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Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash

'JERSEY GIRL' in Philly

For her new film, J. Lo to be in Philly By Carrie Rickey Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck will star in director Kevin Smith's latest project, "Jersey Girl," to be made here.

Here's one reason Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez have been spotted together lately: They're in preproduction.

Kevin Smith will film Jersey Girl, starring Affleck, Lopez and George Carlin, in Philadelphia for about 10 weeks beginning in mid-August, the director confirmed yesterday.

"I pushed to shoot in Philadelphia over Toronto because it's in America, I liked the locations here, and because it's a great production center," said Smith, the Rabelais of Red Bank, N.J., by phone.

The Miramax film, budgeted at "upwards of $20 million," will be the sixth feature from the writer-director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.

The '90s-era dramatic comedy costars Affleck and Lopez as parents, and Carlin as Affleck's dad. The title character of Jersey Girl - the closest thing to a family film the defiantly profane 31-year-old has made - is the couple's preschool daughter, who has not yet been cast.

"I don't think I could have written this except for my experience as a dad," noted Smith, spouse of actress Jennifer Schwalbach Smith and father of Harley Quinn, 3. (Smith, a comics geek, named his daughter after the Batman archvillain.)

"Unless the MPAA gets weirdly stringent, this will be my first PG-13 film," Smith said. "It's not profanity-laced, it's not even profanity-dotted, which is weird because it's Affleck, Carlin and me - guys known for cursing their brains out."

Affleck, whose breakout role was as the smitten cartoonist in Smith's Chasing Amy and who now stars in The Sum of All Fears, recently wrapped Martin Brest's comedy Gigli, costarring Lopez as a lesbian hitwoman. The project is scheduled for release next year.

"He really had a great time working with Lopez and pushed her big-time for Jersey Girl," Smith says.

"Are they dating? Unequivocally, no," said the director, responding to rumors that Lopez, 31, who recently separated from husband Cris Judd, may be keeping company with eligible bachelor Affleck, 29.

"We've been excited about the prospect of hosting Kevin Smith in Philadelphia since we heard about the project in March," Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, said yesterday.

With episodes of the CBS-TV drama Hack starring David Morse and Jersey Girl both in production here this summer, the film office is bucking the national trend of runaway productions going north where, because of the devalued Canadian dollar, budgets go further.

"We're thrilled to be bringing millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the region," she said.

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