Personal detailsName: Cameron Diaz
Born: 30 August 1972 (Age: 42)
Where: San Diego, California, USA
Height: 5' 9"
Awards: 4 Golden Globe and 1 BAFTA nominations
All about this star
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.