Experts say she was smart to pass on playing the tortured painter to earn a $10 million payday

By Liane Bonin
Updated May 11, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jennifer Lopez
Credit: Jennifer Lopez: Frank Trapper/Corbis Sygma
  • Movie

When Jennifer Lopez landed the lead in ”The Two Fridas,” a biopic about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, it seemed a calculated move to balance hip jiggling pop stardom with the sort of meaty, serious movie role that made her a star in the first place with 1997’s ”Selena.”

The ”Two Fridas” script, which follows Kahlo from age 18 until her death at 47 in 1954, vividly portrays the painter’s bisexuality, her tumultuous marriage to womanizing fellow painter Diego Rivera, her agonizing spinal surgeries following a near fatal bus accident, and her drug and alcohol abuse. Given Oscar’s fondness for a tormented true story (think Daniel Day Lewis in ”My Left Foot”), the part also offered Lopez her best shot at a gold statue. So it came as something of a surprise when, last month, J. Lo. dumped the project to star in a big budget serial killer thriller.

Lopez isn’t saying why she bailed, but her $10 million paycheck to play the FBI profiler in ”Taking Lives””Taking Lives”” for director Tony Scott (”Crimson Tide”) may have had something to do with it. It’s the highest payday ever for a Latina, and more than double ”Two Fridas”’ original budget. ”She’s smart to go for broke now,” says Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking agency Reelsource. ”She knows that, as far as her pop career goes, she could be Vanilla Ice in two years, which could hinder her future drawing power.”

And as creatively fulfilling as Kahlo’s tale might have been, fans who loved her sassy sexuality in ”Out of Sight” and ”The Wedding Planner” might not line up to see her play an eccentric, depressed painter with a monobrow. ”Look at Julia Roberts,” says casting director Billy Hopkins (”Someone Like You”). ”She did a number of serious films, ‘Michael Collins’ and ‘Mary Reilly,’ and the audience wasn’t there. ‘Erin Brockovich’ works only because it takes what we like about Julia and applies it to a film outside the romantic comedy genre.”

But some wonder if Lopez is also intentionally staying away from Latina parts. In ”Wedding,” she played an Italian American, and ”Taking Lives” was first offered to WASPy leading ladies Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett. ”Right now, Lopez is known as a huge star, not a huge Latina star, so why risk being typecast?” says Bucksbaum.


  • Movie
  • R
  • 122 minutes
  • Julie Taymor