If you’re curious to know what audiences will be talking about after they see The Boy Next Door this weekend, it will either be the steamy love scene between stars Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman or the film’s winky schlock factor. Why? Because director Rob Cohen fought long and hard to make it that way.

During our recent interview with the very candid Cohen, he spoke at length about the “bitter” fights he had with the Boy producers over the steam-factor of the film, which led to a greater discussion about Hollywood studios and the trouble with tentpoles. Speaking of which, the xXx and The Fast and the Furious director readily admitted that while his films likely will never win critical praise or awards consideration, there is still an audience for them.

Read on for Cohen’s candid commentary about the fights that are worth having with stars and producers, the brilliance of Blumhouse Productions (The Boy Next Door is the company’s first non-horror venture),  and when we’re going to see that third xXx movie.

SR: When you first took a pass at the script, what moments did you read and think, “Oh man, I want to do this in a certain way” or “wink at the audience here?”

RC: Well the script was sexless. It was almost platonic, it was bizarre because you’re going, “Well, it is the story of a middle-aged woman who gets involved with a man half her age so where’s the heat?” And I had one of the producers – who shall go unnamed – give me a long lecture about how I’m a guy and women are different and they don’t see it that way and she doesn’t want a movie that’s all about sex and I said, “But let’s cut through. What do you think is going on? Do you think this is about Jennifer’s character meeting this guy and wants to talk about Homer all the time?” She is having some form of fantasies that are based on some form of visceral reaction and when it does come together it better be hot otherwise, the whole fantasy of the movie goes down the drain and the fights over this were so bitter, so bitter.

SR: Really? That’s so interesting, especially when you have someone like Jennifer Lopez in the lead role.

RC: I know. And I prevailed, but we had to shoot the love scene twice because it was too tame. There was an idea behind the love scene, the idea was: Ryan, you worship her. She is a goddess, you’re on your knees. Yeah you may be kissing her vagina but you’re really worshipping her like a goddess and it’s all about you adoring her, wanting her to have the maximum sensual experience, which you think is your gift to her and that will set your relationship to be this perfect thing where you can have [the sex] and you can talk about Homer.

The Boy Next Door interview The Boy Next Door Interview: Rob Cohen on Heating Things Up & xXx 3

SR: So in doing the love scene twice, was it something where you filmed it and then watched it back on the dailies and shot it a day later?

RC: No it was six months later. I kept saying to everybody, “This movie doesn’t have anything in it that you can’t see on Lifetime” and they kept going, “No it’s tasteful what you did, you’re a magician! And you didn’t show anything.” Because [Lopez] came with lawyers, she came with protectors, you know, with contracts and everything and I got some stuff but not enough. We were at the first research preview and the producer who I’d been arguing with saw this black couple coming up and thought “Oh this will be an easy mark” and she said to the couple, “What did you think of the movie?” and the wife said, “I didn’t see anything in here that I couldn’t see on Lifetime” and I looked at them all and said, “Did you hear that?” And Universal when I went to them with Jason Blum I said, “Give me a few more days, let me fix the love scene, let me fix certain things” and they believed in the movie so much that they let us go do it.

SR: What was the reaction from your actors once they saw it?

RC: Oh they were so happy. I said in the press conference that I went to Jen [Lopez] alone, “I’m going to give you final cut on this scene. Give me the shot, do the scene. If I have the shots we can take them out, but if we need them and don’t have them it’s gone and with all my experience, this is my 33rd movie, this scene is the pivotal scene to making the movie work or not.” So she was very cooperative and we didn’t cut anything.

SR: I heard that Ryan ad-libbed the much-quoted/TV spot-featured “I love your mother’s cookies” line, is that true?

RC: That is true. It was a thing worked out between him and me and Nelson. There was another huge fight about that because people thought it was ruining the previous, “She smells like chocolate chip cookies” line. It was great and it was true, that was Ryan’s thing.

Ryan Guzman in The Boy Next Door The Boy Next Door Interview: Rob Cohen on Heating Things Up & xXx 3

Ryan Guzman in ‘The Boy Next Door’

SR: Were there other fun ad libs or winks that you added?

RC: Yeah, when he’s f***ing Ali I said to him, “You’re getting a blow-job but look over and know that you just put a nail in her heart. Just give me this little half smile like it’s all going to plan.” He’s got this power over her which she underestimates in the beginning. When they have that scene in the bathroom, which is uncomfortably close to a rape scene, and she says “It’s your word against mine,” he’s laughing. He’s on the floor in pain but he’s laughing. It isn’t her word against his because he’s got a whole documentary.

SR: You mentioned Blumhouse, there’s a quote from you in the press notes about how years ago you felt movie-making was going to go to producing either too-expensive budgeted movies or too-little budgeted movies. What led you to believe that and how does Blumhouse answer that?

RC: Thank God for Blumhouse. It was clear to me around the time of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) that was The Mummy 3, which was like [a] $167 million movie, it was clear that tentpoles were going to be the only poles. The tent was only going to be held up from the center and that sequels and remakes and that would be the main source of films and after awhile there would be enough franchises with enough sequels that it would be all sequels so to fill the gap, because not everybody is going to be able to direct one of the six franchises a year at each studio, there’s going to become this lower budget push which started out as foreign financed, selling territories and all but I thought, “It’s only a matter of time” until studios, which are incapable of making an inexpensive film. Incapable. If Universal went to make Boy Next Door it would cost $40 million, not $4.5 million which is what it cost. So they have lost the art of making a movie inexpensively because they bring all that union baggage and all their baggage and all the layers, I’ve tried you just can’t do it so there would be a time when the studios would go, “Let me get the guys who know how to make it cheap and make a deal to distribute their movies,” so it’s much more solid. It’s not like you go make the movie and beg for distribution, it’s a business model that could work. What I love about what we got here is it’s the first Blumhouse film that isn’t a horror movie and is in fact got a movie star, a real one and we still made it [on a tight budget].

NEXT PAGE: Rob Cohen on Blumhouse & xXx 3

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