One of the most iconic scenes in Lorene Scafaria’s fact-based drama “Hustlers” comes when the fur-wrapped Ramona, played by Jennifer Lopez, luxuriously smokes a cigarette on the frigid rooftop of the New York City strip club after a long night of dancing. When Destiny (Constance Wu) joins her, Ramona quickly invites the new stripper into the warmth of her coat — and her friendship.
For Scafaria, who also wrote the script, that was the most important scene in casting the two leads, she recently told the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.“
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“I met them separately and just imagined Constance wrapped up in Jennifer’s fur coat. That for me was the casting,” she said. “When I was thinking of ‘who are Destiny and Ramona,’ it was just the fur coat scene … how does it feel like mama bear and baby bear? That was the first scene I wrote and the last scene we shot.”
Wu was perfect for the role of Destiny due to her warmth, sensitivity, and smarts, Scafaria said, and the pair talked about the film’s themes of loneliness, isolation, sisterhood, and camaraderie during their first meetings.
The first time Wu and Lopez appeared together outside of Scafaria’s imagination was one of the first days of shooting, the camera test, where they staged the rooftop scene.
“Jennifer put her arm around Constance and I got chills,” she said.
“Hustlers” showed me that my mommy issues could be resolved if JLo would just swaddle me in her fur coat and call me Baby
— brittany ashley (@britt27ash) September 19, 2019
Scafaria told IndieWire earlier this month that in casting the “Hustlers” ensemble – which includes Cardi B, Lizzo, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart — she was thinking about the backstage scenes where the dancers got ready for the night.
“I felt like I was casting for that locker room scene,” she said. “It was so exciting to see not only all these different kinds of women, but also all these different kinds of performers, all in the same room together and actually coexisting in the same movie.”
And when it came to casting “Transparent” actress Trace Lysette, it all came down to a tweet, Scafaria told “The Big Ticket.”
“She tweeted at me maybe a year-and-a-half ago and said that she had danced at a club I’m not allowed to mention by name, she had danced there in 2006,” Scafaria said. “I’m a fan of hers so I just wanted to meet and we hit it off. I just love her so much.”