The Chambermaid: Barry Wetcher
November 08, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

”My first boyfriend worked in a hotel,” says Lopez. ”I think he still might.” And there you have it: Just one reason the ultraglam actress is entirely comfortable playing a floor scrubber who catches a glimpse of the upstairs world when she falls for a member of a New York political dynasty, played by two-time Oscar nominee Fiennes. ”Because he?s such a serious dramatic actor and you?re used to seeing him in these epic stories that span years, he brings a bit of weight to it,” says Lopez, who stepped into the role after Sandra Bullock and Hilary Swank passed. ”We didn?t want it to be a lightweight fairy tale.”

Wang (”Anywhere but Here”) signed on after John Hughes — who had written a version of the screenplay — decided this wouldn?t be his comeback film (Hughes hasn?t been behind the camera since 1991?s ”Curly Sue”). ”It?s very romantic and all that,” says Wang, ”but it?s not about getting married and committing to each other forever. It?s about understanding differences, making mistakes, and giving each other a second chance.”

Goldsmith-Thomas, a former agent who once represented Lopez, decided to use Hughes? original ”Cinderella” update as a springboard to explore the underbelly of a posh hotel after seeing a documentary on, well, the underbellies of posh hotels. ”One of them had a sign [for the staff] that said ‘Aspire to be invisible,”’ she recalls. ”I thought, What a strange thing to aspire to do.” On location at the Waldorf-Astoria, Lopez quickly learned the meaning of that phrase. ”When Jennifer would come through in her regular clothes, she was mobbed,” says Goldsmith-Thomas. ”Ten minutes later, she?d come through in her maid?s outfit and nobody saw her.”

THE LOWDOWN With her last starring vehicle, ”Enough,” topping out at just $39 million, Lopez could really use a movie that gets her out of the tabloids and onto the A list.

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