Cameron Diaz: Candid Cameron

In the current rush of new talent in Young Hollywood, she's one of the most beautiful and least predictable. Here Cameron Diaz talks about liking Julia Roberts, loving Matt Dillon and learning "not to make a complete asshole" out of herself.


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.

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