Jennifer Love Hewitt: Love Lessons
The crop of young stars that came up in the late 90’s was in the process of being cut down in the early aughts. While many of her former costars were being squeezed out of the business, Jennifer Love Hewitt remained on the rise. Coming off the hit comedy, Heartbreakers, Hewitt was looking to build on that success and to branch out into a singing career when she on the cover of the September 2002 issue of Movieline magazine.
When the swell that was the teen craze crashed quickly in the summer of 2001 after a number of predictable high-school romances failed to bring in even their core audience, Hollywood insiders were placing bets on which teen stars would swim or sink. Jennifer Love Hewitt profited mightily from the teen craze, making plenty of dollars off two I Know What You Did Last Summers, the cult hit Can’t Hardly Wait and TV’s soggy series “Party of Five.” But she was not one of the young’uns people ever thought would disappear. That’s because by last summer, Love, as she is called by her friends and peers, had already set into motion her strategy for distinguishing herself from the herd of Young Hollywoodites.
In 1999, Hewitt was looking to prove her versatility and grownup chops, so she launched her own film and TV production company. Though her series “Time of Your Life” didn’t last, her bio-movie The Audrey Hepburn Story won viewers and sent out the message that she was willing to take risks. In 2001, Hewitt scored a box-office hit in the mother-and-daughter con woman comedy Heartbreakers, costarring Sigourney Weaver and Gene Hackman. Hewitt seemed to be entering a whole new realm when she starred for first-time director Alec Baldwin in The Devil and Daniel Webster, in which she played Satan opposite Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins. The choice was arty and, at the time, seemed smart–certainly a far cry from screaming for her life in a two-piece in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Too bad the film is being held up by legal hassles.
Now Hewitt is taking yet another turn in her career–she’s starring opposite martial arts expert Jackie Chan in the action film The Tuxedo. With the megahit Rush Hour franchise to his name, Chan is almost guaranteed to bring in moviegoers, which benefits Hewitt nicely. What’s more, she’s launching a new album, Barenaked, which was cowritten and produced by Meredith Brooks (singer of the chart-topping “Bitch”), that could elevate her to hyphenate status.
STEPHEN REBELLO: Jackie Chan seems like an unlikely costar for you.
JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT: When you see us in the movie together, you’ll know why it works. I’ve never had such amazing chemistry with any other actor.
Q: Is Jackie why you took this movie?
A: Yes, I love Jackie more than anything. He made me want to be in the movie. Now that we’ve worked together, I love him so much more and for so many different reasons. I liked my character, too. I play a CSA agent, a nerd, a water expert with an anger management problem, someone who spends a lot of time with beakers, chemicals, chlorine and is not a people person. She becomes Jackie’s sidekick.
Q: Did you do stunts?
A: They had me do wire training and initially we were going to be this kick-butt fighting duo. Then Jackie said, “Why? Let me be the one to do the stuff people can’t go home and try. Let her do the stuff that young girls could try,” which made a lot of sense. I do the lame version of what Jackie does.
Q: Got any war wounds to show for it?
A: I broke my finger on Heartbreakers but I got more fingers broken on this one. I got karate-chopped in the hand and broke my middle finger. We just taped it together and kept filming. There was no room for me to go, “Oh, I need to go home.” Jackie was like, “Are you OK? Yes? We shoot!”
Q: Did you win his respect?
A: He still calls and leaves messages on my answering machine saying “I love you,” and he sings me love songs. I can honestly say I love him very much. He thinks I’m crazy. He constantly made jokes about how I must have been dropped on my head as a child. He kept saying, “I know that there’s something wrong with you because you’re just weird.” He’s right, I am weird. But he completely embraced me for it, which made me able to be as completely wacko as I wanted because it made him laugh.
Q: Do you think he’s sexy?
A: Jackie Chan is sexy. I think anybody who’s that talented is sexy.
Q: Are you satisfied with the kinds of roles you’re being offered?
A: I’m 23 and have been in the entertainment industry since I was 10. At this age, people don’t know what to do with me. I’m not quite old enough to play the parts that I really want to play, but I’m not young enough to play the parts that I’m actually kind of right for. The Tuxedo will help.
Q: Did Heartbreakers open any doors for you?
A: It did very well at the box-office here and great overseas. In terms of “the business,” it didn’t make a huge difference.
Q: What happened to The Devil and Daniel Webster?
A: It’s in, like, movie space. It’s all about a bunch of legal stuff, money stuff. When you do independent films, you take a real gamble.
Q: But a movie that goes unreleased doesn’t help anyone, unless it’s truly awful, of course.
A: I haven’t seen it, but I don’t see how it couldn’t be good. The only thing that upsets me is that I feel like I grew as an actor in the movie and I want people to see that. What upsets me even more is that Alec is such a tremendous director, I want people to see what he did.
Q: Your costars are no slouches in the acting department. Were you intimidated?
A: It was unbelievable to work with Anthony Hopkins. To work with Alec Baldwin was even more unbelievable. The biggest moment was the day we had to shoot the speech that comes at the end of the movie where Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin take me, Satan, to the court of heaven and hell, and I have to try to convince the jury that God is actually the bad one, not me. Anyway, when I was sitting in rollers watching Anthony act, I realized I was not meant to be there, that I had never actually learned how to act. I thought, “I’ve built an entire career without having any idea what I am doing because this man, right now, is really acting.” I ran into my trailer crying, being completely melodramatic and feeling sorry for myself.
Q: Who extracted you from your trailer?
A: Alec came to me and said, “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you were going to be great.” Then, Anthony came and said, “This acting stuff is kind of scary,” and I said, “It sure is.” They told me the way I was feeling was probably a lot like how Satan was feeling, that this was Satan’s first chance to say how left out and hurt she felt at not being chosen as an angel. Alec and Anthony Hopkins made me look at them while I shot my speech. They wanted me to have to look at the people I was most afraid of. When it was done, Alec cried, put his arms around me and said, “That’s why you’re in this movie,” and Anthony said, “You’re one of us now. Congratulations.” For Anthony and Alec to have that much heart just goes to show that they’re good, good people.
Q: How did you and Alec Baldwin feel when reporters said that the two of you were romantically involved?
A: Part of us laughed. Part of me felt really sorry for him. He’s such a good man. There are sides of your personality that sometimes you show that you don’t mean to, but you do because you’re frustrated. But, Alec is a very good, very upstanding, honorable man and father. It upset me because I didn’t want people to think I was in the movie to be romantic with Alec Baldwin on camera. I also didn’t want people to think for one second that he was not in love with his wife because he was, is, whatever–it’s none of my business.
Q: But you two were very close, weren’t you?
A: The reason we were such good friends is that I’ve experienced parents splitting up and he was splitting from his wife at the time. I was able to help him with his daughter, help make her understand that he wasn’t going away. I think he gravitated toward me because I was sort of like a daughter to him. He was able to turn to me and ask, “Am I screwing this up? Did I handle that situation OK?” But my friendship with Alec got turned into such an unfortunate, like, scandal thing that was just so unnecessary.