Come Back, Jason Blair! All is forgiven!

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ The View Askew WWWBoard ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by Kevin at on August 12, 2003 at 04:18:46:

Yesterday, the NY Times ran a small article about “Jersey Girl” that wasn’t a “Gigli”-fed
attack on the movie or a scathing prognostication on the flick’s box office chances – which,
after the last two weekends, was a refreshing change

And yet, it still managed to ruin my day.

Had this article appeared in the Star or the Enquirer, or any number of gossip websites, I
wouldn’t bother trying to refute it. But that this appeared in the NY Times just depressed
the hell out of me. And worse, that I was attributed with saying something I didn’t say just
downright insults and infuriates me.

What follows is the NY Times article that ran yesterday, along with my comments about
things that were said, and things that weren’t but were credited to me regardless.

The starred text belongs to the Times.
*After 'Gigli,' Less of J. Lo Is Seen as a Good Thing

You would be hard pressed to find a Hollywood marketing manual that says killing off one-
half of the country's most famous celebrity couple in the first 15 minutes of a movie should
be used as a selling point.

But in the wake of the box office and critical disaster that is "Gigli," the film that brought
together Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Miramax Films is doing just that with the couple's
next movie, "Jersey Girl."

When news reports in recent months revealed that Ms. Lopez's character dies early in "Jersey
Girl," publicity executives at Miramax were displeased. But in the last few weeks, they have
begun quietly highlighting the fact that Ms. Lopez barely appears in the movie.

Now, it looks as if Miramax will be promoting the movie the way the director, Kevin Smith,
had originally wanted. Mr. Smith, who attained cult status with movies like "Chasing Amy"
and "Dogma," had always conceived of "Jersey Girl" as the story of Ollie Trinke (played by Mr.
Affleck) raising his young daughter, Gertie. But when Ms. Lopez was cast as the girl's
mother, the production quickly turned into the "Ben and Jennifer show," much to Mr. Smith's
chagrin. *
Let me clarify here. “Chagrin” is probably too harsh a term. The only aspect of the “Ben and
Jennifer Show” I was ever uncomfortable with was in how Miramax might be tempted to sell
“Jersey Girl” as a Ben and Jen flick, when Jen’s not in it very long.

Naturally, for the better part of a year, we tried to keep the fact that her character dies in the
first half hour very quiet, as it would spoil the movie for folks and soften the emotional
wallop it packs in the film. Early on (before the “Gigli” mess was even a twinkle in every
gossip-hound’s eye), Miramax was inclined to promote the movie (upon release) as a Ben
and Jen movie – which would’ve meant cutting trailers and tv spots solely from the first half
hour of the movie – because everything else in the film after that refers back to Jen’s
character’s death. And since I didn’t want to reveal to the world Jen’s character’s early exit
from the film - thus spoiling the flick in advance for audiences who liked to be surprised by
movies - there wasn’t much I could say or do to offer up alternative ways to market the
flick. I just hoped that, by the time the good folks at Miramax got around to serious
marketing decisions, they’d show a bit of restraint, and not whore out an actress who, while
mega-famous and stellar in the picture, is barely in it.

Now, in the post-“Gigli” climate, marketing the flick as a Ben and Jen movie is the last thing
Miramax wants to do – which is cool by me, as I always felt the movie should be sold as
what it is: a father/daughter relationship film. That’s largely what the flick’s about, so why
not sell it honestly?

It’s just a shame that that particular marketing decision was arrived at under the current
circumstances. Because now, thanks to the voracious press machine, the news of Jen’s
character’s death early in the film has become common knowledge (I went to the “Battle for
Shaker Heights” premiere tonight, and every press person that grabbed me began with
“Aren’t you happy that Jen’s character dies in your movie now?”). All through production,
we went to great pains to keep it a secret, going so far as to shoot fake stills of Ben, Jen,
and Raquel (the titular “Jersey Girl”) together. But when we started test screening, and the
early internet reviews spoiled the death, the cat was out of the bag. At that point, I had little
choice but to cop Jen’s early exit from the flick – which is why in the April 27th Sunday NY
Times piece, I talked about her character dying.

So if there was any “chagrin”, it was over the fact that the movie might have been sold in a
bait-and-switch manner. That’s now no longer a threat.
*The publicity nightmare worsened recently as Internet chat groups and tabloids began
comparing "Jersey Girl" to the much maligned "Gigli." Rumors surfaced that Miramax had cut
Ms. Lopez's part, and even had her face removed from movie posters. *
This is a factual inaccuracy, because there haven’t been any posters finalized yet. Granted,
there was a promotional poster done for ShoWest that pictured Ben, Jen, Liv and Raquel. But
being that we were still – even then –easily eight months out from release, that image wasn’t
even close to a final release poster. It was a temp mock-up intended to boost awareness for
the film with the theater owners and exhibitors who attend ShoWest. Jen’s face has not, in
fact, been removed from any posters. I know this because Miramax hasn’t even started
focusing on the marketing campaign for “Jersey Girl” yet (I mean, have you seen a trailer yet?
I sure haven’t). It’s little inaccuracies like this – that come less from a place of gossip-
mongering and more from conjecture and a lack of comprehension of the movie biz – that
wind up getting quoted become over and over again by other news outlets who will in turn
sight the NY Times as their source. Never mind that it’s not true at all; it’s been in the
Times, so it’s gotta have some validity, right?

But even that’s not as bad as what’s about to follow.
*Many of the changes had been made well before "Gigli" even showed up in theaters, largely
because of the two characters' chemistry — or, in this case, a lack thereof, Mr. Smith said. *
This is the part of the article with which I take issue the most (and why I’ll never talk to
another journalist who doesn’t utilize some form of recording device other than a pen and
paper again). I never… NEVER… said, implied, or inferred anything regarding a lack of
chemistry between Ben and Jen. Maybe I’m deluded and biased, but I’m the only
motherfucker out there in the press who’s been maintaining they have great chemistry since
day one.

From my second “Jersey Girl” diary, that ran over at our sister site,, September 20th, 2002…

“If you're ever shooting a movie about two people falling in love, I can't urge you strongly
enough to cast a pair of people who are actually falling in love. The chemistry between Ben
and Jen is so palpable, you could almost bottle it and sell it as an aphrodisiac. Take after
take, we watched Ben and Jen (who we couldn't have cast as love-at-first-sighters at a
better time in their lives) flirt through a rapid-fire-dialogue dance of movie meet-cute. But
this wasn't just art imitating life; somehow in the midst of all that smolder, they managed to
provide us with a pair of performances that reminded this little black duck why he's always
worshipped at the Altar of Affleck, and is now currently constructing a Lopez Basilica as we
speak. Honestly, the performances they gave were nothing short of spellbinding.”

I took a world of shit for writing that here on our website from the folks that don’t like
Jennifer Lopez, but I said it then, and I stand by it now. It was quoted in dozens of articles
that ran in print and on the web, not the least of which was Bob Baker’s LA Times article
“Say It Ain’t So, Silent Bob” that ran January 12th, 2003.

And in the aforementioned NY Times article that ran April 27th, 2003, I was quoted on the
subject of Ben and Jen’s chemistry again…

"We got Ben and Jennifer at a perfect time," he says. "They were falling in love in real life and
falling in love on film." Shooting their PG-13 love scenes, he adds, was a breeze: "I don't
know that they had to act that much. There were times when we'd say `cut' and that didn't
seem to matter to them."

Now why, after spending almost a year talking about how great their chemistry is, would I
suddenly pull an about-face and say something to the contrary? The fact of the matter is
that I DIDN’T say anything to the author of this current NY Times piece regarding a lack of
chemistry between Ben and Jen. I talked with Laura about editing the movie based on test
screening reactions, but never went into specifics, and certainly never sighted Ben and Jen’s
scenes or an imagined lack of chemistry. As written, this Times piece implies I DID say
something to that effect. That pretty much trashes what little faith I had left in the press –
especially the holy NY Times – because I’m attributed with saying something I didn’t.

I’m not calling Laura a liar – not at all. She seemed like a really nice lady when we spoke,
and unlike most of the gossip vultures I spoke with tonight in the press line at the premiere,
she was kind of rooting for us. But the fact remains that she printed something I didn’t say/
imply/infer, and attributed it to me. Call it miscommunication, call in conjecture, but call it
factually inaccurate – because that’s what it is.
*Ms. Lopez's part was trimmed after test audiences last spring panned the on-screen
relationship between Ms. Lopez and Mr. Affleck. *
While not attributed to me directly, I didn’t say anything like this in my interview either. Just
because someone fills out a comment card that says “I hate J.Ho in real life!” doesn’t mean
I’m going to alter my movie to satisfy that mental giant. The cuts I make following test
screenings are not based on comment cards or scores (and for the record, the movie is
scoring extremely well). How I use the test screenings is I listen to the room as the movie’s
playing, and if a scene is playing slowly, and I can feel it during the screening, I’ll re-
examine it in the editing room. But if you’ve seen some of the comments cards I’ve read in
my nearly ten years of test-screening experience, you’d learn pretty quickly to lend them
little credence. Putting an unfinished movie up in front of an audience is beneficial; hearing
their exact specifics on the movie in a scene-by-scene breakdown is not.
*Miramax, a unit of the Walt Disney Company , resisted the cuts at first. "Harvey was always,
`Let's leave as much of Jennifer in because we paid her $4 million for the movie,' " said Mr.
Smith, referring to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax's co-founder. The studio's marketing
executives were also pushing to take advantage of the couple's star appeal. *
See? There’s a quote – a direct quote – that I have no problem with. I said that. That’s fine.
Put it in print. I obviously have no problem shooting my mouth off while putting my foot in
it at the same time (word was Harvey wasn’t pleased with that quote). I mean, I’m the guy
who publicly likened my experience working with the ABC network on the “Clerks” cartoon
to prison rape. I’ve been told by journalists repeatedly that they dig talking to me because
I’m pretty candid. So believe me when I say if I didn’t think there was chemistry between
Ben and Jen in “Jersey Girl” during the eighteen minutes of screen time they share, I’d say it
in the press, big time – especially now, when bashing them is all the rage, and insures any
knuckle-headed pundit ink in even this nation’s most respected newspapers. But as I
DON’T feel that way, and I’ve never said anything like that, and have, in fact, always said the
exact opposite, why the fuck would you credit me with something I DIDN’T say – like…
*Many of the changes had been made well before "Gigli" even showed up in theaters, largely
because of the two characters' chemistry — or, in this case, a lack thereof, Mr. Smith said.*
“Mr. Smith” never said that, or anything else like it. But now, because it appeared in the NY
Times, I was asked by no less than three reporters tonight “I read you’ve said Ben and Jen
don’t have chemistry in your movie. What happened?”
*But that changed as Mr. Smith whittled away Ms. Lopez's screen time.*
I know it’s en vogue at the moment to place Jen Lopez in the cross-hairs for all that wrong
with the world, so of course the author of this piece is inclined to write that I whittled away
Jen’s screen time. However, what she fails to mention is that I whittled away EVERYONE’S
screen time. That’s how you cut a movie – you don’t whittle away one character who was
barely in the movie to begin with; you get in there and shave EVERYBODY down.

The irritating thing is that what Laura’s expressed in that passage above isn’t wrong, per
se’; it just fails to represent the entire story. It’s selective with the details. And I get why:
because unless you’re purporting that Jen’s getting cut out of the movie, the author is left
with a rather boring piece about how the movie’s been edited, period. Wow – stop the
presses. A movie gets edited? What a scoop.
* "It became what's best for the story," said Jon Gordon, executive vice president of
production at Miramax.

You can almost hear the sigh of relief at Miramax. "In retrospect," Mr. Smith said, "it turned
out to not be such a bad thing." Now he can only hope the couple chooses not to get
married next March when the movie opens, which would provide distracting fodder for the
The irony in making a distinction between the Times and the tabloids in an article that
amounts to little more than a gussied-up gossip piece is pretty precious. Since when is
something like this story NY Times-worthy news anyway? What happened to the
institution’s reputation as the Paper of Record? Has it gone from “All The News That’s Fit to
Print” to “All the News That Fits, We Print”? Or worse, “All Bennifer, All the Time – Just Like
Every Other Rag”?

Look, I like the NY Times. They’ve been really good to us in the past – particularly Janet
Maslin, when she was the lead critic there. And I don’t wanna be the guy who’s jumping all
over their dick, adding to the cacophony of those who’ve taken unfair pot-shots at them for
their recent problem with phony articles. I’m not saying this article is phony; not at all. I
spoke to Laura, for roughly forty five minutes. Like I said, she seems like a cool and decent
lady. However, it bugs the shit out of me that she wrote that I said something I didn’t. I’m
not out in the press attributing to her shit she never said; all I ask is the same consideration
in return.

Regardless, I’ll say it again, for the record, and so nobody can claim I’ve said different: I
think Jen and Ben’s chemistry in “Jersey Girl” is fantastic.

And, honest to God – I’m sorry I had to write this. I’m not looking to get anyone in trouble,
and I hate being the guy who’s always bitching about this or that injustice. Believe it or not,
I’m not a crybaby in real life. But if you don’t try to correct shit like this right away, fiction
becomes fact faster than a “Gigli” box office run. A person should always be held
responsible for the things they say, which is why I tend to choose my words pretty carefully.
But when someone puts words in your mouth – particularly in a publication as respected and
trusted as the NY Times - being circumspect means jack-shit. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter
how carefully I choose my words, because somebody can just write that I said something I

I swear, I can’t wait ‘til March - because then our flick can be seen, and I won’t have to say/
defend/correct anything anymore. The film can speak for itself.

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ The View Askew WWWBoard ] [ FAQ ]