There's something about Cameron
08/12/2009 07:04 PM | Warner Bros
The mere name Cameron Diaz conjures up carefree images of the comedic actress. Think about her going goofy in films like The Mask and There's Something About Mary with her trademark smile, blond hair, and model's body that has outlasted retirement from the catwalk. Her distinctive voice will probable always be associated with Princess Fiona in the Shrek movies. Oh, and legs up to her armpits — that were put to particularly good use in the Charlie's Angels franchise.
Taking on more serious roles, the jury's still out on her turns in Any Given Sunday, Gangs of New York and In Her Shoes. More recently she tackled being a successful businesswoman with bad luck in the love department in the romcom The Holiday.
Here Diaz talks about her latest and most serious film, My Sister's Keeper, in which she plays a mother struggling to keep her teenage daughter alive.
There's a glow that comes through within you, and it definitely has been utilised in your comedies. How much do you think that added to this performance?
It's hard to answer that because, obviously, I'm not watching myself. I think that as far as the darkness of this, I feel like Sara is a warrior. She's just sort of pushing through. She doesn't have a moment not to be vigilant. She can't be apathetic one second of the day. She has to push through.
She has a child who's dying and she has been through a decade of this vigilance. So, she's just sort of pushing through this.
She has such an intense focus that there wasn't really any room for anything else in her life. And what I found for myself was that it made it easier for me to just keep going.
Did you talk to mothers with sick children to research what your character might have gone through?
I did speak with them. It's interesting because no matter what the circumstances were and those things varied, but the one thing that was the same for all of them was that they said that there's just not a moment that you aren't focused on keeping your child alive. And whatever that is, whether it's reading the charts to make sure that the doctors are doing their job and that it's the right medication being given at the right time, or if this treatment doesn't work, what's the next treatment? All these things, the responsibilities that the mothers take on, and everybody else in the family suffers. This is the thing with families who have a member who has special needs, is that everybody else's needs go to the wayside.
I think that's what's so wonderful with this film, the way that Nick has crafted this film and shown these stories, is that you see how it's not one person's story — it's a sister losing a sister or a brother losing a sister, a family losing their family together, all of them suffering separately as well as together. And that's really the story of this film.
In the film, Kate says about your character, "I've taken away the love of my father's life." Is that part of it?
I think that's what's so enlightening and revealing about this movie is, like, who ever thinks that? In these movies typically, it's like this child is dying. You never really know what their internal experience is. You don't really get to see them or hear their words, like ‘My death is more than just me dying. It's how it's affected my entire family.'
And hating that her sister isn't going to get to play soccer or have children because of her. That's touching; that's the thing that kills you. I think it's very poignant.
This is a film that takes on very deep themes. Was that part of the attraction?
I think that it certainly helps. There was a certain level of maturity that had to come with playing this role that I think I had to step up to, which I was happy to do and thankful for. It was a nice stepping stone in the experience of life, so I was happy to have it.
Does it make you appreciate the more day-to-day aspects of life when you have to question mortality?
Definitely. It does do that for you. I think it certainly changes you. It's transformative.
There is a question of the morality of having a child to be an organ donor for a sick child. How did you approach that aspect?
That was something that in the very beginning I was like, "This is like touchy."
I would say, If your child was dying, would you do everything possible and anything possible to try to save their life? Yes. Would there be a moment if somebody said to you, "There's nothing that I can do; you're child is going to die." Would you believe them? No. Would you push to find something more? Would you make sure that you did everything that you could possibly do? Yes. If there was nothing but one thing that you could do, would you go after that? Yes.
Ultimately, you cannot make the decision to let a child die. It goes against every fibre of a parent. I'm sure there's somebody out there with a different opinion who might not think that that's the right thing to do. But I didn't make this movie as a moral statement. I wasn't saying to bring up the issue of whether or not it's a moral thing to do to have a child to save another child's life. That wasn't my intention. I didn't participate in this film to be a part of that story. I participated in it to be a part in telling this woman's story who has a child who is dying, and this is her journey.
Did you shave your head?
That was a bald cap, of course. I'll tell you who's amazing is Sofia [Vassilieva]. Oh, my God, 15 years old. Fifteen. That's like the most formidable years of your young teenage life where you get a sense of yourself and your self image. She had hair down to here, lots of it. It was her pride and joy. It was like she lived for her hair. It was really, really impressive. I was so inspired by her. I admire her so much for doing that. So, watching her do that, it made it easy to go, "Would I shave my head for a film? I don't know."
When you started to do the film, did you do something to bond with the children who'd be playing your kids?
First off, Abigail [Breslin] and Sofia both are total pros. I mean, these girls are such fine actresses, and Abigail, it's amazing to work with her. She's so generous; she's so present; she knows exactly what she needs to give. She is abundant. She's a little warrior, that one. People think, "Oh, soft little Abigail." Uh-uh, that girl is strong.
You mentioned the word warrior a couple of times. In what ways are you warrior-like?
I think that we're all warriors. (Laughs) I think that's sort of the nature. We might be living in a society that fills that desire. Gosh, I think, these days, we all think that our passions are just passions. But I think it's that the passion that we have is the thing that feeds our ability to be a warrior.
I'm passionate about the environment; I'm passionate about our planet, passionate not just about saving our planet for the planet's sake, but saving the planet for our sake. That's really more of my focus, is to keep life on the planet healthy so that we can have a good existence here. That's something that I'm very passionate about, so, in that way, I think I have a warrior sense.
And my family. I do have an older sister.
What's the thing that you've done for her or she's done for you?
Just being sisters. And I think that's really the great thing about this story, too, is that it really does illustrate a wonderful connection between the two girls as sisters and what they share as siblings. It's one of the most intense bonds, being with somebody from the time that you enter the world and being that close to one another. It's an intense bond.
My sister has four children herself. And watching her kids with each other and their bond is just amazing. As you get older, you see things and you remember when you were a kid, and people say, "Oh, wait until you get older, you will understand."
And then you go, "Ah. (Laughs) I understand."
Don't miss it
My Sister's Keeper opens in cinemas in the UAE tomorrow.