- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

NEW YORK CITY — Michael Apted, who directs the latest starring vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, says he loves doing films about "women's drama."

The director, silver-haired and distinguished, recalls how he came to make "Enough" during press interviews at the Regency Hotel with Columbia Pictures as host.

"They didn't come to me, exactly. My agent gave me the script. I liked it and auditioned for them. I'm English, so I didn't grow up with civil rights or Vietnam. I think the single most important political-social revolution in my lifetime is women in society how women's positions have changed," he says. "I think their dramas are the absolute essence of society at the moment."

Strictly speaking, "Enough" doesn't coincide with the biographical melodramas that established Mr. Apted, 61, as something of a specialist in contemporary stories about women and their professional struggles. "Coal Miner's Daughter," the 1980 movie that was Mr. Apted's first American credit and won an Academy Award for Sissy Spacek, and 1988's "Gorillas in the Mist," which won an Oscar nomination for Sigourney Weaver, were the key titles in that regard.

"Enough," a vigilante domestic thriller, is unlikely to place Miss Lopez in Oscar contention.

Mr. Apted's career has ranged from the popular BBC soap opera "Coronation Street" in the late 1960s to the scintillating James Bond thriller of 1999, "The World Is Not Enough." The opening of "Enough" has coincided with the belated release of "Enigma," a World War II espionage melodrama that he completed almost two years ago.

Reflecting on the eclectic nature of his choices through the years, the director says: "You have to know what the agenda is. I can't turn James Bond into 'In the Bedroom.' I can't confuse 'Enough' with a documentary. You need to know what you have to do. If not, you won't survive.

"That doesn't mean you have to trivialize or patronize the material, but you have to know that 'Enough' is a thriller with a huge female star and that it needs to satisfy a vast audience with varying degrees of experience, involvement and intelligence."

The job of a director hired for a star vehicle could be likened to that of a sports coach, he says.

In general, he explains, "You're expected to get people to play for you. With this movie, it meant getting Jennifer Lopez down there every day doing the best work she can do. The studio isn't interested in my vision of the movie. What they need is someone to deliver Jennifer Lopez. I have no illusions that if Jennifer had not wanted to work for me, I would have been given the boot."

Mr. Apted discovered that it takes a bit of patience to secure Miss Lopez's undivided attention. "We had a meeting, and that went well, but then there was about three months before we started shooting, and it was absolute murder trying to get near her during that interval.

"But I quickly learned the key to how she conducts her life," he says. "She only really focuses on what's directly in front of her. Once she was there, working on this picture, she was incredibly focused. She's very gifted but also works very hard."

During her round-table interview sessions, Miss Lopez acknowledges: "I've got a lot of stuff going on, but the great part, the fun part, is still the work. The acting, the writing of the music, being in the studio singing. When the creative process is going on, I don't allow other things in. I don't bring too much garbage to the table.

"I just feel really productive right now full of zest. It's the feeling, 'Let's do it.' I'm riding my own wave, not so much the one the public might sense. That one's too fickle to ride."

Miss Lopez, 31, felt there were obvious thematic similarities between "Enough" and the thriller in which she appeared last summer, "Angel Eyes."

"I've done this subject matter a few times, abusive families and how that all goes," she says. "This was challenging in many ways, though. Physically for the training I had to go through to be ready for the big final fight with Billy [Campbell]; emotionally because this character went more places than most people go through in a lifetime." Mr. Campbell plays her wealthy husband, Mitch, whom she discovers is an abusive wretch.

Miss Lopez says she has had potential suitors whose characters underwent 180-degree shifts as she got to know them better. "Nothing abusive. I've never been in a relationship where there was any physicalness going on. I have been in some where I had to admit, 'This is not for me,'" she says.

"Then you may stay and try to make it work but discover that your impulse to get away was the right one. In the beginning, people show you only the sides they want you to see. Then there are warning signs. It's probably not a good idea to shrug them off."

Mr. Apted endeared himself to Miss Lopez by knocking on her trailer door each morning of the "Enough" shoot to discuss the previous day's work and encourage her about the day ahead.

"He props you up, you know, to be that more of a risk-taker. Just the encouragement is wonderful. I would watch him when I wasn't on camera. He is so animated when that camera is rolling. Ordinarily, he's so quiet and reserved," she says.

Miss Lopez ascribes her reputation for being difficult to media yarn-spinning. "They create an image of you and run with it," she says. "With me, it's this diva thing. People think it must come from something authentic, but it doesn't."

Mr. Apted replies to a persistent rumor that Miss Lopez is loath to be photographed from rear angles. Supposedly, this reluctance obliges directors to use doubles when her characters are walking away from the camera.

"Her backside?" he exclaims. "Another urban legend. She never said a word, and there are plenty of shots like that. What characterized the movie in reality is that we just kept working. I felt with Jennifer that I didn't need to shoot a lot of takes. She makes adjustments without much trouble. We were operating with similar tempos and shared the same work ethic."

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