Cameron Diaz breezes into the restaurant of Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont hotel, where she is greeted like an old friend by the wait staff. “We haven’t seen you in a while,” the maitre d’ says, and Cameron nods wistfully. “I know!” Time was, Cameron Diaz would be at the Chateau each weekend without fail, feasting on their “Sunday Fried Chicken”-- something of a religious experience, judging from the way her eyes mist up at the memory. But since January, this self-confessed “notorious eater” has been junk food (and fried chicken) free, marking the biggest shift in her lifestyle since she became a fitness devotee while filming Charlie’s Angels in 2000. Now that she’s applying her famously strict exercise discipline to her eating habits, life has improved “one thousand per cent” (one of her favorite turns of phrase). “I feel more alive in every way,” she says, sipping on sparkling water, her azure eyes as bright and as warm as they are onscreen.
Cleaning up her diet is just the latest phase in the evolution of Cameron Diaz, a woman hell-bent on forward motion, whose lifelong quest for inner and outer self improvement has endowed her with a surprisingly wise and mature demeanor. It contrasts with her public persona, that of the sunny, carefree bikini babe unafraid to plumb the depths of goofball comedy. In the upcoming Bad Teacher, for instance, she performs a jaw-droppingly awkward dry humping scene with her ex boyfriend and co-star, Justin Timberlake. “How brave is Justin in that scene—I mean, what guy would do those faces on camera? It’s so twisted!” giggles Cameron, who plays Elizabeth, a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed middle school teacher whose primary goals in life are to get a boob job and marry rich. “Twisted” is putting it mildly—surely, the “Bad Teacher Dry Hump” ranks alongside Diaz’ infamous “Hair Gel Moment” in There’s Something About Mary, or her karaoke scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding—classic Cameron Diaz moments that remind you this is one Hollywood leading lady who refuses to take herself too seriously. Didn’t she once say a girl should never be alone without her dildo, after all? “No, actually,” she says, pretending to be offended. “I said ‘the two things that women should absolutely have at all times are a dildo and a triple AAA card’. Because you should never stranded by the roadside without help.” And with that she lets out her trademark raucous laugh.
Aged 38 (she turns 39 in August), Cameron seems unlikely to “grow up” any time soon—but her playfulness should not be confused with frivolity. Because beneath the light-hearted exterior lies a soulful, thoughtful woman, one who is trying to figure out some of life’s bigger questions. “I’ve been having this evolution of mind, body and spirit for my whole life, but it’s been more intense over the last few years,” she says, citing the 2008 death of her father, Emilio as a major catalyst. He died suddenly, of pneumonia. “Something like that reorganizes everything in your life, and continues to. I have learned a lot about what I want, having gone through that loss.”
During her two hour heart-to-heart with Cosmo, (in which she opted for the very healthy roast chicken, served with kale and quinoa), Cameron revealed a set of well-formed personal philosophies on womanhood, spanning everything from ageing (“I love being 38, I am excited about being 39 and I am excited about being 40—I feel like life gets better as you get older”), to monogamy (“I absolutely don’t think it is natural—probably one of the biggest challenges of our society is to try and figure out how to come to terms with that”) and babies. She’s very publicly ambivalent about motherhood: “my family has never put that pressure on me…besides, my sister has four children. She did it, she took care of it.”
She even opens up about her current relationship, a subject she normally avoids in interviews. She’s dating New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, former beau of Madonna and Kate Hudson, and has been famously “on the down-low” about their romance. But when cameras zoomed in on the endearing sight of Cameron feeding A-Rod popcorn during the Superbowl—the most watched sporting event of the year—the cat was finally out of the bag.
“We were like, ‘oh my God, can you believe it?’” she recalls, laughing. “There are certain things you don’t want to give up completely, but in the end, we didn’t care. We laughed at it. We were just living our lives, and ultimately, you want to be able to go out and be in the world with the person you are with.” The ‘Cameron-A-Rod-Popcorn-Share’ was one of those cute, intimate lovers’ moments that neither of them had expected would be beamed around the world. In case you missed it, here’s exactly how it went down, according to Cameron. “He had finished his popcorn, so he went to eat some of mine and I was like ‘whoa—that’s my popcorn!’ I only had two pieces left!” She picked one piece of popcorn for him. “I said ‘ok you can have this piece’ and that was the only time in the whole game I fed him. Of course, the camera happened to catch us right at that moment.”
You might call Cameron Diaz a relationship girl—long term, high profile boyfriends have included Matt Dillon, Jared Leto, Justin Timberlake, and now A-Rod—but she certainly does not seem to have conventional ideas about relationships. She loves the word “lover” (“its a beautiful word. I think it encompasses everything that a relationship should be”), but the word “wife”—not so much. “I don’t need a title or a label. I am happy being somebody’s lover…to me it’s the same. It carries the same gravity.” In fact, she’s living proof that not all single women in their 30s are desperate to get a ring on their finger. “Marriage hasn’t been really important to me. I believe we’re where we’re supposed to be, and with whom we’re supposed to be, when we’re supposed to be with them.” Having never been married, isn’t she even a teeny bit curious about what it could hold? Not really, she shrugs. “If I try to lock something down and say ‘this is what it is’, then I’m missing out on all the possibilities of what it could be. Why put a limit on things?”
And while she’s not ruling out having kids (“I never put out “no”... I never say never”), it’s not high on the list of priorities either. Again, she’s challenging the stereotype—a childless woman in her late 30s, she’s clearly unconcerned by the tick-tock of her biological clock, or by any societal pressure to become a mother. “If (kids) did happen, it would be a considered decision for the right reasons, not because I felt any pressure from any place or from anyone,” she says. Bowing to pressure is “how you end up unhappy in your life”, she says. “I really don’t care what society thinks I should do. I live my life the way I want to live it, and I love my life. I am blessed every single day.”
Where her lack of definition in relationships might feel unsettling for some women, for Cameron, it’s how she feels happiest these days. Keeping things open and freeform is part of her ‘zero expectation’ approach to life—whenever she has placed expectations on herself, or on a relationship, the results have been ‘so unhappy’. “And that’s been the journey for me,” she explains, “realizing that the things that I always worried about were the things I was never satisfied with. The parts of my life that were really working well were always the areas where I had no expectations.”
Take her career, for example—she’s ranked among the top-earning actresses in Hollywood, has starred alongside Tom Cruise, Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio and John Malkovich, and her fortune is estimated at around $75million. Yet she swears she “never even thought about” whether she was going to be successful or not. “I never for one day wondered if people were going to see my movies. I just work as hard as I can—whatever the outcome is, it’s no business of mine.” Tom Cruise, her friend and co-star in last year’s action comedy blockbuster “Knight and Day” and in 2001’s “Vanilla Sky”, says he, and the rest of Tinseltown, knew right off the bat that Cameron was a golden girl. “From the moment we all saw her in The Mask and There’s Something About Mary, we all knew—this is an outstanding actress. This is a movie star.”
Even Cruise, a notoriously hard worker and accomplished stuntman, was impressed with Diaz’s work ethic and her fearlessness. “She blew everyone away with how well she can drive,” said Cruise of working with her on “Knight and Day”. “On set, Cameron was known as “CD” for short, and the stunt coordinators couldn’t stop talking about her. ‘Wait til you see CD drive this car, Cruise,’ they said. She was pulling 180s and 360s, right on the mark.”
Drew Barrymore, Diaz’ best friend, is fully aware of Cameron’s kamikaze streak—it’s something they encourage in one another. “She’s my sister, but we bro out and have crazy adventures together, and I always know that she is game,” says Barrymore, speaking from the office of her production company, Flower Films. “That has been a big part of our friendship, knowing that she will throw down at any time, as well as that sisterly, cozy, nurturing love that we have.” Adventures they have shared include skydiving in California and swimming with sharks in Tahiti. Swimming with sharks? Were they protected by cages? “There was no cage,” says Barrymore, with pride. “We need no cage.”
Where Barrymore is the “flowery and romantic one”, Cameron is more of the pragmatist in their friendship. And while Barrymore was born into one of Hollywood’s most fabled dynasties, Diaz, part Native American (Blackfeather), part Cuban, was raised in a blue collar family in Long Beach, with parents who encouraged personal responsibility from a young age (“I got up in the mornings and made my own breakfast—starting at five years old I could cook an omelet.”) Diaz went to a rough and tumble high school, where kids teased her for being skinny (Skeletor was her nickname) and rapper Snoop Dogg was in the year above. Their differences have never come in the way of Drew and Cameron’s friendship though—in fact, its what’s brought them closer together. “We have this polarity, but we are very honest about that with each other,” explains Barrymore. “We laugh and bicker about our differences—we don’t kiss each other’s asses. We give each other tough love.”
Cameron describes a typical tough love interaction between she and Drew—because there’s an art to being able to tell your best friend something they may not want to hear. “Its all in how you say it,” she explains. “Rather than telling someone “hey, you always do this”, you can say “hey do you ever realize that when you do this, this happens? Is that something you are aware of?”
Friends since Drew was 14 and Cameron was 16, and best friends since they filmed Charlies Angels, they now share the kind of closeness where if either is going through anything painful—romantic or otherwise—they simply move into each other’s homes until they feel better. Like many best friends, they speak their own language, and even have a special “noise”. Barrymore describes it as a “funny, primal girly moan—and it just goes on and on and on. It’s a sound only she and I understand. It’s about letting all the feeling out, rather than using words.”
It’s easy to imagine Drew and Cameron being friends forever, swimming with sharks and jumping out of airplanes when they’re gray haired and wrinkly—but the future isn’t something that Cameron likes to focus on too much. “I have no idea what I’ll be doing twenty, thirty, forty years from now. I am limiting myself if I do.” It’s not that she’s dislikes talking about the future, it’s that by over-planning things, she might miss out on adventures she never even knew were possible. Who knows—maybe she and Drew’ll fly to the moon together. “My present is so much bigger and better and brighter and funner and more exciting and more fulfilling than I would ever have been able to imagine,” she says. “I mean, two months ago I didn’t even know that I would not be coming here for Sunday Fried Chicken any more…you know what I mean?”
Published June 2011. This is an unedited version of the story I sent into Cosmopolitan.