After more than a decade – and 30 movies – as Hollywood’s most lustrous leading lady, Cameron Diaz towers over Tinseltown. Adrian Deevoy rides shotgun as the local girl done (extremely) good talks fast on the American dream, the dating game and going ‘bi-coastal’.
Another highly illegal manoeuvre,” laughs Cameron Diaz, pulling a savage U-turn into an unsuspecting LA side street. “What’s up, baby? Are you scared?”
“Only because you’re driving like a lunatic, darling.”
“Sum yung gai?” she says, switching inexplicably to Chinese and implying, implausibly, that her passenger is in some way homosexual. “You wan’sum yung gai?”
You could be forgiven for believing this was a scene from her latest knockabout romcom wherein Cameron’s character bumps into an old flame from London and takes him out for a date in LA… with hilarious consequences.
But no, this is a verbatim exchange as we set out to lunch in Cameron’s celebrated Prius hybrid, on a honeyed Californian morning sometime in between Valentine’s Day and the Oscars.
Earlier, she had collected your reporter from the Sunset Marquis in Hollywood. “It’s me,” she had whispered, perhaps unnecessarily. “And guess what? No paparazzi assholes on my tail.”
She is dressed in narrow jeans, high-heeled, scuffed tan boots and a tight cream cardigan. Her jewellery is similarly discreet – a small golden teardrop on a fine chain, delicate hoop earrings and a single stone ring. Her hair is tied back with a few blonde fronds doing their own thing at the front. She smells sweet, like a meadow and, as ever, she’s fantastically funny.
With quality time to spend we decide upon the dream date: dim sum in China Town; an art gallery, maybe the MOCA [Museum Of Contemporary Art]; coffee in some funky neighbourhood then a drive around a few lesser-known pockets of LA, her hometown. “This is going to be fun,” she promises and with a surge of planet-friendly power, we are off. But not without a frankly smutty start.
“Ooh, that’s huge,” she gasps as I struggle to fit my old analogue tape recorder into the car’s dash. “So big and shiny. You’re never going to get it into my tiny…”
“Enough with the double entendres, woman. We’ve only just met.”
“OK,” she coughs, daintily. “I’ll be serious. All day. But it’s not going to be easy. Anyway look, we’ve met before, you know what I’m like.”
This much is true. Cameron Diaz was young and innocent (“No I wasn’t! I was just young!”) when GQ, or anyone for that matter, first encountered this unconventionally pretty, yet virtually unknown surfer girl from Long Beach. She had recently completed her debut movie, The Mask. Unbeknown to her at 22, the tongue-lolling comedy would turn her world on its head.
It’s a pleasure to meet Cameron Diaz again, now on her 30th feature film – a goofy, tender comedy with Ashton Kutcher called What Happens In Vegas – due to fizz and pop into multiplexes across the globe early next month.
She repeatedly insists that she hasn’t changed but happily agrees that she now knows who she is and has accepted her God-given role as one of the most famous yet approachable stars. “As much as I don’t like people,” she says in one of many mind-twisting axioms, “I really want to meet every one of them.”
She has become a beautiful and captivating woman, having retained the slender, bendy body of a gymnast and the enquiring mind of a child. And she still has a smile that could stop the hands of time.
“Everything gets easier as you grow older,” says Cameron, turning her eyes – the colour of robins’ eggs – away from the road and then back again. “It’s just great. It’s about your spirit and the way you look at life. I’ve matured, definitely. But I kept an open mind about everything and that keeps you young. Age is just a number anyhow.”
That number is 35, and Cameron is a highly respected and stupendously paid actor.
She claims “not to have made that many movies in the past ten years”. (Shockingly, it’s been a full decade years since There’s Something About Mary – a film that made most right-thinking males fall in love with her.) Then remembers that she’s done “maybe a few Shreks. Oh, and some Charlie’s Angels and some other weird art house stuff, too.”
She coyly omits to mention that she has steadily come to master her craft and has held her own with all the big boys: Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, John Cusack and Tom Cruise.
“If you look to our left,” she smirks, refusing to rise to any co-star-bashing bait, “you’ll see Paramount Pictures where I shot Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. Ah, me and Tom. Actually, he has this amazing energy.”
As we roll, in an environmentally considerate fashion, along Melrose Avenue, she breezes through her impressive résumé without ever appearing to drop a name or blow any bum-bound smoke.
Thinking about it now, she says, she’s enjoyed the more unlikely projects – “Like Marty [Martin Scorsese] doing Gangs Of New York or Oliver Stone doing a football movie [Any Given Sunday]” – as much as the spunky comedies, the karate-kick chick flicks and the ogre-oriented box-office busters.
Perhaps her finest acting achievement, you suggest, was Being John Malkovich. Such was the heavy disguise and unflattering nature of the part, you didn’t realise that Cameron Diaz was in the picture at all.
“I loved that film,” she croons, taking an audaciously sharp left. “The chimp was amazing. A-f***ing-mazing. And John Cusack is such an interesting man. He has a really big brain. I love that.”
We take the carpool lane on the freeway and head downtown (“Are you excited? I am, I can go faster!”) A truck pulls out in front of us. “Suck it, buddy!” she screams and eases around the beast. “Could you pass the bottle of water at your feet there?” she asks, before combusting with laughter. “Perhaps you should have some, you seem a little anxious.”
Her laugh is an extraordinary gurgle, the sounds of a baby savouring a decent brandy. “I frickin luuurve drah-vin,” she whoops in a non-specific Southern accent. “C’mon, enjoy yourself, we’re on a date!”
Do many guys ask you out on dates?
“I do get asked out,” she says. “It’s fun. And I like boys. A lot. I’m boy crazy. That hasn’t changed since I was very young. I love boys. I’m a lot of woman. In a lot of ways. And I understand that it can be intimidating.” You appear to be a very accommodating person, are you really that open?
“I like to bring people in and make connections,” she allows. “But if I don’t like somebody, it’s not like they don’t know. I don’t pretend. If I don’t want to let somebody in, they don’t get in. I’m not afraid of people not liking me. If someone’s rubbing me the wrong way, they will know about it. Oh yes.”
Do you have a lot of male in you?
“I’ve never been girlie but I love that aspect of being a woman,” she puzzles. “But then, I really like all the things guys like, too.”
What, baseball and masturbation?
Being grumpy and hungry all the time?
“I am hungry all the time,” she says, finally turning off the freeway. “And I can be grumpy but that usually has to do with someone sticking a fucking camera in my face when I’m trying to buy my groceries. But that, I’m afraid, is how this town has become.”
Do you intend to leave LA?
“I’m going to get a place in New York,” she nods, affecting an exaggerated intellectual tone. “I’ll become bi-coastal. I feel I can have a life in New York, which is something that has become more of a task in Los Angeles. You get treated the same as everyone else in New York. Here, people have come to either become rich and famous or be near someone who’s rich and famous. It’s really sad. I never thought I’d get to the point where I thought I was done with LA – I’m from here – but…”
As if to prove her local’s credentials, Cameron locates the Empress Pavilion from memory explaining that this was where their kung fu master would take them while making the Charlie’s Angels movies. It’s a vast dining hall with a queue that can snake around the block.
Today the line is fairly short but remains impervious to A list, Golden Globe-grabbing, ninth most beautiful, best butt in the world clout. “There’s nothing I can do,” she pouts. “I’m hopeless at that Hollywood shit.”
So we pass some time, waiting in line, discussing her award-winning bottom. “I have a little butt,” she says, patting her compact rear quarters. “It’s not a big, chunky ass but it’s proportionate to my body. A while ago, I put on about six pounds and most of it went back there. Looked mighty fine, I can tell you.”
A few elderly Chinese diners turn in slow motion to watch this tall, pretty girl slapping her behind, then return to the more serious business of lunch.
A waitress pushing a trolley stops to tell her she’s pretty. “Does a girl ever get tired of being told she’s pretty?” she sighs.
“It’s when you’re told, ‘You’re much prettier than you look in photos.’ I mean, what the fuck? How are you expected to respond? ‘That’s because you saw some sleazebag photo of me loading up my car in my gym clothes?’ Is it a compliment? ‘You look half-human in real life’? It’s a weird one.”
We eventually secure a table for two. A grandmother dressed like Chairman Mao squints at us inscrutably. “Good look she’s rocking there,” says Cameron under her breath. “The whole military trouser-suit vibe. Liking it.”
Food arrives. Tons of it. Prawn dumplings, pot stickers, broadband noodles and enough Chinese broccoli for an entire dynasty; emerald green and threatening maximum flatulence. “We should be OK if we chew it well enough,” the lady, something of a gas expert, offers helpfully. “Do you want a pork bun now or shall we hold out?”
She eats heartily and burps only gently. Then the conversation turns to politics and she speaks, without any apparent oxygen requirements, for 15 minutes non-stop. Words tumble over themselves in a heartfelt rant about making America, “our country”, great again. It’s like Barack Obama in full flow, only less policy-phobic.
Are you ashamed of what Bush has done?
“I’m saddened by what has happened to America,” she says. “It’s been run terribly and American people have been completely led down the wrong road. I’ve travelled the world since I was 16 and in the past four years I have seen a sorry and definite decline in this country. That’s just a fact. A very sad fact but it’s real.”
But during the Bush administration, your life has improved immeasurably.
“Are you talking socially or economically?” she asks rhetorically. “I can’t give it to the politics of this country that my life has improved. The film industry is kind of immune to nationwide economics. We don’t suffer as much. If I worked in another industry then I may not have enjoyed such prosperity. I’m not denying that I have thrived, personally, under this administration but that doesn’t compensate for the world turning to shit all around us.”
Has it become harder to be an American?
“The openness towards Americans has dropped off massively. You can feel it. The love has gone. Luckily, as an actor, I’m not judged as being American. It’s been weird for me because although I’m white, I’ve always been labelled an Hispanic. I’m called Diaz. It doesn’t get more Spanish. Look, I’m half Cuban, part German, part English, part American Indian. Human beings do not come more mixed race than me. I’ve got blue eyes but I’ve always been a minority.”
What’s going to happen to America?
“I’m optimistic,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. “Looking at the statistics, it doesn’t look good. America lives in a bubble but that could work for us if we have the right person to lead us through it. I feel that America and Americans need to be empowered in a way that they haven’t been in the past eight years. We’ve been living with the notion of fear and terror for too long. Be fearful. Fear, fear, fear. That’s all we know now. It makes people more defensive, makes them smaller. We’ve got to connect again. This is the greatest nation on the planet. We can accomplish anything. We can be so powerful. Not in a scary military sense but in a cultural sense. We can be strong again. We just have to get the desire and confidence back.”
By the time she’s finished, her breastbone is lightly flushed and the broccoli has gone cold.
Ever thought about a second career in the House of Representatives?
“I can get very passionate,” she says. “Will you excuse me for a moment? I’ll be right back.”
During her political speech, a camera flash had popped a couple of times, highlighting the zealot’s fire in her eyes. It has just gone off again. Someone is taking photographs and Cameron isn’t happy. She marches up to the woman responsible, three tables away, places her hand on the amateur snapper’s shoulder, speaks a few short sentences, smiles broadly, then turns on her heels with a face like thunder.
“I said, word for word, ‘Hello, would you mind please not taking any more pictures of me while I’m eating. Thank you so much, have a nice day.’ Totally killed her with kindness. If someone’s going to get mad at me for being sweet to her then she’s got some serious issues. She wasn’t being malicious. She’ll stop now. If she starts up again then she’s being disrespectful… and that’s a whole other conversation.
Shall we have the ‘but you’re a celebrity… deal with it’ discussion?
“Celebrity has become one brand,” she argues. “There’s no distinction any longer. You have no choice about turning up in those magazines and so you’re locked in with everyone else who appears in them. And there is a distinction.”
Cameron digs an indignant chopstick into a parcel of unidentified sea creature. “I love my life,” she shrugs. “I don’t have any shame in being happy. You spend so many years in darkness with stuff eating away at you – it’s OK to be happy. No matter who you are, the same things will happen to us all. Unless you die, you’re just going to get older. Youth is always going to be wasted on the young. You’ll never truly appreciate what you have until it’s lost. That’s growth, that’s wisdom, that’s learning, that’s life.”
Privately, are you a cynical person?
“I absolutely have my cynical moments. I’m human. I go through every aspect of existence. Every day!”
Have you ever felt as if you were going mad?
“I did,” admits Cameron. “When the paparazzi were particularly hard-core for a while back there, I didn’t know if I could handle it. When I was being constantly followed it made me feel very vulnerable but I have put that in its place now. It’s such a primal thing. You’re being chased and backed into a corner and your instinct is to claw your way out. And I was raised a fighter. My dad taught me to never back down.”
Do you want to have kids of your own?
“For me it’s not so much about having kids as having a partnership,” she says seriously. “Someone I want to have kids with. Because that’s for the rest of your life. And I’ve yet to find that person. I think that urge to procreate comes and goes. I already nurture a lot in my life. It’s in my nature.”
Could you play a man, like Cate Blanchett did inI’m Not There?
“I think I could,” she frowns. “I’ve had enough experience with them.”
How do actors justify the amount of money that they are paid?
“It’s a business,” she says, politely refusing a plate of Peking duck, then immediately regretting it. “If I don’t get paid someone is going to make that money off me. The people pushing the numbers know exactly how it works. And they’re making more than me. But I’ve got to say, I work my ass off, too.”
Do you ever look at the cheque you receive for a film and feel embarrassed?
“Oh God, yeah!” she splutters. “All the time. Are you insane? It’s ridiculous! But you have to think globally and I am in a global business. I just accept that. Although,” she passes over our own cheque for the meal, “you can accept that. It’s only 16 bucks. Hey, I told you I was a cheap date.”
The MOCA is disappointingly empty. But it’s only eight dollars each. And as my date, according toForbes magazine last year, is worth around $75m, we agree to go halves.
Thankfully, the visit is a hoot. The permanent collection – come on down: John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol – is a modernist chocolate-box treat and Cameron is excellent company.
She hardly stops laughing for the duration but it’s done with such good grace that the stewards are soon chuckling along with her.
Some giant glass sperm on the floor? “Are they like, actual size?” A sculpture made out of bin liners? “I love a concept.” Mental squiggle on white canvas. “I’m no genius with art but I know what I like.” A large painting of two erect penises touching? “Don’t you guys hate it when your cocks bang together like that?”
But it’s not all flippant frolics and reductive tomfoolery. She is moved by Rothko’s bleak mindscapes and lingers over bleakly comic monochromes by Raymond Pettibon. Then there’s a small black and white photograph, a group of carefree young girls on a bench, that brings an unexpected tear to her eye.
Culture done, we drive over to Fairfax, “my lovely old neighbourhood”, for coffee. Before entering the lounge, Cameron removes her widescreen Chanel sunglasses and replenishes her lip gloss with a slippery coconut concoction. “Want some?” she asks in the time-honoured tradition.
Ordering a large espresso with a cup of foamed milk on the side, she mixes the two until “it’s exactly the right colour”. Then she helps do mine. Twice.
Inevitably, the conversation becomes distinctly caffeinated, the subject matter lurching like a damp-trousered tramp from the inarguable to the insane: the collective unconscious, death, thermodynamics, finding inner contentment through outer space, dogs that can sniff out cancer, moist handshakes, foreign languages (“I can hardly speak English”), reincarnation (how long do you have to wait between interstellar shifts?), favourite fromage (“any French triple cream that melts like soup”), invincibility, breaking the law, effective use of the C-word, how to make the perfect pancake and why men like to shove a hand down their pants when they’re on the phone. “Right,” she scoffs. “And like girls don’t do that.”
Having talked herself out of a post-lunch sandwich (“But I’m hungry again!”), we get back in the car and side-wind up into the Hollywood Hills.
We drive in silence for a few miles and I’m wondering just how former boyfriend Justin Timberlake managed with this girl who, like John Cusack, has a really big brain and, like Tom Cruise, exudes this amazing energy. The poor bloke must have been exhausted. I make a note to ask her about this later.
She answers obliquely when I do. “When I’m in a relationship, I’m very loyal and very committed. I give a lot. But it’s been nice not having a boyfriend for the past year. In fact, it’s the first time I haven’t had a boyfriend in, like, ten years and I’m enjoying what I’m getting out of this moment. I don’t worry about it. I could be in a relationship if I wanted to be and felt ready to be, but I’m not. I haven’t finished doing what I’m doing. When I have, I’m sure you’ll hear about it. But, right now,” Cameron grins, closing the topic, and adopting the voice of a crack-happy hooker. “I’m not done cookin.”
We pull up outside the Sunset Marquis. My big tape recorder is full. My little brain is aching. This afternoon she has to go and pick a frock for the Oscars. She’s thinking maybe pink. What do I think?
I think she should pop down for a drink afterwards. Surprisingly, she does. But that’s a whole other conversation…
A hug, a coconut-flavoured kiss and before you can say “drive safely”, Cameron Diaz has reversed her Prius up a one-way slope at an unrecommended speed. “Another highly illegal manoeuvre!” she hollers and waves a defiant fist in the air.
A lot of woman. In a lot of ways.
© 2008 Adrian Deevoy, British GQ. No copyright infringement intended.