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'People are so ready to write women off at a certain age'

Hustlers is inspired by real-life events and follows a crew of savvy strip club employees who turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu and tell Georgia Humphreys about their empowering roles in the hotly anticipated film

Champagne life: Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu
Champagne life: Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu

Jennifer Lopez is famed for her iconic dance moves. But while the New York-born actress, who turned 50 this year, still has enviable fitness levels, she wasn't prepared for how difficult learning to pole dance would be for her latest movie Hustlers.

"I am athletic and I work out and I dance, but it was more athletic and more acrobatic than anything I had ever done," admits the star, who's also a successful singer, fashion designer and businesswoman.

"Dealing with this pole, which doesn't move, and trying to fly and dance around it really proved to be hard."

There's a lot of buzz around Hustlers, a sassy, thrilling female-led comedy drama.

It's based on real life events, following an article by Jessica Pressler which was printed in New York Magazine and went viral, and tells the story of a group of savvy strip club employees who cook up an inventive scheme to rob wealthy Wall Street bankers.

Lopez, who also serves as producer on the film, plays Ramona, inspired by ex-stripper Samantha Barbash, who Pressler interviewed for her piece.

She may have worked as a dancer on American comedy sketch series In Living Colour before pursuing her acting career, but admits she was "super nervous" ahead of filming the pole dancing scenes.

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"It's like, 'Okay go up there and do your pole routine'," she quips, when recalling the vulnerability she felt performing on a stage in a club in front of 300 extras.

"It's like, 'Oh my God, take off your clothes and wear a thong'."

But it was "really stimulating to think of playing a character like Ramona, who was so multi layered".

"She was tough and fierce and ambitious and strong," says the mum-of-two. "But, at the same time, she was loving and nurturing."

She agrees another appeal of the project was how different it is to roles she's had before.

"It's so funny, with my tour this year and this movie coming out... People are so ready to write women off at a certain age, right?" she retorts.

"But I just feel like my best years are ahead of me, and the more I learn and the more I live and the more I'm open to growing, the better my work gets."

The cast of Hustlers boasts some great names - Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and singers Cardi B and Lizzo.

Wu - famous for last year's hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians - plays Destiny, a young woman struggling to make ends meet.

Destiny's life is changed forever when she meets Ramona, who gives her a crash course in various poses and pole moves.

The two women end up making lots of money from the Wall Street clientele that frequent the club - but then the September 2008 economic collapse happens.

And that's when they decide to turn the tables, along with their colleagues Mercedes (Palmer) and Annabelle (Reinhart).

Wu (37) acknowledges the film is making several important points.

"So much of Hollywood's movies have been told with a male lens on things, and we get a lot of our ideas of attraction and love from media," she suggests.

"I think it can be harmful if there's only one type of person who is perceived as being beautiful, and Hollywood is part of creating that perception."

Lopez has been making romantic comedies since she was in her 20s - successes include Maid In Manhattan and The Wedding Planner - and notes traditionally there has always been "a certain type of actress that plays those roles".

But she's hopeful the change she has always been pushing for is happening now, citing the success of Crazy Rich Asians as an example.

"I think it's a great time for women too, where we're coming into our own and unafraid to say what we think and stand up for ourselves," she adds.

"It's a good time for men too. We talk about how men objectify women a lot; well, that's systemic. It's not because men are bad people, it's created by the culture.

"I'm just saying it's good for men to get to see perspectives they don't understand - not just good for their emotional health, it's also good for storytelling as it's good to hear new stories and hear new points of view."

Hustlers incorporates some heavy topics and themes. However, Palmer's character brings lots of comedic relief. The actress (26), known for TV shows such as Scream Queens, shares that her research for the part was easy, having visited strip clubs since she was 18.

"Especially my generation, it's not something that is as taboo, so I've gone there with friends, birthday parties - you name it," she reveals. "So, I was very comfortable in that environment.

"I wanted to humanise my character, because I've seen many different personality types of strippers, and I wanted to make sure it came off real, and that it was authentic."

Hustlers is in cinemas now

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