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Interview of the week: Jennifer Lopez

By
KAREN BUTLER

NEW YORK, April 25 (UPI) -- She has millions of fans around the world who adore her, but actress/singer Jennifer Lopez insists the opinions that truly matter are her family's -- and her own.

"Everything is not going to be a home run every time," the 31-year-old entertainer admitted recently. "It's just not going to be like that. You have to be satisfied with what you do. I only have control over what I do."

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"It's who you are," she continued. "You're always going to be that person, so long as you don't let outer things affect you. So, in here (points to her heart) and in here (points to her head,) I'll always be in the Bronx. That's who I am and that works for me. I like that."

Asked to name the source of her strength, the star of "Selena," "The Cell" and the upcoming action drama "Enough," said: "My mom. My dad. My mom (always told me), 'Don't depend on anybody ...' She always said, 'You can do anything you want, if you work hard and you're a good person and keep God first,' you know, all those things mothers tell you."

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Lopez, who made history last year when she became the first female artist to have the No. 1 movie ("The Wedding Planner") and the No. 1 album ("J. Lo") in one week, said she remains close to her family despite her hectic work schedule. She added that she even still has to answer to her mom when unflattering or false gossip items appear in the tabloids.

"Now that it's the fourth or fifth time that (it's been erroneously reported that) I've been pregnant," she said, adding that the rumors don't upset her mother as much as they used to.

"The first time is when it was more devastating to her. Now, I'm like, 'Ma, I promise, if I'm pregnant, I will call you first,'" she sighed. "And my mother's been dealing with this for a few years now, so it's not a new thing. She went through the part where it was like, 'I want to talk to the press.' She wanted to give interviews. People were calling her."

The newly married Lopez, who swears she is still not pregnant, admitted that it can be difficult when fans and the media weigh in on everything from what you wear to what you eat to who you date.

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"You really have to learn to not put importance in it," she advised. "That means the good stuff, as well as the bad stuff. The bad stuff is always tough for your family to deal with. ... But, the good stuff, too. You can't buy into that, either. ...

"And just knowing you're going to be judged for everything you do or what you wear or how you are. ... It's just like anybody else. There are some days when you don't feel like it. There are days that you're tired, you know what I mean? And there's days that everybody on the crew you're working with is tired, too.

"It's OK for them to be like, 'Ugh!' It's not OK for us to be like that, so it's kind of weird for the actors because everybody's looking at them, you know. You can't just blend into the background and be like, 'I'm not feeling you today' and it's okay. It's a different standard. We're held to a different standard."

Reminded that she makes a lot more money than most of the crew, Lopez exclaimed, "We work for it, too!"

OK, but how about all those clothes and other amenities she gets for being J. Lo, one of the world's most famous entertainers?

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"Those are the perks for our loss of privacy!" she argued. "For your mom calling you crying, 'You didn't tell me you were pregnant!' It's hard stuff to deal with!"

Hot on the heels of her highly successful TV music special, Lopez is promoting her new feature film, "Enough," in which she plays a woman who learns the martial art Krav Maga to protect herself and her young daughter from her physically abusive husband. The film also stars Noah Wyle (TV's "ER,") Billy Campbell (TV's "Once and Again") and Juliette Lewis ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Natural Born Killers.)

Lopez is working on "Gigli," a crime comedy, in which she acts opposite Al Pacino and Ben Affleck, and is planning to go on her first concert tour after she finishes her next album. Also in the not-so-distant past was her highly publicized breakup with rap mogul Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and surprise marriage to dancer/choreographer Cris Judd, not to mention that infamous, low-cut green dress she wore to an awards ceremony.

Asked how she stays focused while involved in so many different ventures (she even has her own clothing line out now,) Lopez replied: "It's funny because during ('Enough') it was like, 'Oooh, check-out time" because I had done, I don't know, between 11 and 14 movies -- I haven't counted, but something like that -- and I have never taken a day off. Never missed a video shoot. Never been late. You know what I mean? That's not my style.

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"And then this movie, for the first time, I remember it was toward the end of the day, we were doing a scene and I was like, 'Michael, I can't go on.' I, like, hit the wall. I remember I told him, 'I'm not a weak person' and he said, 'I know you're not.' And, you know, it was just so touching. I went to the doctor and I was like: 'I'm tired. I can't go on. This movie's draining me.' It was because of the emotional stuff that was going on in the movie. It was like a purging," Lopez explained.

The doctor had a simple solution for the energetic diva, "Rest!"

"I took the next day and the weekend, and I was back that Monday and was fine," the superstar recalled, a wistful smile spreading across her face. "I stayed in bed the whole weekend, just relaxing. People came over and cooked for me. It was nice."

Although her fight scenes required hours of training, Lopez said she enjoyed the chance to be physically active on a movie set.

"I loved it!" she declared. "I'm very athletic. I've been that way since I was young, so I always ran and danced and did tennis and stuff like that, so that was more the easy part for me in this movie. The harder part was the emotional stuff -- much harder, much harder -- much more challenging."

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Lopez had an acting coach on the set, she said, because "there was so much stuff here, and I didn't want to miss anything and I wanted somebody there every day to push me."

She said there were two elements to the project that really drew her to the role: one, was working with Englishman Michael Apted, who directed "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Gorillas in the Mist," and whom Lopez believed could really turn the script into an exciting piece of entertainment. The second factor that appealed to her was that her character was forced to seek inner strength and extricate herself from a bad situation, not wait for a man to come along and rescue her.

"I like seeing (my character) Slim from the very beginning, already being guarded, you know what I mean? Then, kind of falling in love and opening up totally, kind of almost like she was never guarded and then being devastated and then recovering from there," she noted.

Lopez said early scenes in the movie where her character's husband beats her up were particularly difficult for her.

"It's a bad feeling. It's a bad feeling. Even to act, it's a bad feeling. ... That's why I said, emotionally, this was the hardest movie I've done, and the most challenging for me because I've never been in a relationship where there was any physical contact like that, so it was hard, you know what I mean, to really go there. But, we've all been there," she revealed.

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Lopez said visiting battered women in shelters as research for this film and last year's cop drama, "Angel Eyes," as well as her own personal experiences have helped her understand why some people stay in bad relationships.

"(The relationship) starts in love, you know what I mean, and that's what's hard to get out of. I mean, to come to terms with the person that you love has kind of betrayed you, in a way, and that becomes a cycle that's hard to kind of remove yourself. It's so easy from the outside to go: 'Oh, she should have done this or she should have done that' and be so judgmental about it and it's not that black and white. It's so much more gray," she said.

Pressed to recount her own dating experience, Lopez denied she had ever been in a relationship where she'd been physically abused, but said she knew what it felt like to be emotionally mistreated.

"I think everybody's been in relationships where you're like, 'This is not for me!' You know what I mean? 'What am I doing here?' On some level, everybody can relate to it. You know, this is a movie. It's heightened. It's extreme circumstances, even though we know this goes on, but on any level, a relationship where you just feel like should not be there, even whether it's a working relationship, you know, where you're not being treated or respected in a way you feel you should be."

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Lopez admitted that like many others in that situation, she was slow to leave her bad relationship.

"(I was) just like anyone else who's in that cycle. You try to work it out. You have love for the person. So, that's why it's easy to understand," she recalled.

With those dark days behind her and the world seemingly at her feet now, does Lopez ever worry about how long her good fortune will last?

"You think about things like that, but, then again, I know I'll always be creating in some way, even if it's not at this level, at some level, and that's what's satisfying to me and I always have to try and hold on to that," she replied.

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