The Wedding Planner almost had two different leads!
In a new interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, director Adam Shankman opened up about how he came to cast Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey for his iconic 2001 romantic comedy — revealing that the star actors weren't the original first picks.
According to Shankman, the film rights were first owned by the now-defunct Fine Line Features. The studio had initially decided to cast Minnie Driver as the titular Mary Fiore.
"Fine Line was trying to get into more of a commercial market, and they really liked this script," Shankman, 56, said. "The plot was essentially the same, but it was going to be a very low-budget indie movie."
However, when Fine Line struggled to kickstart the movie, it was acquired by Sony Pictures and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. were all considered for the lead roles of Mary and Dr. Steve Edison. "Those actors were people who were talked about, but no one was ever officially cast," Shankman explained.
Eventually, Lopez, 51, expressed her interest in the script, though the filmmaker was hesitant to cast her at first.
"I was honestly resistant to the idea," he admitted. "I didn't perceive her as a romantic comedy person; she seemed too tough to me, frankly. But my agency said, 'You have to meet with her: She read the script and she really wants to do this.' "
Shankman agreed to lunch with Lopez and said that within the first few minutes of meeting her all of his reservations went away. "I was completely hypnotized by her. At that time, she was very much that character: She had just come out of a marriage and was not interested in men," the Hairspray director said. (Lopez had divorced her first husband, Ojani Noa, just a few years prior in 1998.)
"She was ambitious and understood everything that was girly and feminine about the movie, but at the same time recognized the engine inside of it," he added. "There were many factors about the real-life Jennifer that really spoke to what the character was."
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Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection
He immediately cast Lopez as Mary but recalled still looking for someone to fill the role of the romantic doctor. Shankman initially gravitated towards The Mummy star, Brendan Fraser.
"I had been working with Brendan a lot as a choreographer — we did everything from George of the Jungle to Mrs. Winterbourne together. So I talked to him, and he was in," Shankman said. "But then he switched agencies while we were negotiating, and the new agency pulled him out of our movie and into Bedazzled."
He continued, "That was a really dark day for me, because we were a month-and-a-half away from starting rehearsal and we had sold the movie on Jennifer and Brendan."
With only a few weeks left before they were scheduled to begin shooting, Sony Pictures told Shankman that there was only one actor available to fill the role: McConaughey.
"I said to everybody, 'I can't imagine Matthew would ever want to do a movie like this — he never has!'" Shankman recalled. "But I was told, 'He is who is available. If you want to make the movie now, you have to get him.'"
And it seemed to be a work of fate as McConaughey, 51, and Lopez "got on like wildfire," the director said.
"I have never seen two people who, on the surface, are more different than Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, but they were absolutely adorable together," Shankman told Yahoo!. "They had very different processes, but they allowed each other the space and freedom to work those processes."
"I so enjoyed working with you," Lopez told McConaughey during their chat. "We had such a nice rapport and chemistry. We were somewhat at the beginning of our careers at that time. It was exciting to be working on any movie. I still feel that way. It was a magical time."