Jersey Girl: Peter Sorel
EW Staff
February 17, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

There was a time when Kevin Smith was happy to have audiences believe his romantic dramedy was a Bennifer flick. Then came the megabomb ”Gigli,” followed by the couple’s split, and suddenly it wasn’t such a bad idea to reveal that Jennifer Lopez’s character dies in the first 20 minutes. ”After ‘Gigli,’ I was like, Oh, man — our jobs just got much harder,” admits Smith. ”But now people seem to get that it’s not about them. It’s not ‘Gigli 2: Bennifer Strikes Back.”’ More in line with Smith’s ”Chasing Amy” than ”Clerks,” the long-delayed ”Girl” (it wrapped over a year ago) is about a newly widowed dad (Ben Affleck), his 7-year-old daughter (Raquel Castro), and the outgoing gal (Liv Tyler) who pops into their life. And, no, Smith isn’t worried about Affleck’s dwindling box office appeal (”Paycheck” grossed roughly $54 mil). ”We’re a comeback picture,” says Smith. ”The dude’s never been as good as he is here. If you’re not satisfied, I’d be willing to stand at the door of theaters and be like, ‘You don’t have to pay.”’

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