Movieline Magazine Interview

The last time I interviewed Jennifer Love Hewitt, or “Love” as she’s known to her family and friends, she was 19 and well-regarded as one of Hollywood’s sweetest, hardest-working, most successful world-on-a-platter girls. She was starring in the sequel to the hit I Know What You Did Last Summer, she was about to play Audrey Hepburn in a TV biomovie she was also producing, she was preparing to spread her wings as star/producer of “Party of Five'”s spinoff “Time Of Your Life” and her production company, Love Spell, had sold New Line Cinema on a romantic comedy idea she herself had helped to hatch.

Her lucrative contract with Neutrogena was keeping her smiling, fresh-faced features in heavy rotation on TV and in magazines as a steady affirmation of her enormous appeal. And as if all that weren’t enough, on the personal front she seemed to have MTV personality Carson Daly under a heavy Love spell.

In the last couple of years, though, the golden girl has acquired some tarnish. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer did well enough, but was hardly the sensation the original film had been. The Audrey Hepburn Story received a lukewarm response. Worst of all, low ratings got the plug pulled on “Time Of Your Life.” Then Hewitt’s romance went south and Daly bad-mouthed her to the press, then proceeded to romance Tara Reid, to whom he’s now engaged. And to top things off, Hewitt’s romantic comedy project got nixed for being too similar in concept to a film already going into production, Jennifer Lopez’s The Wedding Planner. Had a love spell so quickly become a dry spell?

Now 21, Hewitt is about to star in a grown-up comedy she hopes will leave her growing pains behind. In Heartbreakers, she plays the sexed-up conwoman daughter of an equally larcenous mom (Sigourney Weaver) who makes a living out of hooking up with men. After that Hewitt will star as Satan Monica, she shows no signs of impending anxiety and no inclination to see her recent difficulties as anything but water under the bridge.

STEPHEN REBELLO: From what I hear, you get to do some very sexy things in your new film, Heartbreakers.

JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT: [Laughing] I spent the first day of shooting in a tiny dress, six-inch heels and shoulder-length strawberry red hair, which was attached to my costar Ray Liotta’s crotch for-well, let’s say a lengthy amount of time. My grandmother came to the set and asked my mother, “Where’s Love? I can’t see her,” and mom answered, “She’s…umm…down under the camera attached to Ray Liotta’s crotch.” To which grandmother responded, “Oh…OK. Well, that’s special. I really don’t want to know what this movie’s about.” [Laughs] She hasn’t brought it up since.

Q: Did you feel comfortable being so sexy?
 I was terrified. My biggest preparation for this movie was learning how to be comfortable in my skin. At 21, you don’t even know what your skin is. David Mirkin, the director, had arranged a lot of shots where I was to walk in a door and the place was supposed to just stop cold. We had to do take after take because I’d speed it up or look down on the ground, and he had to constantly say, “Walk really slow” or “Make eye contact” and I’d say, “Mirkin, I’m so embarrassed right now with all these people staring at me. What do you want me to do?” I couldn’t get comfortable with it. Two weeks into rehearsal, he finally said, “Whether it’s true in real life or not, on this movie, everyone thinks you’re sexy. If you don’t believe it, neither will we.” So I had to remember that for those eight seconds, I commanded the room.

Q: Sounds like in real life you don’t believe you’re sexy. 
 In truth. I don’t really feel like I’m a sexy person. When people say things about my looks my honest response is, “What? Are you on medication? That’s just nuts.” But I walked away from this movie thinking it’s OK to feel sexy. I’ve figured out how to be comfortable in my skin. I can see the headline now [Laughing]-David Mirkin helped me discover my sexuality! That sounds so dorky, but it’s true.

Q: So now that you feel like a more mature woman, are you going to stop saying things like, “I’ve made a promise to myself that the one thing I’m never going to do is grow up”? 
 No, because what I meant when I said that is I never want to stop having fun. Feeling sexy is about being confident.

Q: Speaking of confidence, hasn’t the last year been a little rough in that regard? 
 I’ve been slammed, and it’s definitely been something new for me. I’m a pretty sensitive person, so anything that somebody says about me in print or on TV affects me.

Q: How have you dealt with those hurt feelings? A: I try to brush negative stuff off. I wake up thinking, “Try to be the best, nicest, hardest-working person you can the entire day.” That’s really all you can do. People are going to say what they want. In this business, if you try to please everyone, you’ll kill yourself.

Q: One of the things people slammed you for was being too perky. Don’t you think it would help your image if you came off as less upbeat and showed some of that hurt? 
 [Laughing] I don’t want people to see me that way. Yes, I’ve been hurt. I’ve suffered. But that’s not what makes me. What makes me is getting through all that stuff, pushing it aside, moving forward. If someone experienced what I do every day, they could definitely see a could or two. I don’t allow clouds. I’m not interested in them.

Q: What do you say to yourself when people accuse you of landing roles based on your looks, nor your talent? 
 When I get things, it’s not because I show up at a casting office asking for it and people just go. “She’s cute and perky-let’s give her that.” I’m one of the hardest-working people I know and I don’t say that in a conceited way. I work until I can’t work any longer in a day’s time. I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. and start writing a script idea just so I won’t forget it the next morning when I get up at six to do 85 older things. I do, though, get things I don’t think I’ve worked for and don’t even understand.

Q: How did you deal with the lumps you took for playing Audrey Hepburn? 

A: I will never, ever look at a piece of work I’ve done and say, “That’s a great performance,” and certainly I wouldn’t ever think that of playing Audrey. But a couple of negative write-ups out of what could have been 200 bad ones is great.

Q: At about the same time The Audrey Hepburn Story aired, your TV show, “Time of Your Life,” was put on hiatus and then canceled. What happened? 
 It was harder than people thought to look at my character. Sarah, without Bailey. It’s like watching Juliet without Rome. Doing that show was the greatest pressure I’ve ever felt in my life. I didn’t realize how personally taxing it was until it was over. I was so sick so many times while filming. You work so hard on it, then all of a sudden it’s gone and you think, “What was all of that for?” I sat down and made a list of what I got from it. One of the things was that I was one of the youngest people to ever produce my own show. That’s an honor.

Q: Well, with all these difficult experiences under your belt, where do you want to go with your career now? 

A: I want to do movies like the ones Julia Roberts does. She’s incredibly respected, she works really hard, and she’s powerful without being harsh. She’s had tough times and she’s brushed them right off. She’s a good girl, but she’s one of the sexiest good girls. I’d like to get there, but at 21, no one’s going to call me about doing a My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Q: What are people calling you for? 
 I feel like I’m in a weird place right now. Being 21 in Hollywood is like being 13 all over again. It’s an awkward stage. Am I going to be the “horror girl”? Am I going to move into adult movies? I’ve been doing the same thing that the business has been doing-trying to figure out what’s the next thing. There’s more attention on me now because this is where I either slip up or go to the next stage. I feel watched and that makes me a little self-conscious.

Q: How did you get your role in Heartbreakers
 The project had been for years. David Mirkin and John Davis, the coproducer, had gone through so many women. At one point, it was Anjelica Huston and Alicia Silverstone, another time Cher and Jennifer Aniston. When they got Sigourney Weaver, my name was suggested, because the character of the daughter is very rough-textured and getting an edgy person to play that part was only going to make it edgier, while a soft person would give the character something else. I read with Sigourney and we had real chemistry. The other actors in the film-Gene Hackman, Jason Lee, Ray Liotta-brought a lot of heart to it, too. Every day I’d walk on the set of Heartbreakers and think, “I’m on the wrong set. I’m supposed to be over there making a movie with a fisherman with a hook.”

Q: How was the chemistry between you and Jason Lee, who plays the “mark” that you end up falling for?
A: I hope they might say, “Wow, she’s an adult.” I mean, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer showed off the “figure” aspects of being an adult, but that was still a teen movie. With Heartbreakers I hope they’ll feel I’ve grown in my craft and they’ll see a sexier side to me.

Q: Is there a special someone out there you hope will see that “sexy side” and give you a call? 
 Relationships are so hard. Right now I’m having the most “me” time I’ve ever had. I’m really into sitting by myself and reading, taking a walk, getting a massage. Instead of going out with friends, I’m taking time to sit in the hot tub. I’m past the teenage years and am into the “Who am I going to be?” stage. I don’t mean this in a self-absorbed way, but, right now, my life is not about boys.

Q: So, who does it look like you’re going to be? 
 Someone who has a lifetime of great moments. I want to travel someplace wonderful and dance in the rain and get sick from it. I want to love and be loved like never before in my life. I want to be smarter, read lots of books, meet interesting people I can learn from.

Q: Tell me a book you’ve read lately that’s a keeper. 
 The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Amazing, profound. I’m a spiritual person. Coming from Texas as I do, church was a big thing when I grew up. As I get older, I find that faith is a praivte thing for me. I know that I have someone watching over me all the time. I’m just not into going to a church with a bunch of people.

Q: Getting back to the subject of boys, how did you feel when your ex, Carson Daly, told the press he was upset when he learned of your breakup while watching TV? 
 There are two sides to every story. We separated because we had a long-distance relationship and it wasn’t working, not because the E! channel said something about it. I’ve never had any bad feelings there, but Carson did things in the relationship that didn’t make me feel good. But it’s too much weight to carry around that stuff through your life. You have to wish people well, let them move on. I have respect and continue to want to have a lot of respect for Carson. I also refuse to believe that when you’re with somebody for a long time, only one person gets hurt in a breakup. Nobody wants to be someone who broke someone else’s heart.

Q: Another famous boyfriend, Joseph Lawrence, said in Movieline that you’re “a young girl” and that you “need to figure some stuff out.” 
 I would like to tell him that I learned a lot and that I’m doing great [laughing]. I absolutely know the person he was talking about. I was 16, a little girl. A much different person. I would have said about him, too, “Yeah, this is a guy who had a lot to learn and had a lot of things to become.” When I read that article, I was incredibly proud of the person he had become. He learned what he needed to learn.

Q: As a 21-year-old who’s had some romantic disappointments, can you still have a light-hearted, fun date? 
 [Laughing] I can’t do serious dates. I can’t be with cool, entertainment-industry people and I cannot [doing a snooty accent] be terribly intellectual and talk about books. I have to be with somebody who’s like, “Let’s go mini-golfing, then eat pizza.”

Q: What features attract you in a guy? 
 I love character lines, little wrinkles, little scars. I love eyes that you look into and find a dark, vast place of stories and knowledge. Steve McQueen and James Dean had eyes that said something. I love smiles that come from the heart, not something someone pulled from their back pocket.

Q: Have you been in romantic situations where things get rough when one career soars while the other stalls? 
 I’ve experienced that, but why stop loving someone just because they’re becoming more successful?

Q: What about with girlfriends? 
 Jealousy’s everywhere in Hollywood. I can look around and say, “There are eight million girls more beautiful and talented.” The biggest demon in life is jealousy. You can’t let it control you. When you’re 80, you don’t want to know how many movies you made. You want to look back and think, “I had a lot of great friends. I had amazing loves in my life.”

Q: Who arouses your envy? 
 There are people around who I think are incredibly lucky, as I have been. I could say, “Jeez, Gwyneth, could you just take a break and go to Hawaii for four months so the rest of us could do a movie?” But honestly, I’d be sad if she went on vacation because she’s my favorite actress and I see all her movies.

Q: Why do you think casting people haven’t considered you for the tougher stuff that Gwyneth gets? 
 The entertainment industry is like high school. Everyone is in clique. Everyone is typecast. I’m typecast as “the good girl,” which many might see as just plain boring. But I’m comfortable being the good girl. Besides, the good girls are the ones you marry anyway, so we get our day in the end [Laughing].

Q: But wouldn’t you like to tackle your own American Beauty or Go or Election
 Those scripts don’t appeal to me. A lot of them aren’t even sent to me because people know that’s not my thing. They just don’t make sense to me. American Beauty, I might have done. American Pie, no, though I loved them both. When most people found out I was in Heartbreakers they said, “We’d never have pictured Jennifer Love Hewitt in that role.”

Q: Most people probably wouldn’t have pictured you playing the Devil, either, which you’ll do in your next film, The Devil and Daniel Webster. How did you get that part? A
: [Laughing] Again, I was incredibly lucky. When Alec Baldwin called me and asked me I nearly had a heart attack. I said, “The Devil? This is so not me.” He said, “That’s why I thought of you. It’ll be sexy, new and fun.” When he called a week later and told me that Anthony Hopkins was going to play Daniel, I nearly choked.

Q: Are you going to dress like a traditional Devil in it?

A: No. I’d like to play her as an angelic, sweet-faced girl, maybe even as along, curly-haired blonde, and then have her be absolutely evil. My job is going to be making the switch in every scene from a sexy, sweet and mysterious person to someone who smashes souls.

Q: What projects are you developing for yourself? 
 One that matters very much to me is set at Kent Stage. The character I’d play is based on a real person who lived through it and now teaches at Kent. Another project is a broad comedy about a college girl who’s a spy with the gadgets of James Bond and the talents of Austin Powers.

Q: Since you’ve talked pretty openly about a year of sometimes humbling self-discoveries, I wonder if you have any stories about embarrassing yourself in front of a celebrity. 
 Oh, yeah. Kate Hudson was on “Party of Five” almost five years ago and, for some reason, at the Almost Famous premiere, I thought she’d remember me. As I watched the movie I thought, “What an amazing actress. I hope I can act as well someday,” and then at the premiere party when she was standing ordering a drink, she turned around, smiled and waved, and I thought she was waving at me, so I started gushing, “Hi! Oh my God, you were so good.” But she started walking off toward my right and I realized she was talking to the person behind me. I was looking at the guy serving drinks and just continued my conversation with him so he wouldn’t tell people that Kate Hudson completely dissed me.

Q: Have you run into Kate since? 
 I sent everyone in Almost Famous flowers, including Cameron Crowe, to let them know how wonderful I thought it was. Then when I was at the VH1 Fashion Awards I suddenly felt someone grabbing my hand. It was Kate and she said, “Thank you so much for the flowers. It meant the world to me,” and I said, “You’re so welcome.” When she touched my arm, I had to make sure this time she was actually talking to me.

Q: How secure do you feel with yourself right now?
 I’m the most insecure person in the world, and I want to work on that. I’m trying to be someone I can look at in the mirror and say, “You’re a great person.” Without that, you just get lost.

Q: Have you been lost? 
I’ve always felt that I needed other people to make me me, make me great or keep me company. For the first time in my life, I realize that all I need, I have.

Q: You and your mother still live together. How is that relationship going?

A: I’m trying to not need her as much, and she’s trying to not need me as much. But we’re still best friends because we just really like each other. I’m planning to surprise her by taking her for a whole “girl day” at a spa, and when I told a friend of mine about it she said, “Why don’t you take a girlfriend?” I said, “I am.” My mom travels with me everywhere. I don’t like traveling alone.

Q: Is there anything you’d change about the last year? 
 Not really, I feel very comfortable these days. I feel good about me. And I have the most blessed life I can imagine.

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