"She's so approachable. If you knew how approachable she is and how open she is, you'd go up immediately."
She's certainly not her glam self in this movie. Playing Leslie, a woman who gets back up after being knocked down repeatedly, was healing. "What I needed in that moment was (to know) that it all gets better. You just have to hang in there. It gets better. When (Hackford) first called me, I wasn't thinking about divorce at all. Suddenly it happened, and my whole world fell apart, and then there was this therapy of this character. Everything happens for a reason. It's true. It actually is true."
Plus, despite it being more of a supporting role, Parker was a nice entre back into acting. "She was a good, multilayered character with a lot going on," Lopez says. "That's the type of things I want to do. It harks back to where my acting career started. I'm in a place where I have a lot to offer. I've lived a lot. I've lived heartbreak to incredibly passionate love."
So speaking of love, what does Smart bring to the table? "What does he give me? I don't want to get into all that. I'm happy. I'm happy with me," Lopez says.
She says she has evolved as a person and now has a firm idea of what she wants from life.
"Peace. Inner peace. Feeling good about yourself and feeling good about where you are. Just getting to that place where I'm good right here, I'm doing what I love, my kids are healthy. I'm healthy. I'm surrounded by love and goodness. That's what I want.
"I just want to be happy and be fulfilled creatively. Overall, I just want to be happy, me and my kids. It's a simple, difficult thing. Doesn't everyone just want to feel comfortable in their own skin? None of that other (stuff) matters if you're not happy. You've got to be OK right here, by yourself. I'm good on my own, and if someone wants to share this journey with me, cool, but it's gotta be great."
What she will say about Smart: "He's a nice person. My life is really good right now. I'm at a point where I'm able to make decisions based on what I really want to do. I'm making decisions based on what I feel, which is never wrong no matter what the outcome is. I have a lot of experience in the business now. I've gone through some personal things that have been real growth experiences. I know what I want, finally. That took a long time. Doing this film after doing TV and music for the past couple of years, it was so exciting for me."
And she has no regrets about leaving Idol, which has been making headlines (if not generating commensurate ratings) for a supposed feud between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.
"Sitting on a panel with American Idol -- even though I loved the show and the people and the journey -- it was an uncomfortable feeling for me to just sit there and be the spectator and the judge instead of the performer," Lopez says. "This return for me to that has been so creatively and personally fulfilling."
She's working on new music and possibly a Christmas album, but she says her focus is on movies. And her kids. Says Hackford: "She brought her children to the set. She would spend every moment with them that she wasn't working, but she never put that on me."
'Mommy is strong'
Lopez is a pro at keeping up appearances. Emme and Max, she says, had continuity and stability throughout all the family turmoil, and she never let herself fall apart.
"You have to be Mommy, and Mommy is strong. They didn't know anything. They're starting to figure it out now, a year and a half later. They were just 3 at the time. They help you. They save you. As hard as it is. Just yesterday on the plane coming here, Max was acting up. It makes my life great. It just does. It's an amazing thing."
So let's say it wasn't 19 degrees out, and Lopez didn't have to spend the next 24 hours fulfilling her promotional duties. How would she spend the day?
"I would go walk around with them. Emme loves to window-shop and buy pencils. I'd take them to buy stuff for our dog. We just got a boxer puppy. Emme said we have to buy him clothes and shoes. She's very worried about what kind of leash he is going to have. She's really obsessed.
"We'd sit down and have lunch. I'd take them to a park. I want them to run around outside. I really try to focus on them being physical, to run around and climb and be active. Come home, take a bath and relax. On my days off, that's my routine with them."
Hackford confirms that under the glitzy exterior, Lopez is a real person. She spent three weeks dieting before shooting a semi-nude scene. The day it was done, Hackford found her in her trailer, eating a Big Mac and fries.
"I said to her, 'You really are from the Bronx,'" he says with a laugh.
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