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The Cinematic Tribute

In Late 1995, the entire latin community was still in shock and sorrow over the death of Selena. Selena's family did not want anyone to take advantage and exploit Selena's good name. However, people did come out with countless books, bootlegged CDs, and even a film based on the singer's life. In order to maintain Selena's name in a high level, and stop these exploiters from dragging her name in the mud, The Quintanilla's decided to pay tribute to their daughter by making a Biographical picture based on her life.

This film would become one of the most historical latino film to ever hit Hollywood. Months and Months went into the production of what would becom the multi-million dollar success : "Selena"


Finding "Selena":

From when it was first announced that the $20,000,000 "Selena: The Movie" (1996 USA Working Title) was going to be made, rumors began flying at force speeds over the biggest question of the production: Who will be The Queen Of Tejano Music on screen? People wanted answers and fast. Rumors began that Mexican Mega Star Bibi Gaytan had been cast in the lead role for the movie. Magazines, such as the (below l.) article from Mexico's Tele-Guia, compared the smallest similarities of both woman.


But the rumors were proven to be rumors after all.  The Bibi Gaytan was put to rest when it was know that the film was most likely going to be in the English language. Which eliminated the Spanish-speaking Gaytan. The next rumor was that the actress Salma Hayek (above r.) had been cast in the role. This rumor was really short lived. Despite some physical similarities, Salma had too deep of an accent. All rumors of casting ended when, in June 1995, Selena's father said that there would be an nation-wide casting call to find "Selena".

And what a casting call it turned out to be! Approx. 20,000 young women (including the three above), turned up in the casting calls that took place in 5 major cities across the U.S., making it the second largest casting call in history.  Gregory Nava, the director and writer of the film said that they were looking for a girl that had the Style, Charisma and Magic of Selena. Apparently the choice was already made. A young actress from Miami had the role in the bag to become Selena. But that was before Jennifer Lopez came into the picture.

Jennifer Lopez had previously worked with Nava in his 1995 film "My Family: Mi Familia". Nava called Jennifer to ask if she would be interested and if so, she should come do a screentest. She did, and the rest was history. Jennifer Lopez would portray Selena in the film based on her life, and will become the highest paid latina in the history of cinema for her role.

Top: Jennifer Lopez will be "Selena". Also Pictured: Rebecca Lee Meza, a San Antonio Native

who won the role of "Young Selena"


Becoming "Selena":

Jennifer Lopez had won the most coveted role of the year. But there was no time to celebrate. Ms. Lopez said that on the day she was told she had the part she, "went out and bought her CD. I tried to absorb as much as I could [from her music] who she was." and later on "Oprah" she said she wanted to find out "What made her happy, what made her sad, what made her 'tick'". Jennifer also spent months with Selena's family in Corpus Christi, TX in order to get a sense of how Selena lived.


Top l.: The Real Selena the night she accepted her Grammy in New York (1994)

Top r.: Jennifer Lopez filming "The Grammy" scene in "Selena"

The similarities between the two women were  incredible.  Lopez and Selena both had the exact same measurements, according to Selena's seamstress who made both Selena's wardrobe and for "Selena". " All the costumes in the movie were made from the original patterns. So when they told me what to make, I just went into my boxes". She said that, "Jennifer had only an inch difference in her waist, but she brought a trainer in and she lost it".

Jennifer pointed out that she thought since she had dancing experience, dancing like Selena would be the easiest part.  It was not. She explained its easy to dance like yourself but its a completely different story when you are dancing in someone else's style. Especially when it came to Selena, she was so natural on stage and was never choreographed. Lopez saw hours upon hours of Selena concert footage in order to perfect Selena in the film. Even though everyone said that she did it, she still felt she did not perfect it.

But Selena's father said on "Leeza" that Jennifer did in fact capture Selena's spirit and soul.


The Importance of the family's participation:

Edward J. Olmos (Abraham Quintanilla, in the film) and Abraham Quintanilla Jr. (Selena's father) pointed it out best in 1996 on "Cristina", when the film was on location in Poteet, TX to recreate the monstrous concert Selena gave to 100,000 people in Monterrey, Mexico. They said that without the participation, the film will simply not be accurate. No one knew Selena better than her own family, and in order to make a film about a person one must go to the people that knew her best.

All the actors spent time with their real life counterparts to maintain as much accuracy as possible. Jakie Guerra spent time with Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga (Selena's sister) , Jacob Vargas was with A.B Quintanilla (Selena's brother), as did Constance Marie with Marcela Quintanilla (Selena's mother).

The family donated to the project in order to make it more accurate. Items from their dishes for the dining room and the same paint Selena used in her room because the set designers could not find the exact same color. With out the Quintanillas "Selena" would not have been what it is today.


The Bitter-Sweet Rusult:

After months and months of production, "Selena" - A Warner Bros Presentation, Produced By Q-Productions, in association with Ezparza-Katz productions was ready for release on March 21, 1997.  

One week before the release the World Premiere took place in Hollywood's historic Cineroma Dome. Stars in attendence  ranged from Latino actors such as Andy Garcia and Jimmy Smitts to non-latino actors/singers such as Will Smith

Opening to great reviews from top critics, including Roger Ebert and incredible box office results. "Selena" made $11,615,722 in its first three days in release, defeating "Return Of The Jedi" and 2nd only to Jim Carrey's "Liar, Liar" at the box office. By the end of its run and Video release the film made $100,000,000+ in revenue.

Top: Jennifer Lopez recreating Selena's concert at the Astrodome.

While Selena had accomplished another incredible feat, an edge of sadness was still there. Nancy De Los Santos who was watching the recreation of Selena's Historic Astrodome Concert spoke for all of Selena's fans, with tears in her eyes "We shouldn't be making a movie about Selena, we should be making one with her..."


Film Credits:

WARNER BROS. Proudly Presents






Executive Producer  ABRAHAM   QUINTANILLA 


Written and Directed by GREGORY NAVA


"Selena" is now available for rent and purchase in the following formats: DVD, Laserdisc, and VHS

  For more info on this film, please visit: "Selena"s Web Page on The Internet Movie Database.

SELENA FANS: Please do NOT forget to take a few seconds to register and vote a "10" for "Selena" at the Movie Database.