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Jennifer Lopez is out of sight, say all the boys, playing tough but gorgeous cop one minute, vulnerable ant the next. But success has a price: loss of privacy, she tells PAUL FISCHER at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

When Jennifer Lopez walks into a room full of assurance and self-confidence, not to mention her beauty, it's easy to be taken by her. The fiery Latin actress has gone from unknown to A-list movie star in a short period of time. Now, within 2 weeks, Australian audiences will see (or least hear) two sides of her; first as the sexy FBI agent smitten with a laconic bank robber in the critical hit, Out of Sight (from October 15), and as the voice of a computer-generated ant opposite Woody Allen and Sylvester Stallone, in Antz (from October 29).

"being involved with the calibre of actors..." on Antz

Having played a collection of sexy screen characters, was doing a film such as Antz a way to prove how strong an actress she's capable of being - without her physical persona. "I don't think it's a question of proving if I can do this or that; it was more about being involved with the calibre of actors that were doing this that was appealing to me. That they would even ask me to be a part of that, and knowing that a studio such as DreamWorks was going to do new and innovative things."

Despite her Latino origins, the New York-born Lopez has been able to play many culturally diverse characters. "I feel I've been very lucky to have been given the opportunity to do different kinds of roles, not just Latin roles, and I think that perspective is changing a little bit. For me it's been good, but I know for a lot of other actors, it's been hard to break out of that."

Yes, 1997 certainly turned out to be a banner year for Lopez. She starred opposite Jack Nicholson in Bob Rafelson's well-received noir thriller, Blood and Wine, and revisited the genre later that year when she appeared opposite Sean Penn in Oliver Stone's U-Turn. Lopez beat out a bevy of A-list actresses to land the female lead in Out of Sight, which has finally confirmed Lopez as a major star.

"I loved her complexity" on Out of Sight character

In the film, George Clooney plays Jack Foley a successful but luckless bank robber. By applying his smile, his charm, and his mind, he manages to make illegal withdrawals more than 200 times (never using a gun) before the FBI nab him. Now, after being busted out of jail with the help of his best friend, Buddy (Ving Rhames), he's on his way from Florida to Detroit for a big score -- $5 million in uncut diamonds hidden in the home of Wall Street financier and white collar crim, Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks), a former prison pal.

But some unfinished business is trailing Jack. During his escape, he had taken a female federal marshal, Karen Sisco (Lopez), hostage. Despite the circumstances, the spark between them was instantaneous and undeniable, and now Jack finds himself thinking of her constantly. For her part, even as she tracks him down, she dreams of what it might be like to have a tryst with him. "She's a tough character on the outside, as well as vulnerable; I loved her complexity." It was a tough, physical film for Lopez, and involved her spending quite some time cooped up in the cramped back seat of a car with co-star Clooney, while convincing the audience that these characters connected.

To enhance the reality of that sequence, it was initially shot in one, continuous take, "without doing any coverage on it, just one two-shot of the two of us in the trunk. They tried it and it ran for seven minutes, but it was really tough to do it that way, because it was such a long scene.

"We did 45 takes of it, using take 44" on that scene with Clooney in the boot

"We did 45 takes of it, using take 44, but they then realised that once they put it in the film, you didn't get the feeling that they were in there a long time, so we had to go back and re-shoot it. It was tough."

Lopez agrees that despite her newfound position in the Hollywood pecking order, it remains hard to find such characters to play. "It's true that characters like these don't come along every day, but that was one of THE wonderful things about it, that I was able to do something like it. I just look at everything as a challenge and an opportunity to grow as an actress, and to do bigger and better things. That's always been my aim."

Antz, she says, "was very challenging because what you're using is just your voice; that's the only thing that's getting recorded. At the same time, as an actress, you're using EVERYTHING, but it's not coming through, so you have to find the way to do that through your voice only." Lopez insists that she did relatively little preparation for this movie, "because they didn't really give us the scenes. We would just come in, they'd choose a line for us and then describe the scene to us, explain what it's going to be like, and then you'd try to play it like a regular scene, as if you're acting. Though it's a very technical process, there's still considerable acting required. You've got to find the heart in it; that's your job."

Though refusing to be drawn on the sudden collapse of her marriage, Lopez admits that fame has its negative side. "There's the loss of privacy, which is the big thing, and this obsessive interest in your personal life, which I find weird. You don't quite understand why there's such a hunger and need to know about your personal life. That's one of the things that's missing in Hollywood today; back in the forties there was much more mystery that surrounded the movie stars, which made it all the more interesting. Now it all seems less glamorous and wonderful than it was then."

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Out of Sight


Blood and Wine

U Turn


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