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Cameron Diaz - Biography

Cameron Diaz

Personal details

Name: Cameron Diaz
Born: 30 August 1972 (Age: 41)
Where: San Diego, California, USA
Height: 5' 9"
Awards: 4 Golden Globe and 1 BAFTA nominations

All about this star

Biography:

Many were jealous to the point of fury when Cameron Diaz made her film debut in the high-budget Jim Carrey vehicle, The Mask. Here’s another good-looking bit of fluff stealing another prime role, it was said - she’s all face’n’figure, no acting ability at all. Such accusations have been made about many an actress who's gone on to prove herself as a serious professional. They've even been made about actresses who were serious professionals already. Just because a performer's beautiful it doesn't mean she hasn't won a scholarship to the Actors' Studio and starved off-Broadway for fifteen years.

Thing is, in the case of Cameron Diaz, those enraged attackers were pretty much correct. Before her debut, there’d been no acting classes, no honing of her skills in repertory, no years of rejection. She was a successful model, and there can be no doubt that her looks played a huge part in winning her the role in The Mask. What’s incredible about Diaz is not the story we don’t know - that hoary old tale of the building of knowledge and experience - it’s the story we do know. For this model, this complete non-actor was actually excellent in The Mask. Beyond this, within two years she was starring opposite Harvey Keitel, within three she was alongside Julia Roberts, within five it was Al Pacino. And, miraculously, she more than held her own beside all three. Immediately, somehow, she was a world-class screen actress, a complete natural, a freak of cinematic nature.

Cameron Diaz was born on the 30th of August, 1972, in San Diego, California. Her father, Emilio Diaz, was a second generation Cuban American and worked as a foreman for an oil company. Her mother, Billie, was an import/export broker of English, German and Native American descent (a complex blend of bloodlines that helps to explain Cameron's outrageous good looks). There was also an older sister, Chimene.

The family Diaz moved up the coast when Cameron was young. She attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, former alumni including John Wayne (for one year) and Snoop Doggy Dogg. An eclectic mix, for sure, and probably not one of which the Duke would have approved. Co-incidentally, being as Cameron would go on to play the owner of an American football team in Any Given Sunday, Long Beach Poly has produced more NFL players than any other school in the nation. Also co-incidentally, part of The Insider, starring Al Pacino, Cameron's co-star in Any Given Sunday, was shot at the school (as were the classroom scenes in American Pie).

Cameron grew up in a two-storey, gray stucco house in Long Beach, famously one of America's largest shipping ports - the Queen Mary has been moored in the harbour since 1967. The population was young, as were Cameron's parents who had a definite laissez-faire attitude to their children. They'd take their daughters with them to parties, where their friends would treat the kids as adults - consequently they matured fast.

Cameron recalls school being fairly rough, remembering her father's advice that, should anyone challenge her to an after-school fight, she had to tell them she couldn't wait, she wanted to kick their ass right there and then. Tall and skinny from an early age, she was nicknamed Skeletor and hung out with the older kids. Hoping to become a zoologist, she kept two snakes, one of which grew to six and a half feet, and she bred mice to feed them (there were also the usual cats and dogs - NOT to feed to the snakes, you understand). Precocious and, by her own admission, not a little brattish, she was out driving with her first boyfriend, Lawrence May, when his Skylark pulled up alongside a Pacer. Diaz remembers telling him "If that Pacer beats us, I'm never going out with you again. I'm also going to tell everyone in school". As far as style went, Cameron was a rocker. She loved Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Whitesnake and, especially Ratt. She saw Metallica four times and her first gig, to which she was taken by her mother, was by Van Halen. Even now she says "If you really want to torture me, sit me in a room, strapped to a chair and put Mariah Carey on". With her poodle-hair, she'd dance at half-time at school football games.

By the age of 16, tall, mature Cameron was already attending Hollywood parties, without her parents as chaperones - Los Angeles only being 55 minutes away on the light railway. At one, she found herself being pestered by seedy-looking men, each telling her he could turn her into a model (amazing, really, as she recalls "I looked hideous. I was wearing a jump-suit with heels"). One, though, stood out. He said he could get her a deal with the prestigious Elite modelling agency and she noted that his business card, unlike the others, did not feature "a nude girl in a champagne glass". Also, he seemed to have a fax number AND a surname. As it happened, he was Jeff Dunas, a genuine high-class photographer with real connections. Cameron consulted her family and called him back. Within a week she did indeed have a contract with Elite. Her first job was an advertorial for Teen magazine. She received $125.

Graduating from High School in 1990, she went to work in Japan. Such was her parents' trust in her that her sole companion was a 15-year-old fellow model. The pair shared a two-bedroom apartment. Four blocks away, Cameron was pleased to find, was a building containing seven nightclubs - she says she spent much time riding that elevator.

In Japan, aside from building a professional reputation, two important things happened. One, she allowed a photographer she'd worked with, a friend of her model friends, to take nude pictures of her. They were intended for her own portfolio and she thought nothing of it - until 1995, when the shots turned up in Celebrity Sleuth magazine, without Cameron's consent and much to her embarrassment. Two, she met video director Carlo de la Torre. This was love, big-time. When she returned to America, the pair moved in together. They'd remain a couple for five years.

So, still not 20, Cameron found herself jetting between exotic locations - Australia, Mexico, Morocco - modelling for fashion magazines and catalogues, appearing in adverts for the likes of Nivea, LA Gear, Calvin Klein, Levi's and Coca Cola. Her fees rose to $2000 a day. She was having a great time. Once, while making a Coke ad on Bondi Beach, she drank all manner of cocktails, then proceeded to a Japanese restaurant where she quaffed 30-year-old sake. The next day, suffering terribly, she recognised that she'd poisoned herself quite severely. She says she lost seven pounds in 24 hours. Where from is anyone's guess.

Then came The Mask, quite by accident (oh, it's enough to make you puke!). Cameron was visiting the office of the agent charged with getting her TV ads, and she noticed a script on the desk. She asked what it was and, when told, jokingly said she could do it easy. Taking her at her word, the agent set up an audition and, twelve auditions later, she had so convinced director Chuck Russell of her innate abilities that he lobbied for her, and she was in. And she was great, despite the problems of working with SFX AND the fact that - as she does before every movie - she suffered terrible stomach pains due to stress. Indeed, before The Mask, she had worried herself an ulcer. These days she relies on special breathing techniques to calm herself.

At the next year's ShoWest award ceremony, Diaz would be voted Female Star Of Tomorrow. But she was well aware of her lack of schooling. Immediately upon getting The Mask, she took acting lessons, and threw herself into a series of indie projects with ensemble casts - for experience's sake. Indeed, once she'd broken her wrist while practising martial arts for a part in Mortal Kombat (a part taken by Bridgette Wilson), and lost, to Gabrielle Anwar, a role in Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, ALL her next five movies were indies.

First came The Last Supper, where Diaz played one of a group of liberal students sharing a house in Iowa. Inadvertently killing a lunatic Bill Paxton, they decide that, each Sunday, they will invite one of the local right-wing crazies to supper, judge them Star Chamber-style, and whack 'em. It's funny and very, very black - Cameron fitting in well, despite the lack of Mask-type glamour.

Next came the rom-com She's The One, written and directed by Edward Burns, thenriding high on The Brothers McMullen and soon to appear in Saving Private Ryan and alongside De Niro in 15 Minutes. Here Cameron played a catty ex-hooker who messes up both Burns and his brother. She actually suggested her character's scenes be slightly rewritten to make her more likeable. Not so that audiences would like HER more, but so they'd better understand why the boys were falling for her. Burns agreed, and rewrote.

Next came Feeling Minnesota, where she played ex-stripper Freddie Clayton, who marries Vincent D'Onofrio in order to repay a debt but would rather be with his brother, Keanu Reeves. Going on the run with Reeves, she's pursued by private dick Dan Aykroyd. Importantly, while filming the movie, Diaz found she was staying in the same hotel as Matt Dillon, in town to shoot Beautiful Girls. The two met, but nothing happened - she was seeing co-star D'Onofrio at the time. Dillon said he'd call when he got back to New York. He didn't - not for a year, anyway.

Now came Head Above Water, another black comedy, where Diaz played the young wife of judge Harvey Keitel, meeting ex-lover Billy Zane and having to conceal his body after his sudden death. Then there was Keys To Tulsa, where Cameron played down the bill to Eric Stoltz, James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger in a tale of blackmail, double-cross and revenge.

Now, having moved to LA, she took off. Having hit big with Muriel's Wedding, director PJ Hogan took on a big-budget Hollywood rom-com in My Best Friend's Wedding. Here, journalists Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts have been friends for years. Now he's to marry cute, kind, incredibly rich Kimmy, played by Cameron. Roberts, naturally, now decides she's actually in love with Mulroney and, advised by gay buddy Rupert Everett, attempts to wreck the wedding and claim Mulroney as her own. Unfortunately, Diaz is SO nice, Roberts finds it increasingly hard to ruin her life.

My Best Friend's Wedding was a massive hit, and proved a turning-point in Julia Roberts' career. It also launched Cameron, whose naivety and decency were hilariously over-the-top (she's a natural comic). Many remember the scene where, set up for humiliation by Roberts, she has to sing Bacharach/David's I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself at a karaoke bar. She's terrible, unutterably awful, but her courage wins over the crowd, thus foiling the sneaky Roberts. This is one reason why real audiences take so readily to Cameron. Though clearly beautiful and exceptionally talented, she's not afraid to send herself up and to appear less than perfect.

Next came A Life Less Ordinary, where she was kidnapped by vengeful Ewan McGregor, and a cameo in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. But her next big step came in another comedy, this time There's Something About Mary, the latest from the Farrelly Brothers, creators of Kingpin and Dumb And Dumber. By now, Cameron had hooked up with Matt Dillon, managing to keep the relationship together even though he lived on the East Coast and she on the West. Strangely, the Farrellys didn't know this when casting their movie. Nevertheless, in they both were, Cameron as the eternal love of geeky Ben Stiller, Dillon as the private dick who's hired by Stiller to track her down, only to fall for her himself.

The film was a sensation, as was Diaz in it. How innocent she seemed, how genuinely perturbed by the legendary zipper scene ("We got a BLEEDER!"). How brilliantly unknowing she was in the restaurant with her sticky hair, in what has become tastefully known as "the gel scene". How great she was with the manipulative Dillon, immediately forgiving his enormous political incorrectness, like when he says of a group of mental patients "Those goofy bastards! They make me feel alive!" Superb stuff. She well deserved her first Golden Globe nomination.

Having learned her craft so quickly in that series of indie flicks, she'd got the taste for low-budget movies, and would now attempt to balance her career, where possible, between big and small. On the small side, she played puppeteer John Cusack's wife in Being John Malkovich, entering Malkovich's head and having sex with Catherine Keener (another Golden Globe nomination). She joined the star-studded female ensemble cast of the intertwining Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, as a blind woman, then played a Seventies rebel who commits suicide, then has her secret life uncovered by her grieving sister, in The Invisible Circus. Apparently, she was beaten to the female lead in Waking The Dead by Jennifer Connolly, which just goes to show the implacable and uncompromising indieness of director Keith Gordon (you'll remember him as the supergeek owner of the killer car in Christine).

Beside these, she played the new football club owner, fighting for survival in a man's world, and threatening coach Al Pacino in Oliver Stone's aforementioned Any Given Sunday. She was the one truly huge star in the big screen version of Charlie's Angels. She was the voice of Princess Fiona, alongside Eddie Murphy in the mega-hit Shrek. Then she was the unhinged Julie Gianni, who sends lover Tom Cruise off the deep end in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky. She really just wants him for sex but can't bear it when he falls for Penelope Cruz. There's a horrible accident when she's driving, and it all goes haywire. Her performance won her a third Golden Globe nomination.

After this came Martin Scorsese's much-vaunted Gangs Of New York, a historical epic (possibly the last of its kind), following the battles between resident gangs and immigrating Irishmen in the Big Apple, back when it was only a small apple, in the mid-1800s (ongoing famine at home quickly driving millions of Irish into exile). Diaz played Leonardo DiCaprio's love interest, Jenny Everdeane. Actually, she played EVERYONE's love interest, forming part of a "love square" with DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Brendan Gleason. On a stormy set, Cameron took on a Henry Kissinger role, helping to keep hardcore arguments under control. The same year, 2002, would bring a blink-and-you-ll-miss-it appearance on a train in former co-star Tom Cruise's Minority Report.

. Beyond this, there was The Sweetest Thing, where Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair played superficial buddies obsessed with clubs, cute boys and cool clothes. Cameron's life changes, though, when she meets potential Mr Right Thomas Jane and must figure out how to impress him. It was icky stuff, for the most part, any real wit being drowned in a torrent of toilet humour. Next Diaz would content herself with two sequels. First was Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle where the girls sought to solve a series of murders, prime suspects being Demi Moore's ex-Angel and Crispin Glover's thoroughly strange and vicious Thin Man. Then would come Shrek 2, where her Princess Fiona introduces her beastly beau to the parents. A stunning financial success, Shrek 2 would rake in $436 million at the US box office and nearly $1 billion worldwide.

It may seem a tad vulgar to mention the money but by the 2000s it was surely clear to everyone that finances were dictating Hollywood's output as never before. Furthermore, the cult of the celebrity had tabloids and magazines obsessing over stars' wage packets. This was how stars' importance was now judged, and so Diaz, whose $20 million pay cheque for Charlie's Angels 2 had brought her level with Julia Roberts, was acclaimed as the joint biggest female star in the world (perhaps fair enough as she'd starred in nine $100 million-plus movies in the last 10 years). The tabloids, of course, would not leave her alone and endlessly covered her relationships. Her time with Matt Dillon having ended in 1998, she'd moved on to Jared Leto, star of Urban Legend, Girl, Interrupted and Fight Club. They'd got engaged in 2000 and the tabloids had a field day, claiming that Cameron was going to dump him because, in researching his role as a junkie in Requiem For A Dream, he'd given up sex and then, to recover from his exertions, spent time in a monastery without telling her. When they did split, in 2001, it was said to be due to Leto's canoodling with Paris Hilton, the mad sod. But then they were reunited, with Leto then having to suffer inevitable rumours of a Diaz flirtation with Leonardo DiCaprio.

2003 would see them break up for good, Diaz taking up with the pop star and fledgling actor Justin Timberlake, 9 years her junior. This relationship would bring even more attention, 2005 seeing Diaz and Timberlake separately sue British papers for accusations of infidelity. Both suits were successful, and Diaz would have more joy in the courts the same year when photographer John Rutter was sentenced to nearly four years in jail for forgery, perjury and attempted grand theft, having demanded $3 million from Diaz for the return of topless bondage-style shots he'd taken of her before she was famous.

Having dropped out of Fun With Dick And Jane, a possible reunion with Mask star Jim Carrey, due to scheduling problems, Diaz would appear only once onscreen in 2005. This was in In Her Shoes where she played a ditzy bimbo, carefree and sexually-liberated, who's forced to move in with her straight-laced lawyer sister Toni Collette. Diaz steals, trashes and betrays at will but, discovering she has a long-lost grandmother in Shirley Maclaine, she's taught to find joy in competence and responsibility by the old lady and her retirement home buddies. It could have been the most cloying of chick flicks, but strong performances kept it all credible. Her next movie would also sail close to the wind, being written and directed by Nancy Meyers, famed for such sick-making additions to the canon as Something's Gotta Give. Here Diaz would play a go-getting movie trailer-maker in Beverly Hills, stressed-out and unlucky in love. On the 'Net she meets Brit journo Kate Winslet who's having a hard time with super-cad Rufus Sewell and the two girls decide to nab a cheap holiday by swapping houses. Flitting over to a snowy Blighty, Diaz is soon interrupted by a visit from Winslet's brother, drunken widower Jude Law, and romance quickly follows. There were big holes, non-sequiturs and oceans of slush, but the charming Diaz and Law managed to escape relatively unscathed.

Personally, 2007 would be a difficult year for Diaz. In January it would be announced that she'd split from Justin Timberlake, a painful blow. Thrown off-kilter, she'd then be seen with musician John Mayer and magician Criss Angel, even being named in Angel's divorce proceedings. Onscreen she'd pop up in Sol Guy's TV show 4Real where celebrities would travel the world to encourage young people who were changing their community for the better. Diaz would trek to Peru to cheer on a young chap keeping the ancient knowledge of his tribe alive. She'd end the year with a giant hit in Shrek The Third, where she'd be locked up by Rupert Everett's malicious Prince Charming while Shrek travels to find Justin Timberlake's Artie, a potential heir to the throne. An additional 30-minute Shrek Christmas special would also be filmed.

The hits would keep coming in 2008 with What Happens In Vegas. Here Diaz would play a high-flying Wall Street executive, obsessively meticulous, planning every second of her day.

Dumped by her fiance, she's in Vegas with a gay friend, licking her wounds, when she's given the keys to the same hotel room as slacker Ashton Kutcher, the mis-matched pair proceeding to get drunk and married. Regretting it in the morning, they then win millions on the slots and are told by a judge they must remain wed for six months before a decision on the cash can be made. They then attempt to make each other as miserable as they can before, naturally, changing their respective tunes. Some critics would be cutting, Diaz being nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actress, but the box office would tell another story.

By now Diaz could play rom-com in her sleep. More of a test would be the three episodes of Saturday Night Live where she'd play Kiki Deamore, a middle-aged Cuban sexual predator brought on to the Cougar Den show to advise the ladies on makeup and scoring with far younger partners. In her first episode, clad in sparkly top and tight orange pants, she'd purr hilariously over toy boy James Franco, an emo musician from the band Edge Of Confusion. In her second she'd promote her new cougar lifestyle guide Pounce On It, while leering at her new boyfriend, tennis coach (and recent co-star) Ashton Kutcher. Finally she'd turn up with gay cougar Alec Baldwin, with whom she's written a further guide, Stop That Boy, I Want To Get On. The joys of young lovers would be discussed in blood-curdling detail, with Diaz ending by crawling over Baldwin to seize upon her next victim.

Thankfully, Diaz would steer clear of rom-coms for some time now. Her first release of 2009 would be the drama My Sister's Keeper where she'd play a successful lawyer married to fire chief Jason Patric. As their daughter Sofia Vassilieva has contracted leukaemia at 5 they've genetically engineered another daughter, Abigail Breslin, to act as a constant donor. Breslin, however, having given stem cells and bone marrow, rebels when told to donate a kidney and seeks out lawyer Alec Baldwin (Diaz's recent cougar buddy) to protect her. Now Diaz, a winner fiercely proud of her success in keeping Vassilieva alive, is caught in a heart-rending situation. She'd also be morally tested in The Box, based on a Richard Matheson story printed in Playboy in 1970. Here she'd be married to James Marsden, who's just lost his place on an astronaut training programme. Now a stranger appears, telling them that if they press the button on top of a mysterious box they'll receive one million dollars. The only drawback is that someone they don't know will die. It was an effective thriller, emotional weight being lent by Diaz who's sweet and kind, but also earnest and deeply pragmatic. The year would end with more comedy in an appearance on Sesame Street. On a personal level, Diaz would be connected to the Scottish actor Gerard Butler and the British model Paul Sculfor.

2010 would be another big year, Diaz's first release being another addition to the Shrek series, where the evil Rumpelstiltskin would turn the titular ogre's world upside down in a disturbing It's A Wonderful Life fashion. Following this would come James Mangold's Knight & Day, a reunion with her Vanilla Sky co-star Tom Cruise. An action comedy set in many glamorous locations, this would see the couple pursued across the planet, unable to trust anyone, even, perhaps, each other. After this there'd be The Green Hornet where Seth Rogen would play the good guy who runs the San Francisco Sentinel by day and combats crime by night. Now he must deal with corporate machinations, Chinese gangs and drug-smuggling, being aided by his secretary Diaz, who's aware of Rogen's double-life and gets involved.

Cameron Diaz certainly doesn’t need money, particularly as, being a big fan of fries and Egg McMuffins, she’s so cheap to feed. Besides, she has her own restaurant, Bambu, down in Miami. One thing she’d like, certainly, is more good parts, and you can bet she’ll be scouring the works of her favourite authors, Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski, to find material. She's also moved gradually towards using her fame for the greater good, in 2005 lecturing at Stanford University on environmentally friendly design.

In the meantime, she seems, pretty much, to have it all. 

Dominic Wills

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