How J.Lo and Matthew McConaughey had been forged within the rom-com hit

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in Adam Shankman's 2001 rom-com 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection)
Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in Adam Shankman’s 2001 rom-com The Wedding ceremony Planner. (Photograph: Columbia/courtesy Everett Assortment)

Popular culture historians, take be aware: We will definitively say that the J.Lo period commenced twenty years in the past right now on Jan. 26, 2001. That’s the weekend that Jennifer Lopez’s second album, J.Lo, vaulted to the highest of the Billboard 200 chart, simply as her first large studio rom-com, The Wedding ceremony Planner, grabbed the No. 1 spot on the box-office on its strategy to an almost-$100 million worldwide gross. After spending the ‘90s increase her big-screen resume, whereas additionally making inroads into the music business, the Bronx-born performer conquered each mediums within the first month of the primary yr of the 21st century. (In accordance with some calendars, anyway.)

Wanting again now, Wedding ceremony Planner director, Adam Shankman, can clearly see that he was half of a bigger plan. “It was a second that set a sure trajectory of her life in movement,” Shankman tells Yahoo Leisure. “To have the primary album within the nation and the primary film within the nation in a single second positively modified stuff for her. And Jennifer acknowledges and acknowledges that.”

However The Wedding ceremony Planner didn’t simply launch Lopez’s profession into the stratosphere: It additionally set her co-star, Matthew McConaughey, up for his mid-aughts rom-com run that included Find out how to Lose a Man in 10 Days and Failure to Launch; made the multiplex protected for subsequent star-powered wedding ceremony comedies like Fabricated from Honor and 27 Attire; and accomplished Shankman’s transformation from a celebrated choreographer into the director of hits like A Stroll to Bear in mind and Hairspray, in addition to the upcoming Hocus Pocus 2. (“There will probably be bulletins about that inside the subsequent few weeks,” he teases of the long-awaited sequel to the 1994 Halloween favourite, which can reunite Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Not unhealthy for a film that — because the director himself permits — wasn’t particularly well-reviewed on the time. “One of many onerous issues in regards to the style typically is that you simply’re hamstrung the notion of predictability,” Shankman explains of The Wedding ceremony Planner’s chilly important reception. “That’s the consolation with these films and why folks need to see them again and again, nevertheless it’s additionally why critics don’t like them. They get a foul rap, however when folks truly do it with love and care, it’s an exquisite factor.”

The celebs of The Wedding ceremony Planner echoed Shankman’s emotions in a latest reunion video that Lopez posted on her Instagram. “These form of films, The Wedding ceremony Planners of the world, are one thing on your soul.” Provides McConaughey: “We want a bit lightness. We don’t get as a lot of it anymore. However Wedding ceremony Planner is buoyant for a cause. You’re dancing throughout the clouds. It feels a bit bit like Saturday night if you’re watching these films. And also you don’t need it to really feel like Monday!”

For the file, there was nothing predictable about the way in which that Shankman landed Lopez and McConaughey as the celebs of The Wedding ceremony Planner. Attending to that time concerned a leap from an indie studio to a significant studio, a revolving door of attainable casting mixtures and a Hail Mary move to rent a number one man mere weeks earlier than the movie began manufacturing. Shankman’s personal journey with the venture started within the late ‘90s, when he hooked up himself to Michael Ellis and Pamela Falk’s unique screenplay after it was bought High-quality Line Options, the now-defunct artwork home arm of New Line Cinema that launched such acclaimed movies as The Participant and Spanking the Monkey.

Based mostly on the then-recent success of Good Will Searching, Minnie Driver was the studio’s first option to play the titular wedding ceremony planner, Mary Fiore, who’s employed to orchestrate the nuptials of an upscale socialite solely to unwittingly fall in love with the groom, Steve Edison. “High-quality Line was making an attempt to get into extra of a business market, they usually actually preferred this script,” Shankman remembers now. “The plot was primarily the identical, nevertheless it was going to be a really low-budget indie film.”

When High-quality Line couldn’t get the Minnie Driver model of The Wedding ceremony Planner off the bottom, the script moved up the Hollywood meals chain to Sony Footage, and at that time established stars like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. had been reportedly circling the venture. “These actors had been individuals who had been talked about, however nobody was ever formally forged,” Shankman says now.

Judy Greer and Lopez in 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Judy Greer and Lopez in The Wedding ceremony Planner. (Photograph: Columbia Footage/Courtesy Everett Assortment)

As these discussions continued, Lopez — who gave her breakthrough efficiency within the 1997 favourite, Selena, adopted standout roles in Anaconda and Out of Sight — took the initiative, and made her curiosity in headlining her first studio rom-com identified to Sony. As an alternative of being delighted to catch a rising star, Shankman wished to pump the brakes. “I used to be actually immune to the concept,” he admits. “I didn’t understand her as a romantic comedy individual; she appeared too robust to me, frankly. However my company mentioned, ‘You must meet along with her: She learn the script and she or he actually needs to do that.’”

Ultimately, Shankman was persuaded to fulfill Lopez for lunch, and inside moments of sitting down along with her, his resistance proved futile. “I used to be utterly hypnotized her. At the moment, she was very a lot that character: She had simply come out of a wedding and was not fascinated males. [Lopez divorced her first husband, Ojani Noa, in 1998.] She was formidable, and understood every thing that was girly and female in regards to the film, however on the identical time acknowledged the engine within it. There have been many elements in regards to the real-life Jennifer that actually spoke to what the character was.”

After that first assembly, Shankman signed off on Lopez’s casting, though finalizing the deal nonetheless dragged on for months — throughout which Lopez continued to boost her profile exterior of flicks, recording her first album, On the 6. “After we first met, she had not change into a vogue icon or had a music profession,” Shankman says. “We had dinner months later, and she or he performed me her first single, ‘If You Had My Love.’ I believed, ‘I believe that is going to work, her and the music factor!’ After which I went to the album launch and I noticed the 1000’s and 1000’s of individuals making an attempt to get into the place the music signing was. I known as everyone [at Sony] and mentioned, ‘Guys, simply make this deal, please.’ In order that they did.”

Casting Lopez did require Shankman to make a inventive alternative that proved controversial: Because the character’s final title suggests, Mary is from an Italian household, and her background performs a small, however important function within the film. On the time and nonetheless right now, The Wedding ceremony Planner has been criticized for not altering the character’s ethnicity to mirror Lopez’s personal id. Shankman says that he and his star had that dialog early on and mutually agreed to remain the course. “It was a really fast dialog,” he says. “We had been each like, ‘Why can’t you be Italian?’ There gave the impression to be no cause; folks play totally different faiths on a regular basis, you realize? The pondering is totally different now. Immediately, I might say, ‘No, we’re altering it, and we’ll make you what you might be.’”

There was one function that Shankman did alter from the script to go well with his most popular star. Initially, the function of Mary’s buddy and co-worker, Penny, was written to be performed an older British actress. However then Judy Greer walked into the audition room. “I used to be livid, as a result of the character had been written very in another way, so I took the casting director apart and mentioned, ‘What is going on proper now?’ She mentioned, ‘I believe she’s nice, it’s best to simply see her.’ So Judy did her audition and as quickly as she left the room, I went, ‘OK, simply rent her.’” Greer’s function in The Wedding ceremony Planner helped popularize her because the go-to finest buddy in virtually each rom-com revamped the subsequent decade.

Whereas Sony labored to lock up Lopez for the function of Mary, Shankman reached out to his handpicked alternative for Steve: The Mummy star, Brendan Fraser. “I had been working with Brendan so much as a choreographer — we did every thing from George of the Jungle to Mrs. Winterbourne collectively. So I talked to him, and he was in. However then he switched businesses whereas we had been negotiating, and the brand new company pulled him out of our film and into Bedazzled. That was a extremely darkish day for me, as a result of we had been a month-and-a-half away from beginning rehearsal and we had bought the film on Jennifer and Brendan.”

With solely weeks to go till capturing began, the studio instructed Shankman that there was just one actor who’d have the ability to come aboard the venture in time: Matthew McConaughey, who at that time was primarily identified for dramas like A Time to Kill and Contact. The one equal film on his resume was Ron Howard’s media satire, EdTV, which fell effectively exterior the rom-com style.

McConaughey was a last-minute replacement for Brendan Fraser in the 2001 rom-com 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
McConaughey was a last-minute substitute for Brendan Fraser within the 2001 rom-com The Wedding ceremony Planner. (Photograph: Columbia Footage/courtesy Everett Assortment)

“I mentioned to everyone, ‘I can’t think about Matthew would ever need to do a film like this — he no means has!’” Shankman remembers. “However I used to be instructed, ‘He’s who is offered. If you wish to make the film now, you must get him.’” That proved simpler mentioned than achieved. Whereas Shankman says he’s saving the total story for his to-be-written autobiography, he does reveal that monitoring the actor down proved to be a 48-hour journey that included “lots of flying and van journeys via many states, plus lots of bizarre cellphone calls on a flip cellphone.”

Fortunately that journey resulted in a fortunately ever after: As quickly as McConaughey and Lopez had been in the identical room, Shankman knew he had a film. “They bought on like wildfire. I’ve no means seen two individuals who, on the floor, are extra totally different than Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, however they had been completely lovable collectively. That they had very totally different processes, however they allowed one another the area and freedom to work these processes.” As Lopez herself instructed McConaughey of their reunion chat: “I so loved working with you. We had such a pleasant rapport and chemistry. It was such a magical time.”

As some have famous, Steven isn’t probably the most magical of rom-com heroes, given the truth that he doesn’t disclose his engagement to Mary once they first meet-cute, and customarily performs round along with her feelings all through the film. However that’s additionally exactly the factor that each Shankman and McConaughey appreciated probably the most in regards to the function. “I really like that Steve mainly did a horrible factor, as a result of he knew what he was doing. I preferred that he was morally ambiguous, and had some ethical baggage,” the director explains. “Bear in mind, we had been popping out of these Julia Roberts and early Sandra Bullock films the place the boys had been props for the women to a big extent. And this truly gave him one thing to work with and made him much less of a prop.”

To assist McConaughey acclimate to the rom-com style, Shankman assigned him homework that included viewings of style classics like Bringing Up Child and His Lady Friday. “He was like ‘They discuss actually quick,’” Shankman says, laughing. “He’d additionally no means danced in a film earlier than, and at all times wished to. That was crazy-sounding to me, however I used to be like, ‘No matter makes him glad!’”

If McConaughey was initially trepidatious about dipping his toe in additional romantic waters, after The Wedding ceremony Planner he dived in wholeheartedly. Over the subsequent decade, he turned the face of studio rom-coms, and his acquainted profile was glimpsed leaning on the posters for such films as Idiot’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Previous. However as he revealed in his latest memoir, Greenlights, McConaughey hit a degree the place he simply couldn’t really feel the love for the style anymore, even rejecting one provide that got here with a $14.5 million paycheck. “My profession path and the characters and movies I used to be getting provided weren’t satisfying me anymore,” he wrote, explaining why he rededicated himself to pursuing tougher roles in films like Dallas Consumers Membership and The Seaside Bum.

“It no means occurred to me he would simply preserve making them,” Shankman says now of McConaughey’s post-Wedding ceremony Planner run. “He was clearly having fun with himself making the film. What he form of drifted into, it appears to me, was extra of the sub-genre of romantic comedy, which is the battle of the sexes. I believe that he discovered a cushty place for himself there. He and I like one another, and I might like to work with him once more.”

Shankman can also be desirous to reunite with Lopez twenty years after being a part of launching the J.Lo period. Like McConaughey, the actress headlined quite a few rom-coms going ahead, together with Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Regulation and, in fact, Gigli, the notorious 2003 fiasco the place “Bennifer” was born. However whilst she’s modified up her popular culture picture with films like Hustlers, she hasn’t left the style behind: Lopez’s newest rom-com, Marry Me, is scheduled for launch later this yr.

“No matter you consider her, she has bought to be admired for what she has contributed to the business, and the way she’s maintained her profession and her life for this lengthy,” Shankman says. “There is a story I’ve instructed earlier than: After we shot the opening scene, which was a four-minute Steadicam shot, each full take ran the very same quantity of toes. I’ll always remember that: Jennifer’s inner clock was so exact that each take was precisely the identical size. I can’t let you know how uncommon that’s.”

The Wedding ceremony Planner is presently streaming on Hulu.

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