there's something about cameron diaz

#tbt from the archives: march 2000

photo by dewey nicks

There’s always been something about Cameron Diaz, which is why we featured her as the cover girl for one of our earliest issues back in March 2000. At the time of this issue, Charlie’s Angels had yet to become a cult-favoriteDiaz was still giddy about the success of There's Something About Mary. In this installment of Throwback Thursday, we take a picnic with Diaz and talk Snoop Dogg, giant celebrity cut-outs, and how she tries to stay out of the public eye. We suggest you read on because Cameron is about to come back in a big way this Christmas (2014), where the actress has a starring role alongside Quvenzhane Wallis in the reboot of the 1982 musical, Annie.

There’s something about the phrase “there’s something about Cameron” that has caused those four words to become practically mandatory in any journalistic depiction of Cameron Diaz written since the summer of 1998, when she starred in the Farrelly Brothers’ smash hit comedy There’s Something About Mary. First of all, its hard to resist such a convenient play on words—witness the recent rash of “Being Cameron Diaz” headlines after Cameron’s character obsessively tripped through the mind of another in the innovative Being John Malkovich. “Any Given Cameron” wouldn’t quite make sense, or we would have seen that one quite a lot when Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday topped box office lists this past Christmas, starring Cameron as the driven owner of a Miami football team.

Actually, “things you can tell just by looking at Cameron Diaz” might be an appropriate and timely phrase to use here, since she does appear in the independent film, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, also starring Calista Flockhart, Glenn Close, and Holly Hunter. But “things you can tell just by looking at Cameron” takes you straight back to the old standby “there’s something about Cameron.” That’s the other thing about “there’s some about Cameron.” It’s not just a catchy headline. It’s true. Cameron does indeed have a certain je ne sais…er, y’know..something about her, a magnetic draw that goes far beyond her sex appeal, good looks, and the obvious physical whatnot. There’s a true playfulness in her eyes, a deep sense of mischief in her frequent Butthead-esque laugh, a something or other about her something or other that words just cant quite describe—at least words that wouldn’t sound downright silly. She’s really just a fun person.

            I first met Cameron in a seedy Silverlake karaoke bar in Los Angeles not long before 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding was released. I was performing a moving rendition of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” when to my utter dismay (I am serious about my karaoke, you see) my fine falsetto was suddenly being accompanied by an unknown and uninvited female voice. I spun around in how-dare-they annoyance and—bam!—there by my side was Cameron, who as it later turned out was a friend of a friend who’d just shown up. At that point, however, I had no idea who she was. But I must say I was immediately no longer annoyed. She was gleefully belting out “The Logical Song” with all her heart. “I know it sounds absurd, but this girl can sing with me anytime she wants to,” I thought to myself. It must have been that “something” about her that did it.

            Anyhow, not long after our karaoke encounter occurred, My Best Friend’s Wedding came out and Cameron became a full-fledged star, only to be catapulted even higher the next year by There’s Something About Mary. One weird thing abut her career is that by now it seems like she’s s been around forever, even thought it was only back in 1994 that the then-model made her film debut in The Mask with Jim Carrey. Chalk it up to that “something.” And by that same token it seems like I’ve known her forever, even thought it’s only been a couple of years. During the time I’d gotten to know her, however, I had never actually “interviewed” her for magazine-article-type purposes. So one day many, many months ago we decided it would be fun to have a interview conversation, which, as a result of her crazy schedule took a really long time to actually organize.

            Here are a few personal-type facts about Cameron: she has faith in fate (“ I think when things are meant to come together, they come together. If they’re not, they don’t.”); her mom and dad and sister back home in Long Beach are extremely important to her (That’s what keeps me going—them always being there. It’s like a safety net. I never worried if I was loved.”); one of her schoolmates at Long Beach Polytechnic high school was Snoop Doggy Dogg (“He was a year older than me. At the time he wasn’t a rapper or anything, but I knew who he was because he was tall and skinny and wore different colored rubberbands in his hair.”); and yes, it seems she has been dating Jay Leno lately (“He’s great”).

            But today, under the smiling sun of Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Park, we avoided the personal trivia in order to focus on her actual acting career, which is currently in high gear, as she’s just beginning work on the movie version of the ‘70s television campy classic, Charlie’s Angels. Oh, wait…sorry, er, I got it wrong. She’s actually been dating actor Jared Leto, not Jay Leno (Like I said, we didn’t talk about a lot of personal details – as she’s not much a fan of revealing too much stuff and I’m not much a fan of asking.) Anyhow, we spread a picnic blanket out on a hillside in the park, unpacked our purchases from a nearby healthy-type supermarket, turned on the tape recorder, and began eating and talking.

            Incidentally, for greater reading pleasure you may want to recreate this picnic in your own backyard. You will need: a cardboard cutout of Cameron (usually available for the stealing at your local video store—she’s the smiling one in the red dress next to the little dog in a body cast), a blanket, some takeout sushi, water, juice, fresh salsa, and a big bag of Hava Chips (“These are the best chips in the world, “ Cameron enthuses. “They have soy sauce on them, I could eat this who goddamn bag of chips in one sitting!”). You will also need the soundtrack to Hair, as a group of teenagers wearing Garth Brooks-type headset microphones were loudly preforming the ‘60s musical in a nearby amphitheater just as our picnic began.

Group of Teenagers: (singing) This is the dawn-ing of the Age of A-quar-i-us, Age of...

Cameron Diaz: I’m glad we were finally able to do this.
Nylon: Me too. Has it become a lot harder to manage your life and find free time as you’ve gotten bigger and busier as an actress?
CD: Yeah, it is getting more and more difficult. It’s just, you know, when you’ve got a lot goin’ on (laughs), when there’s no set time where… it’s not like a 9 to 5 job. Doing film, your schedule can start at noon and go ‘til midnight. Even the whole process of rehearsals and fittings and costumes and research and all those things, even when you’re not shooting, it’s a time consuming thing. Then when you’re shooting it’s a 12 hour day always, no matter what. You get into this sort of microcosm, this contained little world. A film set is its own little world. You function from there. It’s the only thing that exists. So you have that and then you have you personal life, which really comes down to those one or two things that you can just fit in for yourself. Whether it be your family or your boyfriend or whatever…

Nylon: It must really separate the people who understand from the people who don’t.
CD: Yeah, it really does. It’s just how things are now.

Nylon: Did your life mainly start getting hectic after There’s Something About Mary was a big success? Did everything really kick in then – like people recognizing you on the street – or was it a gradual buildup?
CD: Well, after The Mask people would recognize me, but they didn’t know my name. Back then it was, “Did I go to school with you?" but with My Best Friend’s Wedding it was “Oh, you’re Cameron Diaz!” People all of a sudden knew my name. That was a trippy thing. Like within a week of it being out it was a whole different experience.
Nylon: I just remember walking down the street with you one time not long after There’s Something About Mary came out and people were shouting “Hey, Mary!” from their car windows.
CD: Yeah, definitely. (laughs) At that point I went from being Cameron Diaz to being Mary – which was fun, you know? I loved doing Mary. This last year has been okay. People recognize me, but I’ve learned how to deal with it more. It also helps when I’m not doing publicity—when your face isn’t on the covers of magazines when you’re not right in the foreground of people’s consciousness, when they’re not looking at you while they’re standing in line for groceries.
Nylon: You’re in my local video store. At the register there’s a big cardboard cutout of Mary, not quite life sized. I always say, “Hi.”
CD: (laughs) I know! It’s almost life sized. I have other friends that relate to me that way too, you know, they go to their video stores to see me and have conversations with me. I have a friend who…I just played a blind girl and my friend wanted to help me, so at his video store he blacked my eyes out on the cardboard cutout. He’s like “Now you really can’t see! It’s to help you prepare for your movie!”
Nylon: Was that Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her?
CD: Yeah, that was like a five day thing I recently did.
Nylon: Is that what you were working on recently in Paris?
CD: No, that one was called The Invisible Circus and it’s a small film, a story about two sisters kind of coming of age in two different times, about suicide, about letting go. It’s a beautiful story. It was a novel.

Nylon: And now you’re starting Charlie’s Angels. I just read a draft of the script for that and it seems like it would be fun to make.
CD: Did you really? Yeah, I think it’s going to be really fun. I can’t wait to get started. It’s just one of those things where we get to drive cars and boasts and be chicks and have fun and make fun, and, you know, do karate…(laughs) It’s only to be improved on. It’s the kind of movie where if you’re having fun doing it, it’s gonna get way out there, it's gonna get up there. That’s what I’m looking forward to. It’s coming up quicker than I thought, which makes me a little stressed out, but at the same time I’m really excited about it.

Nylon: You’re really cramming a lot in these days.
CD: I’m working really hard right now which I’m happy about. I’ve been saying that I’m working for the next two years really hard—that was last year, so it’s been one year already. I have another year and I’m gonna work my ass off and then I’m going to take some time for myself. And I feel good about that because I love what I’m doing right now and I feel like things are opening up for me personally within my work, and it’s stuff that I wanna have fun with and explore – just do it and have a good time. Like with Malkovich it was... I read the script and it was like the most bizarre thing that anyone has ever written (laughs), but it was genius and right away I was like, “I wanna be a part of it.”
Nylon: You seem to always sort of alternate between smaller, more independent movies like Being John Malkovich and bigger budget projects like Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday.
CD: To me a film is a film—the budget has nothing to do with it. Because every experience is totally different. With Malkovich it was like working with a smaller, more intimate group of people, just being the four of us for the most part. And then on Oliver’s it was like 30 people on the cast, like 30 people just trying to get their parts in in 60 days, their stories in. That was a real challenge. I like to work with actors, so I like to wok with good casts. I like to be like one of four or five actors in a cast. I get drawn to stories like that.

Nylon: Do you feel like you’re getting better as an actress? Do you ever watch your older movies and think about how you’ve progressed?
CD: It’s interesting, because something I’ve been exploring recently is that the first five or six films I did I had no idea what I was doing. (laughs) I’d never acted before and my only experience was the experience I was having on each set...which is still the case to this day. My lessons were coming from the other actors as we did it. And once I started watching other actors and experimenting with stuff within myself and having conversations with other actors about acting, all of a sudden I realized, “Hey there’s, like, a skill to this!”
Nylon: It’s a craft.
CD: It’s a craft! (laughs) I hadn’t studied any acting techniques or anything and then...The more I do it, the more I learn. And the more knowledge I have about it, the more I realize that there's more I can do. And the more I can do, the more fun I have, the more exciting it becomes, and the more risks you’re willing to take. It’s really exciting because it's this whole world opening up—there’s no limit. It can be scary to go with that because you’re doing it on film. You’re putting it out there in front of people. But I’m really selfish. (laughs) So I’m happy to kind of just go out there and have a good time.
Nylon: But do you feel a lot more confident now?
CD: I’m never happy with what I do, but I don’t get as frustrated as I used to on set. That’s where it really counts for me. Just to be able to solve a problem on set. Afterwards I can beat myself up all I want, but I’m the kind of person who just tries to live right here, right now. Try not to dwell on yesterday, try not to worry about tomorrow. The more I’m able to kind of just be more loose and free and have fun, the better I feel. I don’t want to go to work and be tortured. I don’t want to be there going, “Oh what do I do!?”
Nylon: Does it get really hard sometimes?
CD: Yeah, but it's like putting together a puzzle. It’s a challenge. I do want to be challenged when I go to work. I don’t want to be like, “Oh I know everything.” It’s like hiking or rock climbing or, you know, driving a car. (laughs) I love to figure things out right at the moment. I love that about life. I love to have that challenge. I like to know my character, but not know all the answers until they’re asked.
Nylon: So everything is a learning experience.
CD: I think so. I’ve done roles that maturity wise I wasn’t ready to do. I didn’t understand it at the time. Now I get it and I want to say those words over and do it again. But that’s how it is with every movie. As soon as I finish a film, like the day I wrap, I always go, “Okay I’m ready to start!” You know? I think everybody feels that way. You always feel at the end like you’re more prepared. It makes sense. You’ve played the character, you’ve done it.

Nylon: Does it ever surprise when you see the final cut of a movie you’ve done? It’s probably never exactly like you imagined it.
CD: Never. I’ve pretty much enjoyed the experience of seeing pretty much all the movies I’ve done even if they weren’t perfect – well, no film’s perfect, but even if it was one of those movies where… you know, you knew a lot of people weren’t gonna like. Or you’re just kind of disappointed. But at the same time, I couldn’t do it any better. (laughs) You know what I mean? I couldn’t put a fuckin’ movie together. I don’t have that ability, so I can’t really judge. I did my part and I hope the filmmaker did the best he could do. That’s all I can do.  I can’t be like, Why wasn’t the movie better? I don’t think I could do it any better.

Nylon: Would you ever want to direct?
CD: No. (laughs) It’s a really huge responsibility. Maybe 40 years from now I’d be capable… I’m not good with a lot of things on my plate at one time. When I eat, literally, I like to pile everything on and eat all of it together and take a full plate, but in life, metaphorically speaking, I cannot deal with more than one thing on my plate at a time.

Nylon: Is there any actor you could name, past or present, whose career path you’d like to pattern your own after? Some person you admire for how they’ve navigated through the business of acting?
CD: I don’t know, because it’s hard… I think, um… Bill Murray? (laughs) You know? Somebody who’s really a bad-ass and has, like, really great fun, and doesn’t care, you know. Bill Murray comes in and out when he wants to and doesn’t care. People can’t find him if he doesn’t want to be found. I don’t know. It’s hard to say because I just… I would love to be able to do what I'm doing now as far as just… ride what I have working right now and then go and start a family and do that thing. And then be forgiven for that and be able to come back and find work for myself that would continue to challenge me.
Nylon: What about that whole “start a family” thing? Anytime soon?
CD: I don’t see that happening right now, but I don’t think I’d want to wait and do it when I’m 40. I’ve got time, but also I just don’t want to keep running the same race all the time either. I’m not saying next time I slow down I want to start a family. (laughs) But definitely slowing down sounds like a good thing.

Nylon: As far as your personal life goes, does it drive you crazy when the tabloid-type media pry into your private life?
CD: Well, I don’t read those magazines. They’re not part of my life.  Let ‘em talk all they want! (laughs) You know what I mean? I think you get back what you give out. I don’t like negative energy. People want to judge others just so they don’t have to look at their own lives. So they can keep the attention off themselves. Then it makes them feel safe and good about themselves. I don’t worry about it.
Nylon: When it comes down to it, it shouldn’t be necessary for actors to do interviews at all, especially about their personal lives. I guess you just have to control the information you let out about yourself.
CD: I know. It’s true. It is a strange thing. But you know what? You don’t want to sound like an idiot. You don’t want to sound like you don’t have any thoughts in your head or an opinion about something. But at the same time it’s like – it’s nobody’s business (laughs) It’s a fine line. How do you make everybody happy and yourself happy? What do you put out there? I haven’t figured it out yet.
Nylon: But you are great about not going around acting like a “movie star” – you know, whatever that means—in your everyday life. Everyone I’ve ever introduced you to has had the same reaction afterwards. “She’s so great! She’s so open and funny and nice! She doesn’t seem like a movie star.”
CD: (laughs) Thanks. My personality’s just like that–very open. My whole family’s like that. My family’s very engaging. We like to engage people, you know, in conversation. That’s just where I come from. I enjoy it. I enjoy people. I like to say I hate people, but the truth of the matter is that people fascinate me and I’m drawn to them. And I’d rather get to know someone than not, than to have it be a mystery. I want to be direct with people, you know?