Candid Cameron Diaz

You may think that Cameron Diaz's latest role, playing the mother of a dying child, is a blatant Oscar bid – but she denies it. The actress tells Gill Pringle what her real motivation is for taking on such a hard-hitting part

Pressed into promotional duties for her latest film, My Sister's Keeper – in which she plays a wife and mother of three kids, including a terminally ill child – Cameron Diaz can see the inevitable questions a mile off.

As yet unwed, and childless, the 36-year-old actress smiles, turns those bright cornflower-blue eyes up to full wattage, and prepares for battle. "I think it's only normal for people to ask my views on motherhood, especially of someone my age, because it seems like the obvious thing, like 'Why haven't you done it yet?' But it doesn't bother me. It's not the cross I bear. I simply have no idea at this stage in my life. Besides, I'm still young," she says.

"I have one nephew and four nieces, I've seen three births, two vaginal, one C-section... I've been there for the dirty diapers, I've done the bottles... I know what it takes to do it. I think that I have a good sense of what it takes to be a mother and, although I'm not mother, I feel that it's the closest I can get.

"I also understand about loving very deeply and knowing that I would do anything just to save somebody that I love. No, I'm not the mother of a sick child but I can imagine those feelings.

"I also don't know what it's like to be an 18th-century pickpocket, you know what I mean?" she says, in reference to Gangs of New York. "Or to have a mother who killed herself as with In Her Shoes, and have to deal with that. But that's what us actors do," she says.

My Sister's Keeper is pure Oscar fodder – Diaz plays a mother who has a genetically engineered test-tube baby to use, essentially, for spare parts for her eldest daughter who is dying of leukaemia. Sofia Vassilieva gives a heart-wrenching performance as a sick teen whose illness is only complicated by her fighting family. Abigail Breslin, already a former Oscar nominee for Little Miss Sunshine, plays the sister whose burden it is to help keep her big sister alive.

Asking an actor if they would like an Oscar is usually like asking a dog if it would like a bone. However, in Diaz's case, her reply is unexpected: "No! Do you know what you have to do to get an Oscar? You have to talk to a lot of you people for like days and months on end. Not you, though. I'll talk to you any day!" she adds, realising that this might not be the wisest remark.

But her response is only partly in jest. The truth is that she is one of the most "papped" actresses, owing to her past relationships with Justin Timberlake, Matt Dillon, Jared Leto, John Mayer and, more recently, British model Paul Sculfor.

High-profile legal battles with US tabloid media over paparazzi photos have left her cautious: "Look, when I meet people I'm happy to say hello. I'm not in a bubble; and I don't go through the world not talking to people. I'm in the world; it's just the way I live my life. But I can't always stop and take pictures or sign autographs because everybody's got a camera these days."

The paparazzi, it seems, won't leave her alone – even suggesting she had shaved her head for a poignant scene in her latest film. "Of course I didn't shave my head! I mean, I would be like a scientific freak right now. They would have me in a lab with my scalp, trying to figure out how I grew my hair back so fast. But the paparazzi will say anything to sell their pictures, believe me," she says, playing with her wispy blonde hair, as we sit together in a Santa Monica hotel room.

One of Hollywood's most successful models-turned-actresses, by her own admission she has no desire to churn out films. She has made only 25 movies – not including her voice work in the Shrek animated series – since she first appeared 15 years ago alongside Jim Carrey in The Mask.

"But awards have never been a motivation to do what I do. I'm not doing this to be 'on top' or whatever. I'm doing this to tell stories, particularly with this one. So when I accepted this role, I wasn't thinking to myself, 'Oh people don't see me as a mother! I'm gonna play a mother and then maybe I'm gonna get these other parts...'," she says, adopting an over-the-top "lovey" voice.

"And it's not like I even view this role as some kind of stretch because it feels as if I haven't played the same character twice or even told the same story. I look at it sort of like, 'OK, I did The Mask, and then I did Last Supper, Feeling Minnesota, My Best Friend's Wedding... and then There's Something About Mary that made everybody look. But then I did Being John Malkovich, Any Given Sunday, Gangs of New York and Vanilla Sky... Oh my God! Why am I going through my career?!" she laughs, as if waking from a personal reverie. "Umm, you know, so I feel like I have done a lot of different things."

It was Diaz's demonstrated versatility which attracted My Sister's Keeper director Nick Cassavetes in the first place: "I've been a fan of Cameron for a long time and, frankly, her dramatic roles are among my favourites. And I understand that she is most often associated with comedy because she's so good at making people laugh. I mean, I wouldn't want Sacha Baron Cohen to make me cry but I think Cameron is equally capable of doing both," he says.

Submerged in her role as a mother forced to watch her family fall apart, Diaz sadly experienced her own loss in the midst of filming My Sister's Keeper. Production came to an abrupt halt last year when her 58-year-old father Emilio Diaz suddenly died of pneumonia. "I was in shock," she whispers. "My dad was a huge part of my life and I think about him every day still. He will be a part of me forever."

However, it's clear that Diaz doesn't like to be sad for too long. She has an infectious laugh and nobody could accuse her of not having a sense of humour. She sent up her former relationship with Timberlake – nine years her junior – in a sketch on US satirical show Saturday Night Live entitled "The Cougars' Den". Co-starring Alec Baldwin, she portrayed a particular lustful "cougar" known as Kiki Damore. "I like to enjoy myself," she says. "If you can't laugh at yourself, then what can you laugh about?"

Together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Diaz was one of Hollywood's first "green advocates", both driving Priuses and appearing on platforms promoting sustainable living. And, proving that it's not just lip-service, today she sips from a huge aluminum water bottle and a thermal coffee mug.

"What's wonderful right now is that there's more and more opportunities to incorporate this sustainability into your life," she says, eagerly indicating her one-and-a-half-litre water bottle. "I have 10 of these at home, and then just fill one or two with water before I leave for the day and keep them with me. I think right now is a critical time; it's time for us to learn more and I want to be part of helping people to learn more.

"I can't always be perfect but you try to balance it out; it's not a perfect world. Unfortunately, I can't transport myself to a world where we can do everything perfectly all the time but every day we're moving forward to create that world and that's what I'm trying to do."

'My Sister's Keeper' opens on 26 June

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat