Aug. 1 2007, Published 6:00 a.m. ET

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Marc Anthony's life moves so quickly he almost forgot his sunglasses during interviews for El Cantante held at NYC's The Regency Hotel on July 26. He wouldn't want to be without his shades, according to his El Cantante costar Manny Perez. 'Every time we went out, there was yelling and screaming everywhere,' Manny says.Marc's star is about to get even bigger now that he plays salsa legend Hector Lavoe in the biopic produced by his wife of three years Jennifer Lopez. In this interview, Marc, 38, talks about working with J.Lo, why he almost gave up on singing, snorting drugs in the movie and his personal relationship to Hector, the salsa legend he portrays.WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING A COUPLE AND WORKING TOGETHER?It was scary. Pucci was scary, man. It was something I could hold over her head in our personal lives. Like ëaw, aw, I see Pucci coming through.' She'd say ëare you going to act like Hector all day or are you going to get up and do something?' Little jokes. The transformation was absolutely amazing. I think she deserves all the respect in the world, all the kudos in the world. Her performances ? and I'm a bit of a critic ? I call what I see, I don't fluff anything ? I don't know if you know that ? I'm very clear. I saw her performance, and I was just blown away. You have to understand the process of reading something on paper, and believing why the character's saying it. It just pours from the screen. Her commitment is second to nothing I've ever witnessed. I'll be totally honest with you. I'm just so proud of her.We were fortunate being a couple stepping into her first production ? something she had to yank from the ground ? not get it off the ground, because it was a hard sell. She had to yank it off the ground, see it through. She's producing, she's starring in it, she's dealing with her husband on the set, it's a very dynamic world. What I would say is ? I lost my train of thought when I said the husband part.TELL US ABOUT JENNIFER AS YOUR BOSS.When hasn't she been my boss? She's just seamlessly meshed into my day. She's helped me through this whole process as well. You really feel the pressure when you're the lead in the movie. It's absolutely bonkers. You look at this, you're carrying the movie and you're not used to it. It's called El Cantante for a reason. She played Selena, who was a friend of mine, and I asked her about it. ëYou played someone that's so fresh in people's minds, and how'd you do it?' She gave me amazing advice on how to process that responsibility. I remember her telling me ëlisten, when I played Selena, I learned absolutely everything. I totally engrossed myself for about two months, and then I forgot about it. Little things seep through in your behavior. Make it yours but be conscious of their tendencies.' That helped me tremendously. ANY ADVICE YOU'VE GIVEN JENNIFER FOR THE TOUR? She's witnessed three with me. She's usually on the sidelines, but now it's my turn to be on the side ? well, not really.We start rehearsals next week. She's such a natural performer, she truly is, and she's been in the business for many, many years, as I, and when you find yourself in a position it's very easy to get jaded. ëI'll pass on this, I'll pass on that.' It's because ? thank God ? you're exposed to it. When you're excited about something at this stage of the game, it's priceless. It makes you want to get up and I'm really excited for her on that end, because it's easy to be like ëyou have another interview' and be like sarcastically excited ëYeah man!' I'm so excited for her and I think it's nothing short of amazing because I know how she dedicates herself. WHEN IS THE FIRST TIME YOU CONNECTED YOUR THOUGHTS TO MUSIC IN A PERSONAL, PROFOUND WAY?That was my parents' music. Marvin Gaye, the Temptations ? that was my thing growing up in the 1970s. My older brothers were into that scene. I remember my older brother coming home, and it was like a Harry Potter book, like ëI got it, I got it, I got the new Hector Lavoe/Willie Colon album, man.' I remember it blaring from his room. I think the first time would be El Dia De Mi Suerte, which is a song I perform when it starts raining, just before he jumps. That song always hit me because he keeps saying he keeps hearing that his luck's going to change. Do you realize what he's saying? English being my first language, I wasn't well-versed in Spanish, but I wrote every word the best I could. I remember writing the lyrics down and getting it.WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU HAD A VOICE YOURSELF?I was raised with it! I used to perform with my dad ever since I was three years old. My dad thought I was old enough, and he incorporated me into his show. My dad would do the social club circuit, and I would be part of his show. I remember the impact ? I almost quit singing when I was five years old. Seriously. I used to sing on top of the table in the kitchen, and Tuesdays and Thursdays a house full of people would bring down instruments -- pots, pans ? and we'd play music all night, and I'd get my turn on the kitchen table. They'd plop me up and I'd sing these songs like I was heartbroken. I'd imitate my dad ? she broke my heart, you don't understand, she killed me. My sister-in-law started crying at the end of the show. I actually remember ? the living room was off to the left, and there was a fish tank. She was inbetween the living room and the fish tank, and she started crying. I was just mortified by that. I was singing the song, thinking how she's crying, and she comes back and she holds me really tight and she's still crying. I was like ëhm, I don't want to see people cry.' I didn't like it. I didn't want to make the second show.But they explained to me that sometimes people feel things, and I'm like ëI don't know?' but in hindsight, that was my earliest recollection that music could have a profound impact.WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MARC THE ACTOR AND MARC THE SINGER?I think it's one in the same. I've done eight films and eight albums. I've been able to do both. I don't think I'm an actor that sings or a singer that acts. It's storytelling at the end of the day, only one is an hour-and-a-half version and the other is four minutes. Story-telling is something that fascinates me.BACK TO THE MOVIE, YOUR PORTRAYAL IN THE DRUG SCENES IS EXCELLENT. WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO?You just have to be really tired. Really. I learned that. Try to take a nap, and they wake you up for the action part, like ëwhat?' I didn't follow any junkies around or any heroin addicts. It was not a stretch.WHAT ABOUT SNORTING THAT STUFF?It was nasty. It was milk powder and sugar. It was just nasty. That's when the acting came in. It's like pepper. Your natural reaction is to expel it, but you have to act like that's not what's going on in your face and like ëhey I'm enjoying it.' It was one of the hardest things to do. I could've been a science experiment.DID YOU REMEMBER WHEN HECTOR DIED?Absolutely, no question about it. My dad took care of him the last few years of my life. He worked on 106th St. and Fifth Avenue, and for the last few years, he used to call my dad Marc Anthony. He always kept an eye on me. My dad would always tell me that he was proud that I did something. A lot of those things are personal.I sat with my dad for a couple hours because my dad really got to know him the last few years of his life. What he worried about was very important. He didn't want people to see him the way he was. He spoke a lot about his glory days. He always said ëtell your son that he can control this not happening to him ? I wish I would've known.' A lot of things like that that my dad would pass on to me.El Cantante opens August 3.By Valerie Nome Photo:

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