There’s a scene in Hustlers in which Jennifer Lopez, wearing nothing but a bikini and a fur coat, engulfs Constance Wu into the lining of her jacket. The gesture is symbolic of the bond between the characters: Lopez’s Ramona is the tough yet nurturing mentor introducing young women to the world of stripping and scamming Wall Street bankers. Wu’s Destiny is the newbie searching for stability, guidance and friendship.
Even though the rumours suggest otherwise (because we all know when two or more women are in a room together, the patriarchal assumption is there has to be drama), Lopez told Refinery29 that dynamic and her friendship with Wu extends offscreen. "The minute I saw Constance, I put my arms out and took her under my wing and put her in my coat like, 'I got you.'" Lopez said during the Toronto International Film Festival red-carpet premiere of Hustlers at the Roy Thomson Hall. "I said, 'I’m going to take care of you and I’m going to show you the ropes.'"
Hustlers director, Lorene Scafaria, echoed this sentiment and said the connection we see onscreen is the real deal. "Constance and Jennifer just had that big sister/ little sister chemistry right out of the gate." Added Lopez: "We didn’t know where Ramona and Jennifer and Destiny and Constance ended. Now we have this relationship where it’s exactly that — we love each other and we take care of each other."
In return, Wu — who was running late to the screening and had to blow past the bulk of press on the red carpet — called out three words to sum up her friendship with Lopez: "She’s the best!"
Scafaria credited the fast and furious shoot — they shot the movie in under a month — to helping develop that bond. "We had 29 days to shoot, so I think we all just had to get as close as possible in order to pull it off," she said. "I like to think of myself as the mom and that they’re all like sisters." She added that the cast texts all the time but there isn’t a Hustlers group chat ("we wouldn’t be able to handle it!"). Group chat or not, the cast’s closeness was on full display at the film’s TIFF red carpet with lots of hugs exchanged and cast members speaking to J.Lo’s "mama bear" energy on set.
Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays Dawn, a troubled young con artist who is on the outside of the core foursome of the film (Lopez, Wu, Lili Reinhart’s Anabelle and Palmer’s Mercedes), says she definitely felt that energy. “Jen very much created a safe environment so even though I’m not even in the mix of the four girls, I still felt that vibe," she said. "From the get-go, it was a very, very supportive set."
Mette Towley, the former Rihanna video star who plays Justice, said it was hard to keep a straight face during one scene in particular — yes, the one with Cardi B and Lizzo. "There were a lot of jokes, especially during that scene," she laughed. "When you have Lizzo, J.Lo, Cardi, Keke, everyone in a room together... Everyone’s line was a mic drop!"
Aside from the fun onscreen, transgender actress and activist Trace Lysette (she plays Tracey) said there’s a larger cultural importance to the film’s portrayal of the unique bond between women. "We’ve been thirsting for this movie. We’ve watched this camaraderie amongst men for decades, whether it’s been mafia movies or anti-heroes," she said. "This Robin Hood- esque story flips all of that on its head and puts women and their friendships at the centre."
Lopez called the film a "dream come true" and said the women behind the scenes are why it’s so special. "We all feel so incredibly proud to have gotten this movie made and to have so many women working in the key positions — as producer, director, editor, stars," she said. "I can’t wait for people to see it."