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MONSTER-IN-LAW

Life On The Set
When it came time to start production, Monster-in-Law could not have chosen a more beautiful setting to start things off as they set up to shoot a scene at the historic Huntington Gardens & Museum. In the scene, Viola invites Charlie to lunch at her exclusive country club for what Charlie believes is a chance to get to know her prospective daughter-in-law. But as writer Anya Kochoff puts it, "it's just the beginning of the territorial dance.”

As the production got underway, Kochoff was in a state of quiet awe, watching her five-page scene unfold before her with none other than Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda reciting her lines. For the writer, being on set throughout production was a dream come true.

"It was so satisfying because, as a writer, I spend most of my days shut off in a room, alone,” says Kochoff. "Watching these actresses bring the characters to life from the written page and behave in ways, or roll their eyes, make faces, or do something I never thought of was the most amazing experience. It was so much better than what I conjured in my head. Jennifer and Jane took the story and made it better.”

Once filming began, Kochoff deferred to the actors when it came to understanding their psyches. Lopez was always open to feedback about the scenes, and to the filmmakers delight, she was very definite about ways in which Charlie would or would not behave.

"She knew the character better than I did!” states Kochoff.

Always introspective, Fonda was curious if she would feel competitive with Lopez, or whether the hot new star would feel upstaged by the Academy Award winner. But neither could have been further from the truth.

"There is a time for every season,” Fonda paraphrased from an old lyric. "I'm autumn and this is Jennifer's season and that feels just fine to me. Jennifer is deeply talented; she's quick, she's smart. And she's not scared to try new things. She definitely knows her stuff.”

Fonda also liked the idea of being the supporting actress, rather than the lead. "It's a relief,” she says. "I like being a character actress and a supporting character, especially with such a wonderful role.”

Although the film has romantic elements, many of the comedic situations dissolve into raw physical slapstick humor.

"I like the physical aspects of making movies,” says Lopez. "Mixing the stunts with comedy is more fun than anything. It does take a lot of preparation and doing it over and over is tiring, but the immediate reaction you get from the crew is amazing.”

"It's always great when the crew laughs because they've seen it all,” she continues. "When you get them, you know you can get other people, too. One of the hardest parts of this movie was staying focused enough not to laugh and ruin a take, but that was more of Robert's area.”

In fact, director Robert Luketic frequently broke into a gale of hearty laughter following a particularly good take. "My favorite thing about Robert is when he comes running from behind his monitor with a burst of exuberance,” says Lopez. "I wanted to kill him so many times! He'd start laughing in the middle of a take and I would say, ‘You can't laugh when we're recording sound – didn't they tell you that at director school? But when he laughed, you knew that you did well. And when you didn't get that reaction, well, it was not so good!”

Luketic originated a term called "the Wanda take” to describe the final take of a scene for which he would ask the actors to "riff a little bit about what's going on in the scene, or to try the first thing that pops into your mind when the cameras roll.” The purpose was to observe the actors' gut reactions while wearing their characters' hats.

"For great comediennes like Wanda, that's just part of their genetic makeup and whatever comes out is brilliant,” says Luketic. "Wanda's perfect at icing the end of a scene with some lit

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