The key to a successful psychological thriller is for the audience to be able to imagine that they could find themselves in the same situation as at least one of the film’s characters. As for the role of Claire, Lopez was drawn to the character’s authenticity. The actress/producer shares: “I felt that Claire’s vulnerability to her situation and circumstances makes her human. When her husband cheats on her with another woman, she feels unworthy, undesirable, dismissed. Her attraction to the titular character, Noah, stems from his coming in at this time and making her finally feel attractive and wanted.”
Screenwriter Barbara Curry, a former federal prosecutor, was determined to create a strong and contemporary female protagonist with her inaugural screenplay. Says Curry: “I wanted Claire to be a strong character who is deeply flawed. But Claire’s flaw is not that she succumbs to temptation by sleeping with this young man. Her real flaw is that she can’t forgive her husband for his infidelity. It’s a flaw of pride, really. I thought it would be interesting to have this strong, proud woman make a mistake that’s equal to her husband’s, so she would finally understand how he could have made his mistake and be deserving of forgiveness. That’s the moral of this story. We can’t be so strong that we are unable to forgive.”
The writer imagined Claire as a woman at a crossroads. With a pending divorce from her once-beloved husband, struggling to balance her work as a high school teacher with a teenage son who doesn’t fit in with his classmates, Claire has very little time to consider what she wants or needs. Curry walks us through where we find her protagonist: “I knew both male and female audience members would need to get behind Claire, even though she makes this terrible error in judgment. So I tried to stack the deck against her. She is extremely vulnerable when she meets Noah. Like anyone might feel when their spouse cheats on them, Claire feels worthless, unattractive, unloved. And here comes Noah, someone who seems to understand her and appreciate her. There is a physical attraction between them, certainly. But it’s more than that. There is a real emotional connection, a meeting of the minds. And that is something Claire really needs at this low point in her life.”
Well-known to audiences as a director of big-budget studio films such as “xXx” and “The Fast and the Furious,” Rob Cohen had long wanted to work with Lopez. He gives: “I read the script and understood exactly what they liked about it, and knowing that Jennifer would be starring was a huge draw for me. She is a completely self-made entertainer who came from the Bronx, and since Selena, she’s carved a series of very memorable performances that have one thing in common: a natural, emotional level.”
Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 28, “The Boy Next Door” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.