 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.'  And we just took it on and championed it and got it made."

"And got it made on a micro-budget of $4 million in 25 days.  It was super intense," she continued.  "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 you as an actress.  It really is very empowering.  I think 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."

Such a short production puts the pressure on the cast, but according to 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."

With longer schedules, she said, "sometimes when you have more time, everybody’s kind of 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."

Filming her love scene with Guzman wasn't the steamy affair seen onscreen.  "Scenes like that are always uncomfortable.  It’s a very vulnerable position to be in," Lopez explained.  "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."  Nonetheless, she said, "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."

"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," said Lopez.  "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."

The Boy Next Door is concerned with ratcheting up tension, but when our man Philbrick pointed out that it is also fundamentally a crowdpleaser, she agreed, saying, "It is funny at times, and it’s not a comedy."

"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," the star elaborated.  "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."

"And I think 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 at 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 and that that’s the most important thing in life and you fight for that to the death."

Unlike her character, Lopez is fully in control of her personal and professional lives.  "I’m in a good place in my life right now.  I love what I do," she said.  "And I’m just one of those people who has 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."

"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, and 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," Lopez concluded.  "Again, I just go with what feels right at the time."

The Boy Next Door opens at a theater near you Friday, January 23rd.

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