(L to R) Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in 'Marry Me'

(L to R) Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in 'Marry Me'

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Bobby Crosby, ‘Marry Me’ sees star and producer Jennifer Lopez back in her element. Featuring nearly a dozen original songs - mostly performed in their entirety - Lopez stars as lovestruck superstar Kat Valdez.

Set to marry her fiance Bastian (Maluma) in front of 40M people on live television, her world comes crashing down when a video surfaces of him cheating on her. Caught up in the moment, she proposes to a stranger in the crowd holding a marry me sign. Is her whirlwind marriage to hapless math teacher Charlie (Owen Wilson) just a publicity stunt, or did she accidentally find something real?

Director Kat Coiro is no stranger to the romantic comedy genre. Born to bohemian parents in a third floor Manhattan walk-up, Coiro spent much of her childhood living a nomadic existence around the globe. She studied theater and Russian literature at Carnegie Mellon University, and briefly enrolled in the American Film Institute’s MFA program before dropping out to film her first feature ‘L!fe Happens’.

Co-written by Coiro and star Krysten Ritter, the rom-com was partially inspired by their own friendship, as well as Coiro’s experience as a first time mother. She quickly directed two more romances: ‘And While We Were Here’ and ‘A Case of You’ before pivoting to television. Her TV credits include the pilots for comedies’Girls5Eva’ and ‘Florida Girls,’ and the upcoming Disney+ show ‘She Hulk’.

After nearly a decade working solely in television, ‘Marry Me’ is not only a delightful return to the romantic comedy genre for the director, but also a showcase for Coiro’s vivid visual flare and skill at capturing the essence of entertainers at their most spectacular.

Jennifer Lopez at 2015 American Music Awards. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Jennifer Lopez at 2015 American Music Awards. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Moviefone: What do you look for in the films that you direct in general, and how did you get involved with ‘Marry Me’ in particular?

Kat Coiro: It's funny because I never really subscribed to a specific genre. I just look for a mix of humor and heart and humanity. I had actually moved into the television space. I'd kind of said I'm not going to do features for a while. But when I read this script, it just really spoke to me in terms of its humanity. Even though it's this larger than life story about a celebrity, there is something so elementally vulnerable and human and interesting in the heart of the story.

That's really what drew me to it. Also having Jennifer Lopez play this role that feels like she was born to play. It's the combination of all of her talents: acting and singing and fashion. She brought so much to it. She was attached when I read the script, so that was really an exciting element, obviously.

MF: I read that she listened to a hundred songs to narrow down the ones featured in the film.

KC: More than that! We listened to probably 400 songs. Our partners at Universal, and then Jennifer's music team, they inundated us with songs that had been banked songs that were originally written for the film. There were a lot of different songs entitled ‘Marry Me’ that we went through. That was a huge process. It was me and Jennifer and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who's the producing partner, and then also Mike Knobloch, and Rachel Levy over at Universal and Benny Medina.

We would all get these files, and say here are the top ten from that batch. One of the great parts of the process is that we would all hear the same song and go, this is the one! It was so important that the songs not just be good in and of themselves, but that they tie into the emotional arc of the story. Because while it is a rom com, and it is about a relationship, it's also about the growth and the progression of an artist.

She starts in this very big, larger than life, spectacle, pop world with songs like “Church’. Slowly as the film goes on, she breaks down to a very simple unproduced version of herself with ‘On My Way’, which ends up being the song that kind of puts her on the map in a new way.

MF: How did you select which songs to present as a spectacle, via social media, in a recording studio, etc?

KC: That ties into the selection of the songs. Where she is at the top of the film, she is this big, famous pop star who's marrying another big famous pop star, and they're known for this very flashy kind of radio hit, which is ‘Marry Me’, and then when her world explodes, she has to build back up. It was about finding each song in the sequence that went along with that emotional journey.

One of the most exciting moments for me was during my first time meeting Jennifer. She started singing a song that's not actually in the movie, but a song called ‘Unlove You’ that had originally been scripted in the film. She was singing along to a Bluetooth and the Bluetooth dropped out and she kept singing and I was four feet away from her. I've always known how talented she is and what a good singer she is, but seeing it like that, an acapella Jennifer Lopez in a room singing. It brought tears to my eyes. I got chills. I thought oh my god, if we can bring even a tiny bit of that into the film I think we will have succeeded.

So I always knew that we were working towards this moment where she sits and sings unaccompanied, and she sings for real in the room and we don't mess with it. It was all moving towards that point of just stripped down and raw Jennifer Lopez.

MF: Earlier you mentioned fashion. Her character has a lot of looks, from the stage spectacle to the wedding dress to her casual walking around New York City style. How did you develop them?

KC: One of the most important things to me was that these concerts feel 100% real. So, to that end, from a lighting standpoint, from a set design standpoint, from a costume standpoint, we actually brought in her concert team for those sequences.

So when she performs ‘Church,’ that was a collaboration between me and the costume designer, Caroline Duncan, but also Rob Zangardi, who does all her costumes for her shows. It was a real collaboration. When you have Jennifer Lopez and her music team, part of your job is to get out of the way and let them do their thing. Where I would weigh in is when it affected the story emotionally.

When you look at ‘Church,’ that is when she's at the height of this very spectacle driven kind of flashy persona. It was really important to capture the authenticity of the concerts. In terms of her fashion throughout, she obviously has such a great sense of what looks good on her, so it was conversations about where she is in the story. How do these costumes reflect the emotional trajectory? Then let her and her team do their thing.

(L to R) Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in 'Marry Me'

(L to R) Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in 'Marry Me'

MF: There's a stark difference visually between her world and Charlie (Owen Wilson)’s world. Can you talk about that?

KC: One of the motifs that we played with throughout is that she lives in a world that is up high, it's in the clouds. It's in the sparkly city lights. You look at her apartment, it's on the 40th floor. She's on a private jet. Even when she goes to the press conference, her car is parked on the rooftop. That was something that was scripted in an underground garage, and my cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, and I were like no, we always want her to be up high.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Charlie who lives in a ground floor apartment. His classroom is on the ground floor of his Brooklyn school. We were constantly playing with this high-low dynamic. She's always on a stage and he's down below. That was a huge part of the visual language of the film, with him always looking up at her and she's looking down at him.

Then we flip it at the very end of the film. She comes into the theater and he's up on the stage for the first time. When she holds up the sign, she's down below. It's really about them having influenced each other's worlds, and changed each other.

MF: One moment that really struck me because it's one of my favorite poets, is when we meet Kat she reads from Keats for possible wedding vows, and then later Charlie also loves Keats. Was that always in the script?

KC: Every film I have made has a sliver of classical poetry because it's something that I love to sneak in. Especially in popular films, I just like to bring in a little of that poetry and romanticism. Keats was a Romantic poet, so to bring that in was important to me. It wasn't originally scripted that way. But it was also a way of setting up the difference between Kat Valdez and Bastian (Maluma).

For her this is a really romantic venture. She is pouring her whole heart and soul into it. But for him, he's very young. He's very famous. It seems like a great press opportunity. It's not that he doesn't love her, and that he's callous, but they are coming at it from different times in their life and from different points of view. I think poetry is a very simple and straightforward way of showing that difference between where they are in their lives.

MF: Both Kat and Charlie have been divorced before. Marriage and remarriage is a classic trope in screwball romantic comedies. Are there any romantic comedies that inspired you while making this film?

KC: Oh, definitely. You can see throughout the film that instead of shying away from the tropes and the cliches we lean into them. There's a reason that Michelle Buteau opens and closes the jewelry box when Jennifer reaches for it.

MF: ‘Pretty Woman’!

Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman

"She walked off the street, into his life and stole his heart."
R1 hr 59 minMar 23rd, 1990

KC: There's a reason he's holding up a sign or she’s running through the airport. It's funny, I keep getting asked, is the rom com dead? I always say the rom com is the most sustaining genre that exists in cinema. When you look back at Charlie Chaplin. Those are rom coms. When you look at the musicals of the 30s and 40s, and 50s. Those are rom coms.

When you look at the 80s and 90s, and 2000s. It is a very enduring genre. We wanted to really play into that and say, yes, we're coming from a tradition of rom com and we embrace it, and we love it. Some of my favorites are ‘When Harry Met Sally. . .’ and ‘Notting Hill’. I think there's a lot of comparisons between ‘Notting Hill’ and this movie, and I love that and I welcome that.

MF: Why do you think romantic comedies are so enduring?

KC: I think they're hopeful. I think that they make people happy. I'm always a little shocked by the way that they're spoken of like they're lesser than. Because the truth is they are geared towards women, but I think men also love them. In my experience, it's a very universal genre. Then you add the music that we have in this film, and it becomes not just a rom com, but also kind of a concert experience. I'm really hoping that's part of what brings people to the theaters. The combination of the glamour, the style, and the genre. It’s about love and it is about hope. It's as simple as that.

With ‘Marry Me’ you also get to watch songs performed in their entirety, which is something that was also really important to me. A lot of music movies show a snippet, 15 seconds, you just get the sense of the song. I went into it saying no, we have to play out the entire song every single time that we can, because it's such a fundamental part of who Kat Valdez is, and wanting to draw the audience in that way and really show full performances is something that I think sets this movie apart.

MF: What do you hope people take away when they're done watching this film?

KC: One of the things that always struck me about the film is that we live in a society that is very fixated on being famous, and on getting lots of followers. I would say that there is an obsession with it that is probably a little bit unhealthy. There's something about this film where we're peeling back the curtain, and we're saying you do pay a price for living in the spotlight the way that Kat Valdez does. It was very important to me that we ended the film on the simplest scene of them sitting on a couch in sweatpants, watching TV with their family.

Originally in the script, it had ended on another big wedding. I really wanted to strip us away from big romantic gestures. Because the truth is life, in its simplicity, is something that we should and can be striving for. It doesn't all have to be striving to be in the spotlight. So I hope that people walk away and feel like they had a little bit of an escape, but also that they can be happy with a simpler life.

‘Marry Me’ debuts in theaters and streaming on Peacock February 11, 2022.

Marry Me

"Say yes."
PG-131 hr 52 minFeb 11th, 2022