Cameron Diaz is the woman everybody wants at a party – fun for men and not threatening to women, like a female George Clooney. A perennial fun-seeker, she is the centre of attention wherever she goes, be it the ski slopes, the beach she is an expert ski-er and surfer – or the nightspots of Hollywood.
So it comes as something as a surprise when the MTA – Hollywood-speak for “model-turned-actress” – tells me she thinking of leaving Hollywood and settling down.
Well, for a year or so anyway. And an even bigger surprise is where she wants to put down temporary roots.
The 37-year-old actress, who has been on the move since going to Japan at the age of 16 as a leggy young model, sees herself as, wait for it .a farm girl.
“I don’t want to say I’ve seen it all because this world is so vast, but I’ve always been on the move and what I’d love to do is spend a whole year in one place, actually on a farm, where I get to raise my own crops and my own livestock and for once in my life see just how life is cultivated,” she told me earnestly, her usually smiling face looking serious.
“It’s almost like this primal thing. I really just feel like the earth is where we all come from and we have nothing if we don’t have soil and water and sun. I’ve read a lot about agriculture and I feel the need inside me to work with the earth in some way. I guess it would be like a painter having to paint.” Her smile returns, her eyes sparkle and the putative farm girl is once more the sophisticated woman in expensive designer clothes with an entourage of publicists and protectors.
There is no doubting her sincerity but it is difficult to imagine Cameron Diaz in non-designer jeans and Wellington boots enduring the deprivations of a farmer’s life.
Tom Cruise, who co-starred with her ten years ago in Vanilla Sky and re-teams with her for the big-budget comedy-adventure Knight And Day, says: “She’s one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet and a lot of fun.
She’s talented, funny, athletic and a great actress. Always fun.” She certainly smiled and laughed a lot as we talked in a penthouse suite at New York’s Mandarin Oriental hotel shortly before the movie’s U.S.premiere. She looked casually chic in a Marc Jacobs tailored moss green jacket over a black tank top and tight blue jeans with a slim gold bangle on each arm. She appears to have an easy-going attitude to life and a natural sex appeal that has helped her become one of the world’s highest paid female stars although some of her movies have not been of the highest calibre and her acting talents have not always been obvious.
In Knight And Day—the only reason for the title is that the studio marketing department thought it would appeal to a wide audience—she plays June Havers, a woman on her way to her sister’s wedding who gets sucked into international intrigue and a round-the-world chase by Cruise, a rogue spy on the run.
Directed by James Mangold, the plot is a convoluted mish-mash of double-crosses, close escapes and almost non-stop chases, explosions and shootings involving planes, trains, cars, motorcycles and helicopters.
Tellingly and somewhat naively Diaz admits: “The script kind of went out of the window and we wrote this movie along the way. There were a lot of times when even the action sequences were sort of made up as we went along.
“Every day we just went in and had a laugh. We wanted to make a movie that people would have fun at and we had fun doing. When you do a film where you want the audience to be laughing and you spend a lot of your time laughing while making it, then you know it’s going to be genuine.” She becomes defensive, however, at the notion that it is not a movie that calls for much acting ability. “There are different kinds of acting,” she said. “Sure there are dramatic parts and parts where you are really going for it but there’s just as much acting going on in this film because we’re playing characters and my job as an actor is to take care of my character and make sure that person’s story is told.” Then she adds, laughing: “I do find, though, that in a film like this that is so big and is changing constantly that it’s a harder job to manage a relationship with your character because we’re moving around so much and it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on.” Raised in Long Beach, California by her Cuban oil worker father and her mother, who worked for an exporter, Diaz was “discovered,” appropriately enough, at a Hollywood party by a fashion photographer when she was 16-years-old. With her parents’ approval she spent five years modelling all over the world, which she credits with giving her the independence and confidence that have been hallmarks of both her personal and professional lives.
When she was 21 Cameron Diaz auditioned for a small role in Mask, opposite Jim Carrey, and after 12 auditions she was instead given the leading role of Carrey’s chief love interest. She was suddenly a hot commodity and few actresses have had a faster ride to the top.
She appeared in a series of independent dramas such as The Last Supper, Head Above Water and Feeling Minnesota which, while they allowed her to improve her newfound acting skills, flew under the radar. In 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, holding her own against the star power of Julia Roberts, she emerged as a serious contender for the romantic comedy throne and then in Something About Mary sealed her image as a sunny, smiling, yet slightly edgy bombshell.
She has continually attempted to defy expectations with dramatic roles in films such as Any Given Sunday and Gangs of New York but as Nick Cassavetes who directed her in My Sister’s Keeper, says: “Cameron’s got that joie de vivre and people love her for it, but sometimes in Hollywood there’s a resistance to seeing someone in a different light.” She has remained single, through romances with Justin Timberlake, Jared Leto, Matt Dillon, John Mayer, illusionist Criss Angel, the English male model Paul Sculfor and, at the moment, Kate Hudson’s former boyfriend the baseball star Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. She keeps her thoughts about her relationships private but claims she is still friends with her past loves.
While many of her friends are having or adopting babies, Diaz is definite that she has no intention of following their example for some time yet, if at all. “I knew all along that if I had a child I wouldn’t be having all the other things I wanted in my life so I didn’t have a child and I got those things,” she said matter-of-factly.
As she beamed goodbye and, with her entourage in tow, headed for the door on her antique gold woven Casadei heels, it was difficult not to reflect that she could find life tough down on the farm.