One day at a time
TORONTO-A lot of things had to go right for Cameron Diaz to be a movie star. She had to find a way to get an audition for the film The Mask, despite having never set foot on a legitimate movie set. The movie had to be seen, which probably seemed unlikely when it was shooting since there were no "name" actors in it. And even if those things did happen, she still had to take advantage of the very small role that she was out to get.
When Diaz showed up for media interviews for The Mask in July of 1994, she was so unknown and had such a small part in the movie that journalists assumed the actor Cameron Diaz played the male Hispanic who had the part of Niko (played by Orestes Matacena) in the film. The movie could have just faded away, but the lead actor, Jim Carrey, found fame with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective a few months prior to the release of The Mask.
Despite the odds, things have worked out pretty well for Diaz. She went from being buried deep in the credits of The Mask to stardom within three years. Eleven years after her first interview, there are hundreds of people waiting outside Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel to catch a glimpse of Diaz, who stars in In Her Shoes, which opens Friday (October 7). Inside the hotel, Diaz recalls that she was such a complete unknown during The Mask interviews that journalists were at a loss when it came to asking questions.
"People kept asking me, 'Where do you see yourself in 10 years?' And I would go, 'Wow, 10 years.' I was 22, and I said, 'Hopefully, I will be happy.' And they would say, 'What kind of roles will you be taking?' and I said, 'I don't know if I will be still be at this in 10 years,' and I didn't. I was just happy to be in a movie. I thought, 'Hey, this is fun. This is how I want to spend my time. I like making movies. I like the camaraderie. I like the expression. I like making people laugh. This is very gratifying to me.' And it's still great."
In Her Shoes has Diaz playing Maggie Feller, a woman who has always used her sexuality to get what she wanted. Unemployed and impoverished, she moves into her older sister Rose's (Toni Collette) Philadelphia apartment and discovers that Rose has left Post-it notes on all her valuables to stop her sister from stealing them. She doesn't protect a closet full of shoes, however, which Maggie filches from on a regular basis. After a final falling-out between the sisters, Maggie moves in with her father and finds letters from Florida-based maternal grandparents she has never met. Sensing that there may be money and valuables in easy reach at her grandparents' house, she boards a bus and heads south.
Diaz says that she has never been particularly interested in characters but instead looks at the project overall before making a decision. "Oftentimes, to a fault, I look at scripts as a whole. I should probably pay attention to the characters I am playing and what they do, but I am impulsive about my decision based on the contents of the entire script. I knew an actress who would do a film because there was one scene she wanted to play. It was worth it to her to do the whole film even though it was mostly shit just so that she could have that one scene.
"I have changed a bit over the years, though. I learned the hard way that you should look at the character to see what they have to do and where they are doing it. It was so bad in the beginning. I did a whole lot of movies where I was tied up or wearing wedding dresses or running barefoot through Minnesota in the middle of winter. And it was because I was so interested in the whole movie that I didn't see that I was tied up. Then I would get to the location and think, 'God, that's right! This won't be fun.' Someone told me one time that when you pick a script you should look at the location. She said, 'You want to be in the warm waters of the Bahamas for a few months. You don't want to do movies in Maine or Minnesota or Wisconsin.'?"
The script calls for Rose to lash out at Maggie and tell her that her looks will eventually change and that she will no longer be able to use them to get what she wants. Diaz says that although she knows that roles won't be as easy to get when she ages, she expects to grow old gracefully.
"I really look forward to growing older. I love being 33 and I look forward to being in a retirement village with seniors. I think it would be awesome. You never know what will happen with the turn of events, but at this point of my life I look forward to moving forward and aging gracefully. I would hope that I would keep enjoying a happy lifestyle and be healthy and happy the rest of my life.
"But, you know, I have never been much for planning ahead. I really do take things one day at a time. If tonight was not scheduled [for the film's premiere], I would not have any idea what I was doing. I start to feel anxiety when it comes to thinking about the future. I think it is a waste of energy to try to predict it. I know that you can make decisions today in hopes that something will turn out to be a certain way in the future, but for me it is best to make the decision for right now because this is who I am. I don't know about 10 years from now, but I will make the best decisions based on what is present in my life now. That is kind of how I do thing things. Hopefully, I can still be making career decisions 10 years from now."
Later in the day, Diaz will blast photographers at a news conference for continuing to shoot her after she had asked them to stop. In the interview, she admits that her fame, and a relationship with the younger Justin Timberlake, have made her life difficult. She says that there are times when she feels as though she is at war with the paparazzi.
"You have to be strategic, because it can become like warfare. It is you against them, and it is a huge waste of energy. I often think, 'I wonder what I would be thinking about right now if I wasn't thinking about the 16 guys following me and whether they are going to attack me when I get out of my car.' It would be nice to have other thoughts."