Jennifer Lopez 'beat up, bruised' learning pole dancing for Hustlers
US actress-singer plays veteran stripper Ramona in crime drama Hustlers
Jennifer Lopez is on time.
At the most frantic film festival ever, the Toronto International Film Festival, the US actress-singer - who is often late - walks into the interview room at the Fairmont Royal York hotel on the dot.
Surrounded by her glam squad, looking the best she's ever been, Lopez is ready to talk about her new movie that is receiving the best reviews of her career and even Oscar buzz for her performance.
Even more exhausting to contemplate is that Lopez turned 50 in July, came off her music tour a few weeks ago and is enthusiastically promoting Hustlers, a crime drama she produced.
It is based on a true story about a group of strippers who scammed dozens of patrons at a club in New York City when the bottom fell out of the stock market a decade ago and their business dried up. It opens in Singapore tomorrow.
She plays veteran stripper, den mother and ringleader Ramona, alongside a cast that includes Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and Cardi B.
Even though Lopez has a reputation of being the consummate stage performer, she admitted training for her pole dancing sequence in Hustlers was one of the hardest things she has had to do.
"When I first started learning, the instructor comes over and she's like, 'First of all, your skin has to stick to the pole, so you can't do it in sweat pants and a long sleeve T-shirt', which is what I walked in with.
"She's like, 'You are just going to be in your bra and underwear, let's be comfortable being like that first'.
"I was like, 'Are you ****ing kidding me? I don't even know you!'" she said with a laugh.
Lopez added: "It was fun to learn, but it was hard. I was very bruised and beat up by it. I had huge bruises all over my legs and shoulders. I had to really train a lot, even in the gym to gain upper and core strength. So I just buckled down and I cried a little bit as I was doing it. But we put together a beautiful routine which I think was a good introduction for Ramona."
Why were you interested in doing this movie?
It reminds me of Goodfellas or Boogie Nights, where you delve into a sexy underground world that is also super dangerous.
And we've never seen that from a woman's point of view. You've never had an all-female cast, with a woman director (Lorene Scafaria), with women producers - it's just not something that happens every day. I was incredibly proud to be a part of that movement.
How did you relate to Ramona?
The loving, nurturing parts of her were easy for me to tap into.
I am kind of maternal, I do like to take care of everybody on the set and make sure they are okay, especially when I am a producer. But even when I am just an actor, I know that I'm the senior person now on the set and what I do is going to trickle down.
Also, Ramona's ambition and power, being a single mum, all of those were things that were very in line with (me).
The darker side of her was something that I had to get into, because I have tried to live my life by the book and doing the right things. But this was a character who was really unapologetic about what she was doing. What she was doing was mean, illegal and hurting people.
Was your fiance (former US pro baseball star Alex Rodriguez) impressed by your newly-acquired pole dancing skills?
During the training, Alex is in the house, I put on little shorts and he starts filming and immediately posts it. I'm like, 'What are you doing? I don't even know what I'm doing yet!'
He enjoyed watching me, the evolution of Ramona. And as I got better and better, he was like, 'Wow, how did you do that, how did you go upside down? You couldn't even climb up the thing two weeks ago'.
Congratulations on your engagement (which was announced in March). Did you see it coming?
We don't have any concrete plans right now, but Alex and I had a connection from the very beginning and maybe could see a future for ourselves. And we talked about (marriage) a few times. But when he proposed, it was a surprise for me.
We love each other, we love being around each other and we have a lot of respect for each other. And I think both of us show up for each other. That's a big deal in a relationship, especially when you are both strong people who have two big lives.
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards