Jennifer Lopez kills it in 'Hustlers.' Is an Oscar nomination next? | News Coverage from USA

Jennifer Lopez kills it in ‘Hustlers.’ Is an Oscar nomination next?

Andrea Mandell

USA TODAY

Published 8:03 PM EDT Sep 13, 2019

Let’s be clear: It was Jennifer Lopez’s idea to perform a showstopping pole dance.

In “Hustlers,” out Friday, Lopez plays Ramona, the senior dancer at a New York strip joint who ends up leading fellow dancers in a twisted Robin Hood caper that involves drugging Wall Street tycoons and ringing up their credit card tabs.

The R-rated film is putting Lopez in the awards conversation for the first time since she starred in 1997’s “Selena,” which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. But the original script didn’t require Lopez, who plays mama bear and best friend to shy new dancer Destiny (Constance Wu), to actually perform a striptease herself. 

Director/writer Lorene Scafaria (“The Meddler”) had simply written in a quick shot of Ramona closing a sexy set. But Lopez wanted to go all in.

“That was my suggestion,” says Lopez, 50, who takes the stage in an eye-popping costume to the thumping beat of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” “She’s supposed to be the best in the club, and we’ve got to see why she’s the best. I wanted it to be authentic in that sense.”

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Scafaria says her head “exploded” the first time she watched the routine Lopez had choreographed with a dance coach.

“I wrote it into the script as ‘Ramona does one final flourish and then makes it across the room.’ And then of course when you get Jennifer Lopez on board, ‘one final flourish’ is able to be stepped out into an incredible dance number,” the director says.

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But the strength required, particularly for a few choice gravity-defying upside down moves, surprised Lopez, who performed the dance on repeat in front of three cameras and 300 extras. 

“Once I started to do it, I was like, what the hell was I thinking? Because it’s so hard. I’m a dancer obviously for years and I move well, I knew that wasn’t going to be a problem. But actually doing the acrobatics of the pole to really look like someone who had been doing it for years was hard to crash course in two months. … It was a lot bruises, a lot of torn muscles. A lot of Aleve,” she chuckles.

“Hustlers” has a 95% “fresh” rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes, with critics at Toronto International Film Festival hailing it as a film that deftly dives beneath its salacious real-life source material (first chronicled in a 2015 New York magazine article) to examine capitalism, the gender divide and class warfare.

“There’s a bigger conversation with this movie about the way the women are treated and the way the men are treated,” says Lopez, comparing the gritty underworld probed in “Hustlers” to 1990’s “Goodfellas.” “When you read the script, it wasn’t tons of nudity. It wasn’t about that. It was about these girls. It was about survival, greed, the sexy, dangerous underground world that can seem glamorous but at the same time, if you let it, it will drag you under.”

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Led by Ramona, the strippers rake in a ton of cash until the 2008 financial crisis hits, and desperation ups the ante in their scantily-clad gambit.

For Lopez, the crisis hit just as she left the public eye to have children, an absence that necessitated a comeback of sorts when she arrived as a judge on “American Idol” in 2011. “I had gotten married and had the kids,” she recalls of that era. “I was kind of a homebody. Really concentrating on my family. I kind of felt the slowdown of everything at that time.”

Fast-forward to 2019: Lopez is engaged to Alex Rodriguez, her twins with ex-husband Marc Anthony are 11, she’s just wrapped a 31-city summer tour and her name is surfacing as a worthy Oscar contender, with some calling “Hustlers” Lopez’s “Erin Brockovich.”

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“Obviously, you love to be in that conversation. It’s a dreamy time,” says Lopez, who would most likely compete in the supporting actress category. (She’s also protective of co-star Wu, who has fought negative headlines of late. “I have the most amazing relationship with Constance,” says Lopez. “I love her.”)

Lopez’s 50th birthday was celebrated throughout her concert tour, culminating in an A-list bash in Miami. Seeing her age constantly echoed in headlines “doesn’t bother me,” she says.

“For me, it’s not so much about my age; it’s about how I feel right now. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. You should celebrate who you are. I think that’s the key to life and happiness.”


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