Cameron Diaz: Candid Cameron
After making a splash opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask, model-turned-actress Cameron Diaz retreated to quirky indie movies for a while. Her next mainstream movie was the rom com My Best Friend’s Wedding in which she played Julia Roberts’ foil. In the March ’97 issue of Movieline, Diaz met Lawrence Grobel at his house to nosh and answer extremely random questions. Grobel asked her everything from “have you ever faked an orgasm” to “what Halloween costume did you wear as a child.”
Everything I’d read about Cameron Diaz indicated that punctuality wasn’t high on her list of concerns. Trouble was, she was coming to my house to talk, which meant I was at her mercy. So at noon, our scheduled rendezvous, I sighed and stuck in a tape of She’s the One, figuring I could at least look at her if not actually talk to her. At 12:15 her publicist called; Cameron was on her way, he said. She’d had a cat problem and had to go to the vet. At 12:40 I called her publicist–was she lost? Five minutes later, and only 45 minutes late, she drove her black Mercedes-Benz into my driveway and began her apologies. “My cat had ear mites, she was scratching herself like crazy, I had to do something.” Then she explained how getting the cat actually made her be on time, because she had to get up early to feed the cat. Well, at least we were getting somewhere. I’d had a chance to re-watch some of her very good performance in She’s the One, and now we’d established that she’s a cat lover.
The 24-year-old Star of Tomorrow (according to the National Association of Theater Owners at ShoWest, who named her that for 1996) has a deserved reputation for liking food, any food. I had bagels and lox, homemade pumpkin soup, freshly baked banana nut bread and chocolate biscotti all ready for her. The lanky five-foot-nine, 120-pound actress seemed right at home, slicing a bagel, sticking it in the toaster, cutting some bread, pouring the soup. She ate everything and even washed her plate when we finished. In between, we managed to talk, and we kept on talking.
Here’s what I knew about Cameron going in: she grew up in Long Beach, California, of mixed Cuban, Spanish, German, English and American Indian blood. Her father worked for UNOCAL Oil; her mother was an import-export agent. When she was 16, a photographer suggested she become a model, and soon after she signed with Elite Modeling Agency. She did magazine work, TV commercials, went to Paris to model. Somehow she landed an audition for the beautiful girl who would make Jim Carrey go slinky-eyed in The Mask, and after 12 callbacks she got the part and a new career.
After the film went through the roof, Diaz was in demand. She made four more pictures: the ensemble film The Last Supper, Feeling Minnesota with Keanu Reeves, Ed Burns’s She’s the One, and Head Above Water with Harvey Keitel–all quirky independent films, a kind that seems to particularly interest her. Her upcoming movie with Julia Roberts, My Best Friend’s Wedding, is her first wide-appeal project since The Mask. After finishing it, she immediately filmed the smaller A Life Less Ordinary with Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and star Ewan McGregor.
Here’s what I found out.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: So what do you make of all the media fuss over you since The Mask?
CAMERON DIAZ: It’s not like Sandra Bullock, where there was, like, this wave. I’m very comfortable with the level of recognition that I’ve got. I don’t feel like I’ve been blown out of proportion and I don’t feel like I’ve been ignored.
Q: Do you feel you’re on the verge of a wave?
A: No. I don’t feel like I’m in that position really.
Q: How have your parents handled what’s happened to you?
A: They love it. They see how hard I work and my success gives them a lot of pride. What appears to be glamour is kind of old for them already. My being on the cover of a magazine now, they understand that it’s the least favorite thing for me to do.
Q: What’s the most favorite?
A: I’m always really impressed when I get a job. [Laughs] The magazines and all, that’s the Industry putting its will to work. For me, it’s when I go in and read for a part and get it. That’s when I say, “Maybe it’s not all just luck. Maybe it is about how hard I work or what I have to offer.”
Q: How much has luck had to do with it?
A: In my case, getting in to read for The Mask was luck. Earning it was work. I read over and over for it. And Jim Carrey’s hard work in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective paid off, which made The Mask a guarantee. Then I got to ride his coattails and try to figure out what it was I was going to do for myself.
Q: Is it true you developed an ulcer auditioning for The Mask?
A: When I get upset, my stomach turns into a mess. I had really bad stomach pains, couldn’t eat, swallowed tons of antacids during that time. Jim Carrey was coming from In Living Color, so they wanted a woman people could recognize who might draw in another audience. I was a nobody then. I had to read for it 12 times. I still have the dress I did all my auditions in.
Q: Why did it take you a year to do another film after The Mask?
A: From the time I finished it until it came out, nobody knew who I was. But I got the opportunity to meet a lot of people I would not have met had I just been a model-turned-actress. My managers knew how people were responding to Jim, and in this industry you jump on any opportunity you can. If I was part of something successful, what were people risking if they just gave me 10 minutes of their day?
Q: And what did you do for that 10 minutes?
A: Same shit I’m doing now–talking about Jim! [Laughs] I’ve got three years of experience talking about Jim Carrey.
Q: How was your experience on the upcoming My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney?
A: In the film, Julia comes to sabotage my wedding to Dermot because she’s in love with him. I play sweet, nice Kimmy, who everybody loves. And she can’t help but love me, too. We had so much fun making it. I was in awe of Julia. She does a lot of physical comedy in this movie. I spent a lot of time watching her act instead of acting [myself]. She was always there in the moment when you needed her.
Q: Once again, you play a second lead. Why don’t you want to become a leading lady?
A: I don’t ever want my name to be the first over the title.
Q: You’ve joked that you have yet to figure out your acting process. Do you take what you do seriously?
A: Absolutely. I made that comment during Feeling Minnesota, which was only the third film I’d done. I was terrified. Now I’ve found a more comfortable way of figuring out what it is I’m doing.
Q: You said you learned the most about yourself while acting in Feeling Minnesota. In what ways?
A: I beat up on myself on that film. I was totally self-destructive.
Q: Your director, Steven Baigelman, said you’re completely willing to be a moron in front of anybody–is that the secret of your success?
A: Yeah, I pretty much lay myself out there to be spat upon.
Q: Did you get any insight into your costar Keanu Reeves?
A: When you spend three months with someone, 12 hours a day, you get an idea of what the person’s about. Keanu’s the oddest person I’ve ever met in my entire life. I love him and have only fond feelings for him, but I worry about him. He’s like a little kid. You worry about him taking care of himself.
Q: Could I have a conversation like this one with him?
A: You wouldn’t get anything out of him about himself. You’d be talking about philosophy. He’s incredibly intelligent and well read. That’s the biggest misconception about him, that he’s stupid.
Q: Did he recite Hamlet on the set?
A: Yes. That is amazing to me, to be able to remember all those words. I can’t remember anything.
Q: Courtney Love had a small part as a waitress–did you get to know her?
A: I was a big fan of her music…
Q: You were a big heavy metal fan as a teenager weren’t you?
A: Yep. You had to bring it up! Meeting Courtney, I admired her musical ability and really liked her. She’s fascinating. I thought she was great in The People vs. Larry Flynt. When I read that script I got to meet Milos Forman and Courtney was the first person I thought about.
Q: According to Allure magazine, you love housekeeping and Smashing Pumpkins, and you won’t admit to dinners with George Clooney.
A: Yeah, I love housekeeping and Smashing Pumpkins. And Clooney is a friend of mine.
Q: Have you had dinners with him?
A: Oh yeah, sure.
Q: Do you follow what’s going on in the world?
A: No, I cut myself off about a year ago. Everything causes me outrage, that’s why I cut myself off. I grew up on TV, so if it’s on, I can’t get away from it. You could hit me over the head with a sledgehammer and I wouldn’t notice if I’m watching television.When the Oklahoma bombing came on, I was in Minnesota and they put music to it, showing babies burned to death. I got so upset I decided I can’t watch the news anymore. I literally cut myself off. I don’t own a television, I don’t subscribe to a newspaper. I just needed a break, to take time off from the world. My nerves were too frayed from this constant pounding–the riots in L.A., the O.J. Simpson trial, which just disgusted me–I would get sick to my stomach with that on television. I felt there’s no hope in the world that we’re ever going to be well in our minds. The whole world is sick. The way I view the world these days is that it’s so far gone, there’s nothing any of us can do. I hate having that outlook and feeling completely out of control. So I cut myself off and I’ve never felt better. I feel in control again, so maybe it’s time to slowly bring in the things that I can handle.
Q: Do you trust many people?
A: I have a tendency to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, which always gets me in trouble because I find out later on that you really can’t trust anybody. You’d think I would have learned. But I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. It’s what life’s about, it’s all a learning experience.
Q: You’re dating Matt Dillon now, aren’t you?
A: Yeah. He’s amazing. We met in Minnesota where we were both doing a film. Then we hooked up later. We’ve grown so much together as people. I love him incredibly. He’s a great actor because of his honesty. He’s the most honest person I’ve ever met. He tells you exactly what he feels.
Q: Yet you live on different coasts.
A: Right, he’s in New York, I’m in L.A.
Q: You and he have been seen kissing over breakfast at the Farmers Market and on a Manhattan street corner– apparently you don’t hide public displays of emotions.
A: No, because I’m in love. We’re in love with each other.
Q: Would you like to marry him?
A: [Nervous laughter] Gosh, that’s not even a question that I ask myself. Marriage means everything. My parents have been married for 28 years. I want to have a family, but it’s not something I think about now.
Q: Apparently you’re seen on the Internet in a state of semi-dress. Are those pictures from the topless shoot that appeared on the cover of Celebrity Sleuth?
A: I wasn’t topless on the cover, only inside. I was devastated [when that came out]. My mom handled it really well. I thought it was a crummy thing for this photographer to do
Q: The “fuckhead opportunist,” as you once called him?
A: Exactly. He didn’t have any right to sell or give those pictures to anybody. It’s the lowest form of human behavior.
Q: Were you naive to allow a photographer to shoot you that way?
A: He was a guy I’d done pictures with several times. He was also a friend of my girlfriend. To me it wasn’t a big deal when I did it. If they had been good pictures–which they weren’t–I would have used them in my book at the time, [though not the] full-on breast [ones]. Actually, in most of them I was pretty much covered up. I realized after the fact that it was stupid to have done it. I didn’t want them to get out. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done–I was 16, for Christ’s sake. It makes me sick that now that I’m recognizable somebody would go ahead and sell something I did seven years ago just to make a buck.
Q: When you first started modeling did you get much work?
A: I worked just one job before I went to Japan. And it wasn’t until I got back from Japan that I actually started working.
Q: You were 16 years old at the time. How come your parents let you go there alone?
A: My parents and I always had a good line of communication. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and they trusted me to say whether or not, once I was there, I could handle it.
Q: Did this early modeling interfere with high school?
A: I finished high school. That was my agreement with my parents: if I was going to model, I would graduate from Long Beach Polytechnic High. Japan was my summer vacation.
Q: Was it a good high school?
A: It’s a big school, basically in the ghetto, next to the projects.
Q: Do you come from a middle-class family?
A: My parents have been working the same jobs for 20-odd years. They were able to afford what was needed to make our lives comfortable. When I look at it now I don’t know how they were able to provide for my sister and me [the way they did]. I have a lot of respect for them.
Q: How in touch are you with your various ethnicities?
A: My father’s Cuban and Spanish. My mother’s German, English, American Indian. Growing up I felt my family was different from everybody else. I didn’t know any other Cubans and there was a cultural difference from the Mexican families I grew up with. I thought we were freaks.
Q: Is there a sense of superiority that Cubans feel over Mexicans?
A: Yeah. I think the Cuban culture thinks they’re better than everybody. [Laughs] Educated Cubans who came here are complete elitists. The Cuban people are generous and wonderful and warm, but when it comes down to pride in their heritage, they’re incredibly proud.
Q: Did you ever piss off your parents?
A: Oh yeah, but we don’t have to talk about it. [Laughs] It’s the not coming home when I was supposed to, or coming home drunk one time.
Q: When did you take your first drink?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Under 14?
A: I don’t know. [Laughs] I used to sneak sips of my dad’s friends’ beers, that kind of stuff. I wasn’t too out of control.
Q: You got alcohol poisoning in Australia while filming a Coca-Cola commercial when you were 18. How serious was it?
A: It was serious. I went out drinking in the Australian sun not paying attention to what I was consuming, and I consumed a lot. I woke up the next morning so sick I didn’t think I was going to live and called my mother and said if I died she had to come get my body. I told her I had the flu–I didn’t tell her until last year it was alcohol poisoning. That was a stupid thing–I lost seven pounds in five hours. I didn’t function properly for a week.
Q: Did it cure you from drinking?
A: No. But it cured me from being that stupid.
Q: What about drugs? Marijuana? Coke? Acid?
A: I didn’t try everything. Heroin scares me. Acid doesn’t.
Q: Have you ever done acid?
A: [Nervous laughter]
Q: How many times?
A: My mom always told me there’s no responsible way of doing drugs.