Marry Me – A modern love story about celebrity, marriage and social media

When producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas first heard the idea for Marry Me seven years ago, she immediately saw its potential as a fresh, relevant romance for our modern age: A 21st century Roman Holiday meets Notting Hill.

“It felt like an event, as well as like a movie I’d want to see,” Goldsmith-Thomas says. And, having worked with Jennifer Lopez for years, beginning with 2002’s Maid in Manhattan, Goldsmith-Thomas saw an opportunity to allow audiences backstage access to the machinery and reality of modern fame.

“To make a movie about modern celebrity—to juxtapose who the public thinks a celebrity is with who she actually is as a person—interested me,” Goldsmith-Thomas says.

“Being partnered with one of the most famous people in the world, and knowing her differently than anyone else knows her, is an honour and sometimes frustrating,” on occasions when Lopez is mischaracterized, misrepresented or misunderstood. “I know Jennifer as somebody who likes to sit around in sweats and eat popcorn and watch movies,” Goldsmith-Thomas says. “So, this film allows audiences to discover the human behind the image. It was a delicious opportunity.”

Despite the specificity of the life that Lopez’s Kat Valdez leads in Marry Me, and the unique barriers that divide her world from the one that Owen Wilson’s Charlie Gilbert inhabits, the film speaks to universal themes and ideas.

“Life isn’t about what happens when you fall, it’s about what happens after you stand,” Goldsmith-Thomas says. “That’s what defines you. You can’t be afraid to take chances because sometimes trying what is new is the answer. I hope this movie gives people hope, a few laughs, a song that’s stuck in their heads and a reminder that there’s a romance to trusting the universe. It’s never too late.”

Jennifer Lopez immediately connected with Kat and the film’s themes on multiple levels.

“I understand this life,” Lopez says. “The film is literally going behind the veil of what it’s like to be a celebrity. This is also the first time that I’ve been able to make an album with a movie, which has been a dream of mine. It’s the first time I’ve done a movie with music since Selena, and in that film, they used Selena’s voice, so I never got to sing myself.”

Lopez was also impressed by the depth of insight in the script by John Rogers & Tami Sagher and Harper Dill.

“There is no filler in this movie; everything has a real purpose and real fun to it,” Lopez says. “It’s a musical, so I’m taking romantic comedies, which I love, and my performing and my dancing and my singing, and putting them both together for the first time. That’s been exciting for all of us.”

Director Kat Coiro and Jennifer Lopez on the set of Marry Me. © 2020 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Coming off of hit shows including Netflix’s Dead to Me, Showtime’s Shameless and FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, director Kat Coiro was drawn to the depth of the script, which made it stand apart from other romantic comedies. “I was struck by a few things, especially the classic feeling of the story,” Coiro says. “It feels like an old-fashioned rom-com, but infused with a modernity, especially in regard to social media and celebrity and fame.” The fact Marry Me includes nine original songs only heightened her enthusiasm about the film. “Everything I’ve ever done is music-centric, so to pair with Maluma and Jennifer was exciting,” Coiro says. 

As fantastical as the premise for the film may seem at first, Coiro says, many of the greatest true love stories we’ve heard in our lives often started in improbable, or impossible, ways. People separated by war who find their way back to each other years later, random encounters that reconnect people decades or continents away from where they first met. When it comes to love, nothing is truly impossible. “When you start asking people how they met their partner, you’ll hear these stories that seem like everything had to line up for that relationship to happen,” Coiro says. “Beneath all the wildness of this story, these are just two people meeting and falling in love, which happens every day.”

(from left) Charlie Gilbert’s dog Tank (Romeo), Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) and Lou (Chloe Coleman) in Marry Me. © 2020 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

That perspective on the film was exactly what Lopez and her fellow filmmakers were looking for. “Kat had a real vision for what this movie could be,” Lopez says. “She was also fantastic to work with throughout the development of the film. It was a big movie to shoot in the number of days that we had to shoot it, and she did an amazing job. People are going to love her work in this.”

Lopez, as both the film’s leading lady as well as a producer, brought every aspect of her experience at the height of the entertainment industry to bear on making the film into a true romantic event for audiences. “Jennifer is a consummate performer and producer,” Goldsmith-Thomas says. “She has had her eye and her ear and her heart on this film—her imprimatur is all over it—in the music, in the dance, in the costumes, in the look, in the casting. She has been with me side-by-side in the formation and then the reformation of what this film has become.”

Lopez, of course, knows what it is like to navigate a romantic relationship in the glare of the public eye. “Living a life in the spotlight has its challenges,” Lopez says. “The truth is that nobody wants to hear the ‘woe is me…’ part of that, but it has scrutiny and a judgment to it that most people don’t ever have to deal with. That can be very lonely.” What the public often forgets, for both Lopez and Kat, is that there’s a real person dealing with real pain and loss behind the clickbait headlines.

Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) and Lou (Chloe Coleman) in Marry Me. © 2020 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The key to surviving it, Lopez says, is to stay focused on who you really are rather than on how the public views you. “Kat never forgets that she was a little girl growing up with a dream,” Lopez says. “It’s the same for me. Remembering where I came from has always kept me grounded. I don’t feel any different, and I think that’s what people forget. That’s why I’ve made songs over the years like ‘Jenny from the Block’ and ‘I’m Real.’ I’m still the same person, but I’m just doing these things with my life and it has expanded and grown. Still, there’s a human being there.”  

Playing Kat, Lopez says, allowed her to explore and expose these ideas, both on the screen and within herself. “It was about baring my soul in every moment,” Lopez says. “It was more uncomfortable than playing a character that is nothing like you because I brought experience into a world in a way that I’ve never had to before.”

Like Lopez, Owen Wilson liked that the film upends audience expectations of what being famous is really like. “People think, ‘how could this person ever have any problems or ever feel lonely or defeated?’” Wilson says. “But of course, people are pretty much the same. When you see these scenes where Kat’s devastated by what happens with Bastian—and where she’s struggling to get some validation—it’s moving.”

Although Wilson is famous himself, of course, he leads a quieter public life than many of his peers and so was able to tap into Charlie’s worldview and personality. “There is some overlap between Charlie and me,” Wilson says. “I’m not on social media and I’ve never gotten into it. And it was easy to relate to Charlie’s unease with always being on camera.” The biggest challenge was mastering the subject Charlie teaches. “I was an English major, and math was never my thing,” Wilson says, laughing. “So, I had to do some real acting to convince people that when I talk about ‘find the prime factorization of whatever’ it sounds believable.”

Owen Wilson in Marry Me. © 2020 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

A global superstar in his own right, the Colombian native Maluma, was also able to add a level of authenticity to the story by providing valuable input about the character.

Marry Me touches on the positive and negative impacts of social media and the power of celebrities. “What this movie tells us about social media is complex,” Maluma says. “Social media can be amazing. It helped me to grow my career and my music like crazy. But you have to keep the balance. You have a lot of power in your hands and must lead by example. There are a lot of people who follow you, who want to be like you, and you might be their biggest inspiration. As celebrities, we have to set a good example to all the kids around that are looking at us and trying to make it.”

Maluma with director Kat Coiro on the set of Marry Me. © 2020 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Screenwriters

John Rogers (Screenplay by/Produced by) began his career as a stand-up comic while studying for his degree in physics from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. After several years packing theatres in Canada, the US and Australia, Rogers starred in several solo comedy specials and his own CBS pilot. He then transitioned into screenwriting for film, television and animation. In television, he created the hit animated show Jackie Chan Adventures for Warner Brothers; Leverage for TNT, which ran five-season and was so popular it was successfully rebooted as Leverage: Redemption for Amazon TV; The Librarians, also for TNT, which ran for four seasons; and The Player for NBC. In film, he has multiple produced screenwriting credits including 2007’s Transformers. While still developing his own projects, Rogers runs Kung Fu Monkey Productions with Jennifer Court. KFM Productions is a film and production company focused on developing projects by writers from traditionally under-represented groups, such as Native American writers, LGBTQ+ writers and disabled screenwriters. The company has projects in development across the premium streaming, cable and network spaces. Rogers is currently writing a new original show for NBC.

Tami Sagher (Screenplay by)is an alum of the Second City Mainstage in Chicago and regularly performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. As a writer, Sagher has worked on The Great, Orange Is the New Black, Girls, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Bored To Death, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City and Russian Doll. She is currently developing the feature film Late Night With Grandma with Ed Herbstman.  As an actress, Sagher can be seen in Don’t Think Twice, Russian Doll, GLOW, Search Party, High Maintenance, How I Met Your Mother, Inside Amy SchumerKnocked Up and The Babysitters Club.

Harper Dill (Screenplay by) has written features including Sweet Valley High (Paramount/Chernin Entertainment), Camp Rules (Paramount/The Montecito Picture Company), Hello Ghost (Universal/1492 Pictures), 13 Little Blue Envelopes (New Line Cinema/Alloy Entertainment), Screw Everyone (Zucker Productions) and Wendy & The Lost Boys (Stay Gold Pictures). She concurrently wrote on The Mindy Project (Fox) as well as two seasons of The Mick (Fox) and two seasons of Dollface (Hulu). Dill’s original script Friend of Bill was on the Black List and she is currently writing a pilot version of the same story for TeaTime Pictures and Boat Rocker Studios, as well as Sisterhood Everlasting for Alloy Entertainment and Alcon Entertainment.