When Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, producer of films such as Marry Me and Hustlers and
Jennifer Lopez’s producing partner at Nuyorican Productions, first read Misha Green’s
original script for The Mother, she was instantly hooked. “The writing was spectacular and gripping and visceral,” she says. “I thought it would be amazing for a woman of color to front this movie, and I sent it to Jennifer. She immediately responded, and we chased it. Luckily for us, Netflix threw in with us 100 percent. They loved that it was Jennifer, and they were very receptive to our ideas.
Notes producer Marc Evans, “I thought about what Jennifer and Elaine had done in Hustlers, and then Jennifer’s Super Bowl performance, and then the presidential inauguration. When I read the script, I thought, this caps all of that off. It’s a perfect time for Jennifer to make this movie. This is a worldwide movie-star role, and Jennifer was the only person on the planet who could play it.”
A deadly female assassin, on the run from dangerous men, comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she gave up years before. Jennifer Lopez stars as The Mother in Netflix’s character-driven action epic also starring Lucy Paez, Omari Hardwick, Joseph Fiennes, Gael García Bernal and Paul Raci. Niki Caro directs from a script by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig. Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Marc Evans and Roy Lee produce. Molly Allen and Misha Green are executive producers.
At the time, Goldsmith-Thomas had been developing another project with New Zealand director Niki Caro, and she sent her the script for The Mother.
When Caro, acclaimed for her slate of films about remarkable, strong women, including Mulan, North Country, and Whale Rider, read the script (at that stage written by Misha Green and Andrea Berloff), she was struck by its high-octane action and the deeply non-traditional way it examines mothering and motherhood. “The story is focused on protection, and the Mother as a primal force,” she says. “The Mother as a protective and dangerous force to anybody that should threaten her child. That was very
interesting to me.
“It’s an intimate and emotional story,” she continues, “but it’s also a very robust, muscular global action movie, and those two things don’t come together very often. I was very excited by the possibility of that. In many ways, it’s an extension of the work I did in Mulan, another big action movie, one that also has heart and emotion. I’m interested in telling emotional stories at an ambitious scale.”
Like Caro’s other films, The Mother can perhaps best be described as both epic and intimate.
She says, “I’m striving all the time for films that are dynamic visually and emotionally. The Mother was a great opportunity for me to create an authentic world, so that the audience can experience the excitement and velocity and entertainment of the action, but also feel for the characters, go on their journey, and laugh and cry with them.”
The script never names the character, she is simply called “The Mother‘’ which Caro says is perfect because, “In every moment and in every scene she is always the Mother. That is her primal instinct. Being the Mother drives every single decision she makes. Her name is irrelevant: she is the Mother to everybody in this movie, and Mom to one of them: the most important person in the world to her.”
Adrian Lovell is a sophisticated, globe-trotting arms dealer. When we first meet him, he’s a captain in the Blues and Royals, a cavalry and sniper regiment in the British Coalition Force in Afghanistan, circa 2005. When he meets the Mother, Fiennes says, “He sees her genius, her pristine eye as a sniper like no one else. He sees both the value in terms of the grey zones of the world he treads in and how she could assist him as a gun for hire, and then there’s her sheer beauty that probably overwhelms him. He introduces her to the notion of this murky world, but I don’t think he forces it on her. He drops a seed, and it grows, and
maybe she comes back to knock on his door for reasons of her own.”
It afforded Jennifer Lopez’ the opportunity to flip the script on this kind of story, which normally focuses on male characters
“In this character, I saw a woman who didn’t really expect to ever have a child and didn’t know how to be a mother because she was never mothered, and then her learning,” says the Mother herself, Jennifer Lopez. “Anybody who has kids understands that. There’s no real handbook of how to be the best parent. You just do it with a lot of love and love in the way you know how. I’m a mom — my kids were just becoming teenagers when I shot this — and what attracted me to it from the beginning was really exploring what is the best version of a mother you can be and how that’s different for everybody. That idea was something that I really found interesting.”
Lopez has high praise for her director when it comes to translating the vision of The Mother.“ When I first read it, I pictured it small,” she continues. “It wasn’t until Niki Caro came in that it exploded into this huge action movie where we were all over the world. This incredible bad-ass international Mother! I’ve never in my whole career headlined a movie of this magnitude. So, it was a really daunting idea, but I’ve never been one to shy away from hard work, I was into that part of it. And when you do a part like this, you
really get in your head and you’re thinking all the time. I put myself completely into Niki’s hands. Coming on and having a vision for something and expanding it beyond the pages, is really the sign to me of a great director. I just loved her ideas about what she wanted to do with it. She’s amazing, and we got so lucky that she signed on to this. It takes a village, to raise a child, to be a mother, and to make this movie.
I appreciate everybody that showed up every single day for this one.
Indeed, Lopez worked very hard training for the role. Goldsmith-Thomas notes how disciplined she was during filming. “She’d literally wake up into this character and push herself in the gym with her trainer. She was so in the zone; it was pretty spectacular. Her fight trainers were just blown away. They had scheduled five weeks of fight training, figuring it would take a while for her to get the moves, and for Jennifer and Joe Fiennes to learn the fight choreography, as well. But after asking for a minimum of four to five weeks, they called after the second session and said, ‘She’s got it!” She loves doing it, and it was so much fun for her.’”
In addition, to fight choreography, the star also did weapons training and learned how to ride a motorcycle and snowmobile for some of the film’s thrilling sequences.
“This was a new level of action for me,” says Lopez. “I had done action movies before — fights and things like that, but the snowmobiles and even the fight with the knife with Joe Fiennes that I did was new for me. I think maybe if I had started early in my career doing those types of things, maybe I’d be sick of it, because you get bruised and you get sore and you get hurt and it’s cold or it’s hot. But I could definitely do it again.”