Originally created 03/17/04

'Jersey Girl,' screens at South by Southwest

AUSTIN, Texas -- Bennifer's last hurrah took place at the South by Southwest film festival, where "Jersey Girl," starring Ben Affleck and (very briefly) Jennifer Lopez, was shown before a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

Director-writer Kevin Smith told the sold-out audience afterward that he's still happy to have the former off-screen couple play an on-screen couple in his film, despite the disastrous "Gigli," their previous cinematic pairing.

"I've always been a fan of 'Out of Sight,"' Smith said Sunday night, referring to the Steven Soderbergh film in which Lopez co-starred with George Clooney.

But the real reason he chose her? "Affleck asked me," he deadpanned.

Smith said his wife suggested casting Lopez as Affleck's wife: "I said, 'Really? He's making a movie with her right now. It's called "Gigli." Should be a huge hit."'

Notoriously, it wasn't - and neither was their extremely public relationship. Affleck and Lopez - "Bennifer," as they became known - were supposed to have married in a lavish ceremony last September, but abruptly called it off and blamed the media for its constant scrutiny.

Smith similarly canceled their wedding plans in the movie. He cut the scene in which they walk down the aisle, limiting her already brief screen time. Lopez's character dies during childbirth within the first few minutes, forcing Affleck's character, a high-powered music publicist, to re-examine his life as he raises their daughter on his own.

"I think we got better work out of him because it was her," Smith said of Affleck, who has several emotional scenes.

The director acknowledged that "Jersey Girl" is vastly different from the movies on which he's built his loyal fan base, including "Clerks" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," with their stoned characters and obscure comic book references.

"That's me on a soft day - kinda warm and gooey," Smith said after the closing credits stopped rolling. "It came from being married. It came from having a kid."

"The next movie I'm thinking about making is about a puppy," he added.

The South by Southwest film festival, now in its 11th year, runs through Saturday.

"Jersey Girl," co-starring Liv Tyler and George Carlin, opens nationwide March 26.

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