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"Marisa's journey in this film is finding a balance in her life, between doing what's good for her and her son, and realizing that it's okay to want more and to go after it."

That's how Jennifer Lopez sums up her role as the hotel worker who risks it all for a chance at romance in Maid in Manhattan. "Marisa's a strong woman who has made her own way in the world, while still managing to hang on to her family and friends," observes Lopez. "Then she finds the kind of love that doesn't come around every day and it throws her into a tailspin. It's very funny and real at the same time."

The project began as a script by Edmond Dantes that was submitted to Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, then a top agent at International Creative Management's New York office, by Joe Roth, for Julia Roberts' consideration.  "At the time, it was about a maid and a British prince who fall in love," Thomas recalls. "It was much more of a fairy tale with broad characters, and a strong resemblance to Cinderella."

Roberts' passed, but Thomas couldn't stop thinking about the kind of script she thought it could be. "It had elements of such classic romantic comedies as Roman Holiday, Working Girl and Pretty Woman," she says. "But it needed to be based more in reality." Once she became a partner in Roth's Revolution Studios and head of the company's east coast operations, he asked her if she'd like to develop the script further. She readily accepted, and began working on an outline for the new direction the project would need to take.

Thomas discussed the project with her producing partner Deborah Schindler (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Waiting to Exhale). "This was a timeless story with contemporary appeal," says Schindler.

For the central role of Marisa Ventura, Thomas spoke to her friend Jennifer Lopez. They discussed the uniqueness of New York, what it was like growing up on the outside of "Oz," with your nose pressed to the glass and wanting in. "Being from the San Fernando Valley, my aspirations were limited to living closer to Ventura Blvd," says Thomas. "My vision, I'm afraid, wasn't quite so broad. But Hollywood was just over the hill, and like Jennifer, I wanted to get there too. Maybe we recognized the drive we both had to find a way in. Then, in the mid-90's, I moved to New York City. And it was instant culture shock. The lifestyle was fast. The people were smart, tough. But I liked them, especially the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. I understood them. They were on the outside, blue collar people who prefer ‘Fridays' to ‘21.' People who couldn't afford to live in the city they served."

"Jennifer stayed at my house one weekend, and we talked about the story into the night," Thomas continues. "She knew this character in a way I never could. She talked about the kind of person Marisa Ventura would be, the kind of life she would lead, the kind of pride she would have. Through Jennifer, we were able to discover the nuances that would make this character real."

With Lopez aboard, Thomas and Schindler recruited director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club, Smoke) because "not only has he shown great wit in movies like Smoke and Chan is Missing," says Schindler, "and even the more dramatic Joy Luck Club, but he has demonstrated a very sure command of ch

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