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A Celebration of Selena and of a Milestone

March 17, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a stellar evening of memories of a beloved tejano singer and accolades for Latino filmmakers at the Los Angeles premiere of Warner Bros.' "Selena" on Thursday night.

"I'm proud of what we, as movie makers, have achieved because we did it for Selena," said producer Moctesuma Esparza. "This movie is a historic film--the first time there has ever been a movie about Latino culture in the United States that was produced for the mainstream. This movie is a celebration of Selena's life, not of her death."

Hundreds of Selena fans lined up 10 rows deep on both sides of Sunset Boulevard in front of Pacific's Cinerama Dome chanting her name and waving Selena posters.

But mostly, they clamored for the attention of the sequined and tuxedo-clad stars of the film. The crowd roared when Oscar-nominated Edward James Olmos arrived. Minutes later there was pandemonium when a limo parked in the middle of the street and Jennifer Lopez emerged in a resplendent sky-blue Pamela Dennis gown and Fred Leighton jewels. She and her husband, Ojani Noa--newlyweds of 2 1/2 weeks--had just arrived from New York for the premiere.

Other cast members reveling in the spotlight were Jon Seda, Constance Marie, Jacob Vargas, Bel Hernandez, and 10-year-old Becky Lee Meza and comedian Jackie Guerra, who taped interviews at a post-premiere party with co-stars for the Spanish-language "Cristina" talk show.

Other guests included Warner Bros.' co-chairman Terry Semel, Oliver Stone, Jimmy Smits, Andy Garcia, Maria Conchita Alonso, Paul Rodriguez, Mario Lopez, Pepe Serna, Diego Serrano, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett, Eduardo Yanes, Giselle Fernandez, Latina magazine Publisher Christy Haubegger and singer Angelica.

"This is probably the high point in Latino filmmaking. This is it," said Olmos, who plays Selena's father.

"This film will probably crack open the entire system in Hollywood for Latinos," he said. He predicts the film will be a moneymaker and "that is all the studios care about."

Director and writer Gregory Nava ('My Family / Mi Familia") said the film was "easy to finance because obviously there is a lot of interest in Selena. This film is a milestone in that regard. The challenge of this movie was telling her story, a true story."

Jennifer Lopez, flanked by security guards and a publicist throughout the evening, signed autographs for young fans inside the Cinerama Dome shortly before the movie was screened. An overflow of guests were directed to the nearby Galaxy Theater where two private screenings were held.

At a party at the Hollywood Palladium, where El Gallo Giro restaurant catered Tex-Mex fare and guests danced to Selena's music, Lopez, reportedly the first Latina to be paid $1 million for a screen role, said she prepared for the role by watching videos, spending time with Selena's family and speaking with people who knew the singer, shot to death two years ago by an employee.

"What I learned from doing this movie and from [her] family was the fact that you just never know what's going to happen or never know how much time you have so you should just embrace every day," Lopez said. "That's what Selena did. That's what I'm doing. And I think that's what her fans will do after they see the movie. They will be uplifted."

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