NEW YORK – Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck may be Hollywood's hottest couple, but the makers of their two upcoming movies are trying to douse speculation that they have absolutely no chemistry together on the big screen.
"It's absolutely untrue," says Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak, which plans to open the gangster comedy Gigli in August after delays for extensive reshoots. "The chemistry between them is one of the things that works so well in the movie."
And the director of their other movie, Kevin Smith, is blasting a report in a gossip column that he has the same problem with the comedy-drama Jersey Girl -- and that he's also redoing scenes because the stars allegedly fizzle together.
Smith said the MSN report, which originated with a gossip segment by a National Enquirer reporter on Howard Stern's radio show claiming $3 million worth of reshoots, "has dragged our flick into a spot of mud, alleging problems where there are none" out of a "haste to attack and damn Ben and Jen's relationship in any way possible."
"I assumed that anyone who really gave a [expletive] knew that it was Gigli that had done reshoots, not Jersey Girl, " Smith wrote in a statement on his Web site, complaining that the MSN columnist, "BeatBox Betty," didn't bother to call him to check.
J-Lo and Affleck met during the early 2002 filming of Gigli -- briefly retitled Tough Love before it got its original title back late last week -- a comedy-drama about a pair of Mafia enforcers, one of them a lesbian who turns straight to Affleck's charms.
The movie was originally scheduled to open last fall, but was put off so a reported $5 million worth of scenes could be reshot, supposedly because test audiences responded poorly to the film's ending.
A revised version of Gigli reportedly hasn't tested much better.
The New York Post's Page Six reported last week that Affleck had to break up a shouting match between the movie's director, Marty Brest, and Revolution Studios chief Joe Roth -- an account denied by the studio.
Perhaps even more damaging are a trio of anonymous reviews that appeared on the aintitcoolnews Web site, one of which labeled the movie "an unreleasable piece of [expletive]" with "some of the most truly God-awful dialogue ever heard on screen."
But Smith, a longtime close friend of Affleck, who appeared in four of his earlier movies, says he's seen Gigli and it's not the disaster that's being described.
"I went to a test screening last week, and I have not heard laughter like that in a movie theater in a long time," he told The New York Post from Los Angeles. "And they weren't laughing at the movie, they were laughing with it. I was almost jealous how many laughs it got."
Revolution's Sherak also claims the movie played well.
"It's just like Titanic. You can't do anything but let the movie speak for itself," says Sherak, who weathered a raft of negative pre-release publicity for that all-time blockbuster when he was an executive at Twentieth Century Fox.
"It's a very good movie with two major stars in it, opening in the heart of the summer and we're very optimistic that the bad press will go away."
Smith, meanwhile, says Jersey Girl has tested well. It has received a single, highly positive review on aintitcoolnews from a test screening in Arizona.
Affleck and Lopez, he adds, are unfazed by the negative press.
"If you were Ben and you were sleeping with Jen, or if you were Jen sleeping with Ben, you would have better things to do than to read newspapers or watch TV reports about your movies," Smith said.