Interview: Jennifer Lopez and director Dave Meyers on the superstar’s passion project This Is Me…Now: A Love Story

This Is Me…Now: A Love Story is like nothing you’ve ever seen from Jennifer Lopez. Alongside director Dave Meyers, Jennifer has created a narrative-driven cinematic odyssey, steeped in mythological storytelling and personal healing. Dropping in tandem with her first studio album in a decade, this genre-bending Amazon original showcases her journey to love through her own eyes. With fantastical costumes, breathtaking choreography, and star-studded cameos, this panorama is an introspective retrospective of Jennifer’s resilient heart.

Ahead of both the film and album dropping on February 16th, Peter Gray was invited to attend a global press conference to hear the superstar and her director discuss the process of making such a unique project, the challenges they faced along the way, and why now was the right time to share this with the world.

Congratulations on a beautiful, personal, exciting (piece of) work. Jennifer, this is unlike anything you’ve done before. Can you talk about how your album drove the idea for this original and why now is the right time to share such a vulnerable project with the world?

Jennifer Lopez: There wasn’t a time where I was like, “Oh, I’m going to do this at some point in my life.” This was something that was really inspired by the music and a moment in life that I wanted to capture, that seemed very kind of magical and even surreal at times that it was happening. I went in the studio and I made this album. And when it was done, I thought to myself, there’s more to this story, there’s something bigger I want to do with this music. I just don’t want to do the normal, put out a video and do this and do that and promo and blah, blah, blah.

It felt like there was a bigger message. So I called Dave (Meyers) and we sat down and we talked about it. I played him some of the music and I said, “I want to do something.” I don’t know exactly what I want to do, which is kind of why I think we created something that hadn’t really been done. It didn’t fit into any one specific category. Not quite a film, not quite a video, but a story nonetheless, something very original. We sat there and we talked about it and…

Dave Meyers: You sang it too.

Jennifer Lopez: I sang it. I sang to Dave. I did all kinds of stuff. And then Dave really kind of honed in on, “Well, that’s the story. What you just told me is what we should do.” We started putting it down on paper, trying to describe it to people. They didn’t really quite get it. Then we had to put down a script for them to kind of understand it. We did that. And then we kind of went from there.

Dave Meyers: I got a lot of private time. That was the genesis of the film to me. I mean, like Jen said, she walked me through. I hadn’t seen her in probably, well, in an in-depth way, in about 20 years. So she was explaining the journey that she’s gone through personally, a lot of truth and a lot of personal stuff that was shared, a lot of passion in the music. It was just sort of like, “Well, gosh, that’s what I’d like to know more about.” And she’s sharing that with me. Is there a way to spin that into a piece that the world can explore with her? So that was sort of the beginnings, I guess. Yeah, no one understood.

It’s been about 20 years. I’m curious, how have you watched her grow and change as an artist over that time?

Dave Meyers: Well, I’m going to talk about you, Jen.

Jennifer Lopez: Yeah, I’ll let you.

Dave Meyers: Jen’s always been the most dialed, professional, hardworking person, even 20 years ago. But I think that what I got to experience this time around was, a funny way of putting it, she’s like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi and no longer A New Hope. So it’s like there’s a maturity of courage and being vulnerable. I think that probably just…I mean, you could speak to that a little more specifically. And then it’s just been a really rewarding in depth. I mean, she’s bolder, stronger, and more unapologetic about what she believes. So that’s I guess what I’d say.

So Jennifer, viewers are likely to interpret much of the film as autobiographical, even though it is hyper stylized and fictionalized. For you, where did you draw the line between reality and fiction in terms of what you wanted to share?

Jennifer Lopez: There’s not a project that I’ve ever been involved with, music or movies or anything, that I didn’t put a bunch of my life into and a lot of my personal experience. I think as an artist, that’s all you really have to draw on, the experience you have and the personal experience and the experience of other people around you that you’ve born witness to. I think with this one, it seemed like such an important moment in my life, kind of a turning point in my life, and I was at a point in my life where, as a person and as an artist, I could really look at all of the things that I was good at and the things that I felt and knew about myself and put them all into this project in a way. Some things professionally, but also personally.

So yes, there’s parts of it that feel kind of very autobiographical, and then there’s parts of it that are kind of meta, not quite in a way, not exactly what happened, but also the feeling of that is what happened. So there was different things about it that were super honest and true, and then there was things that were kind of more for license, taking license and really doing what was best for the entertainment and storytelling of the film, I think. That mix of it, being personal but also being able to be fantastical, surreal, magical is what I think makes it really kind of moving, entertaining, and at the same time, super real.

Dave Meyers: Metaphorically, it is true. Metaphorically, it is true. That stemmed from her telling me the pain that she’s been in, specifically the pain that she went through when she broke up with Ben the first time. There was a lot of honesty that was shared in that first meeting. So the (sequence in the) Heart Factory became sort of a Titanic level meltdown, which was a metaphor for what she was giving me as far as her truth. So even the metaphor of sci-fi parts of the film stem from a scent of Jen’s real story, the truth.

Were there certain musical films that inspired you or that you drew inspiration from when you were making this?

Jennifer Lopez: I mean, for me, every musical film that I’ve ever seen. I’m a huge fan of musicals. My mom was a huge fan of musicals. And I grew up on them. So between that and growing up as well in the ’80s and ’90s with MTV and all the epic music videos that were made at that time, and combining all of these experiences together, we were able to make something that I feel is really fresh and new. But definitely, I mean, every musical, I think from Funny Girl to West Side Story, to The Music Man, to every Disney movie that I’ve seen that has music in it, Beauty & the Beast, everything. There was touches of all of those things in there. Plus, the acting that I do and the dramatic films that I grew up on. My mother was, again, a huge movie buff. And then there was, like I said, the music of the MTV generation that really inspired.

I think these days you have a lot of videos that are made for no money, on an iPhone, and that’s a different type of artistry. But when you grow up, it’s like growing up in the golden age of music videos, the golden age of cinema, there was a different kind of imagination and idea that I have about these things that I wasn’t willing to let go of and try to make something even more kind of epic in a way. And David was the perfect partner in that because he’s such a visual genius. What he did on this film from taking a lot of these scenes that were shot in green screen to where they wound up was nothing short of miraculous on the budget we had. I mean, because we had a sizable budget, but it wasn’t the budget of a $50 or $60 million film, which is, to me, this kind of looks like that. The special effects are that good in this.

Dave Meyers: Yeah, and I think picking up from that, I mean, obviously Jen performs all that inspiration in the film from all the various musicals that have inspired her. For me, the sort of abstract storytelling technique was, I forgot if you’d seen it before we talked, but Pink Floyd: The Wall was sort of the last narrative. I mean, I guess Julie Taymor with Across the Universe, kind of. But there’s very, very few films that take on music and emotion and storytelling. I mean, classic musicals still have a very strong narrative and whatnot. This one’s a little bit more playful. So yeah, put that on what she said and you got what we got.

I do want to touch on the choreography, because you have these epic numbers like in the Heart Factory (“Hearts and Flowers”), but then also these really gorgeous stripped-down moments like in the Love Addiction Meeting (“Broken Like Me”). Can you talk about finding the right choreography for each song?

Jennifer Lopez: Yeah. I mean, those were all different. Every single one was treated as his own little film in a way, even though it was all the same director and the same artist. But I felt like every song had its own personality. So I went with choreographers, and I used a few different choreographers in this film, like this person would be great for this, this person would be great for that.  For “Broken Like Me” I did want it to be in a kind of contemporary style, obviously, because it’s a ballad, but I had never danced that style before and I was very nervous about it. And (the choreographer) was like, “You can do this. You can do this. It’s all about feeling and emotion and letting your body move from that.” She was great with me and choreographed this beautiful piece. I thought it was amazing and one of my favourite moments in the film.

Dave Meyers: There’s a real melody though, that Jen’s showing off in the film, and that’s a unique thing that’s specific to her. So she is talking about how she curated that, but I think the aggregate walk away is, it’s all these different styles. She’s breaking her back on some of these dance moves and just killing it. So it’s sort of, I think, the collection of the crayon colours of her ability. The film sort of serves as that too, which in the music world is really important, the brand and the artist are sort of the same. And in the movie world, there’s emotions, so we sort of blended those two things.

What was the most challenging part of bringing this project together? And what was the most surprising?

Jennifer Lopez: Everything was challenging about making this movie, from getting people to understand what we wanted to do to getting it made, to doing it in the amount of time. Some of my fans who knew that it was coming were like, “What’s taking so long?” But the computer graphics and everything that were done on green screen were done in a record amount of time. It was, I mean, everything, everything. The rehearsal period, we had a choreographer and then the choreographer wound up and had to go do the Super Bowl, and so we had to replace this. There was just so many challenging things, the writing of the script, like, “Well, now we have to write a script?” Everything about it, every step of the way seemed to be a roadblock that we took as a challenge that turned into elevating it into something that we didn’t even realize it was being elevated into, I think.

Dave Meyers: Yeah. I guess I would say that Jen’s drive, it’s almost like the more impossible it was, the more she’s all for it.

Jennifer Lopez: Don’t tell me I can’t do something. That’s all. It is a very simple thing.

Dave Meyers: There’s a couple of very funny, not funny, very big markers along the way. There was a very sweet and mentor level conversation with Ben talking to both of us, saying it couldn’t be done in the way that we wanted to do it. And Jen just kind of looked at me like, “Okay, we’re going to do it.” And then I think when everybody passed on the film originally, she shopped around town with Ben, and I don’t know, I was getting the update that, “Oh, this might be bleak for us.” And Jen’s like, “Fuck it, we’re going to do it.” And she’s funded it herself. So I just think that Jen’s spirit of rise and above anybody that says no is why she’s here. It’s why she is who she is. It’s why she’s just yet again at the doorstep of something new. So that was evident for me as a partner to her. It was always my impossible was a little less than her impossible. I just had to make sure the green screens had good effects and that I could keep up with how fast she likes to work.

I don’t know how specific you want to get into it or how much you want to reveal, but you’re surrounded by all these great actors. I would think just coordinating schedules would be a nightmare, but what was it like to show up on set?

Jennifer Lopez: We forgot about that challenge.

Dave Meyers: Yeah.

Jennifer Lopez: Yes. It was a challenge with the cameos that we have in the movie. We obviously had quite a few. Some came on the same day, some didn’t. We had to make it work. We did whatever we could.

Dave Meyers: Most of them were shot separate.

Jennifer Lopez: Yeah.

Dave Meyers: Yeah. So that was actually probably the hardest scene to edit because we kept rewriting the script. A lot of them were personal friends of Jen’s, and so there was a lot of Jen had to switch out of performance mode and kind of come join me and hold their hands and trying to…Because they didn’t understand what they were doing, and they were out there wearing funny costumes on a green screen.

Jennifer Lopez: Yeah. They were like, “What am I doing?” I was like, “Just trust me. It’s going to be fine. I would never make you look crazy. And if it looks crazy, we will throw it in garbage. Don’t worry about it.” But luckily it turned out well. And a lot of them have seen the film already and are so excited. I mean, the reaction has been … I mean, with everything that we’ve been through, it’s so kind of satisfying to know that people love it.

How do you see this project fitting into your larger body of work, and how does it represent a new chapter or evolution in your artistic expression?

Jennifer Lopez: You know, it’s kind of me. And Ben kind of said this to me. I was like, I don’t write. I don’t do this.” He was like, “You do. You write. You direct. You produce. You do all the things. You choreograph. Start stepping into that. Start owning that a little bit. Start owning a little bit of who you are.” And again, we talk a little bit about this in some of the behind-the-scenes footage that we have. It was just, how does it fit in? It ended as chapter and it started a new chapter for me. So it ended kind of this 20-year journey about a lot of questions that I had, about love and being myself, a hopeless romantic, and what it means to really enter into a kind of healthier, more self-accepting phase for myself. Now, what will happen from that, I hope will be, and I know will be, even more wonderful things than what I have been so privileged to live up until this point.

But again, what the movie shows is that there has been struggles and there has been hard times that nobody knew about, that I kept to myself. Kind of gaining the confidence to be vulnerable and to admit certain things to the world, I think has only kind of made me more comfortable in my own skin and kind of empowered me in a way to step into this next phase of my life. As an artist and as a human being, that will be a whole new chapter for me, of feeling more free to express myself in a lot of different and exciting ways.

I can’t wait, and please don’t wait another 20 years to collaborate again.

Jennifer Lopez: I know. That will definitely not happen.

This Is Me…Now: A Love Story is streaming on Prime Video from February 16th, 2024.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.