Jennifer Love Hewitt on her early career: interviewers asked ‘inappropriate, gross things’

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Jennifer Love Hewitt has a new interview with Vulture about the 20th anniversary of Heartbreakers. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since that movie came out. Hewitt starred as part of a mother-daughter con team with Sigourney Weaver. There’s a renewed interest in the film in light of real life con artists like Ana Delvey. Hewitt had just turned 21 when Heartbreakers came out, and she remembers well how the press used to focus on her body. It was so common at the time that she took it for granted and kind of hoped journalists would get around to talking about her acting for a few minutes. The way she described it to Vulture is so matter-of-fact that it’s sad. Hewitt said that the Britney Spears documentary made her remember what it was like for her around that time.

She felt too young to play that part
People thought that I was more ready to play Page in how comfortable she is in her sexuality in the movie than I really was. I was very young, and I think people thought that I was more that person because I did Maxim covers. There were lots of conversations between David [Mirkin, the director] and I where he’d be like, “Page is feeling a little bit sexier this time,” and I would be like, “How do I pull that off?” We had such funny moments where he was like, “Okay, now I’m going to be a grown man who’s going to try to show a very young girl how to be sexy as a woman.”

She had her mom and grandmother on set for a scene where her hair was caught in Ray Liotta’s zipper
It was the perfect day to bring your fam. I don’t really know why I did that, except that they were the two biggest female influences in my life. I wanted to feel comfortable. There was a part of me, also, that wanted them to feel comfortable with what I was going to be doing, and I knew if I can do this scene in front of my mom and my grandmother and they’re cool with it, the rest of the movie is gonna be just fine. Because it was really the most provocative thing that I had done at that moment besides a [Maxim] photo shoot. My grandmother thought it was hilarious.

On how the media focused on her body
It’s interesting, I just watched the Britney Spears documentary [Framing Britney Spears], and there’s that whole section in there talking about her breasts. At the time that I was going through it, and interviewers were asking what now would be incredibly inappropriate, gross things, it didn’t feel that way. I mean, I was in barely any clothing the whole movie. For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go, Okay, well, I guess they wouldn’t be asking if it was inappropriate.

The conversation for a very long time in my career was always about [my body] first — then, “Oh yeah, you were really great in the movie, too,” later. I didn’t get it. That’s just what I looked like, and I was doing my job. I just started to [prepare myself], like, I know I’m doing an interview today, so I’m pretty sure at least 20 of the 40 minutes is going to be about boobs and body stuff, so we’ll just get that out of the way and then maybe they’ll ask me something else. When I watched that Britney Spears documentary, it hurt my heart a little bit, because I remember in hindsight having that feeling. I’m really grateful that we’re in a time where, hopefully, that narrative is going to change for young girls who are coming up now, and they won’t have to have those conversations.

[From Vulture]

Some of the sexism I dealt with early in my tech career was despicable, but I dealt with it because there was nothing I cold do. Like Hewitt, I took it for granted and didn’t realize how bad it was until years later when I was out of it. It must have been so much worse for her as an actress whose body was so much of the focus. It is sad and depressing to think about.

Another thing I got out of this interview was that Jennifer kept her mom and grandmother close to her on set, even though she technically wasn’t a minor and had been in the industry since she was young in shows like Kids Incorporated and Party of Five. Hewitt wanted her family to be there during awkward scenes where she felt vulnerable. This isn’t a comment about that particular movie or set, but that instinct probably protected her more than she realized.

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