- The Lunch with L.A. Weekly Chief Film Critic Amy Nicholson: Tom Cruise, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘Snowpiercer’
- The Lunch with Director William Eubank of ‘The Signal’
- The Lunch with Gillian Robespierre, director, ‘Obvious Child’
- The Lunch with Alex Pappademas of Grantland.com on ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past …’
- The Lunch with AJ Bowen of ‘The Sacrament’
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Tag Archives: Cameron Diaz
Asked if it’s a nice change to open up a script and know from the outset that the film makers are unabashedly shooting for an ‘R’ rating, Cameron Diaz — who plays self-absorbed, self-medicating and selfish Elizabeth Halsey in the hilarious, no-holds-barred “Bad Teacher” — leaned forward, eyes lit up. “This is a beautiful thing, because it does not happen that often. It’s usually the other way around. You open a script, you start to read, and you’re like, ‘They could just go a little further.’ Then they promise you that they will… or they say they will, and then you show up to the set and supposed to be able to be an ‘R,’ and they keep cutting down and keep cutting you down; they pull you back and they pull you back and they say, ‘You’ve got a PG-13.’ You’re like, ‘That’s not the movie I wanted to make.’ This movie, on the other hand, was all about the ‘R,’ and they let us go for it.”
For all of “Bad Teacher”‘s reveling in a new-school set of three ‘R”s — rough language, raunchy sexuality and recreational substance abuse — it’s worth noting that the whole film’s also driven by a great sense of character. As Diaz’s Elizabeth connives to win a teacher of the year award — so she can use the bonus to pay for surgically-enhanced cleavage — she manipulates fellow faculty like Justin Timberlake‘s uptight, uncool but well-to-do substitute teacher Scott Delacorte. Timberlake gets to play the fool in “Bad Teacher” — including a fully-clothed awkward thrust-and-grope session that may be, I suggested, the worst sex scene of 2011.
Timberlake laughed: “I’m hoping to shoot for a higher — for All-Time Worst Sex Scene. It’s pretty bad. All I remember from that was our director Jake (Kasdan) laughing behind a monitor in another room, shouting out, ‘Uglier face!’ — right on my close-up — ‘Uglier face! Uglier face! Strain your neck more! I need to see veins popping out of your head.'”
Jason Segel, who plays relaxed gym teacher Russell Gettis — who may be the only person who sees through Elizabeth’s perverse plans and faked feelings — cut in on Timberlake with a little self-mockery: “I would just be doing regular scenes, and (Kasdan would) be yelling out, ‘Better-looking face! Better-looking face!’ I’d be like, ‘There’s nothing I can do, dude. This is my face; this is my human face.'”
For Timberlake, playing Delacorte — a strange, strained man — was perhaps too much fun. Timberlake joked about how he prepared to play a substitute teacher: “Yeah, I did substituting —different substituting. I would show up and bag groceries. I’d be like, ‘Hey bro, take a break. I’ll take over at Whole Foods for a half hour.’ Then I’d show up, ‘Hey man, what’s up with this? I’ll pump the gas. Let me substitute for you.’ I walked around town, walked around L.A. doing things … I substituted myself, which got weird.” Timberlake laughed, recalling his character’s bland surface — and deep flaws: “Scott Delacourt is a weird dude.”
That kind of joking apparently kept up on the set; according to actress Lucy Punch, who plays too-perfect teacher Amy Squirrel, it was very difficult to not crack up in the face of Diaz’s dead-eyed, dead-souled deadpan as Elizabeth: “It is hard. She was absolutely hilarious and very professional. She wasn’t cracking up at all. She’d laugh at the end; you’d say ‘cut’ and she’d dissolve into giggles. I find it hard with Justin: I had a lot of scenes with Justin, and I had difficulty keeping it together. He made me laugh a lot. I’d say most of the time we were fairly professional.” Punch paused and pondered. “Professional-ish.”
Diaz, for her part, claimed just as brutal a struggle with the giggles as her co-stars: “It’s really hard, because I’m the worst at that as well. They were so frickin’ funny. Between Jason and Justin — singularly, just the two of them by themselves, but then combined. And then Phyllis (Smith) and then Lucy — it took everything that I had for us to even get one good take without me laughing over what they were doing. They’re hilarious; it’s like the highest pedigree of comedians.”
Diaz didn’t exactly experience any flashbacks to her own adolescence, as her character Elizabeth’s style of education was, fortunately, something she never experienced. “I never had a teacher like her — thank God. The funny thing is what I love about this, how this is about the lives of teachers. You always had teachers and you never knew — you just thought that’s all they did. They only existed in the classroom. It’s fun to see these characters as human beings, on the outside — which is really fun because it still exists in a bubble, it still lives inside of this microcosm that they’ve created. It’s still a lot of fun to see that.”
It’s also fun to see Diaz, Timberlake and the other teachers of “Bad Teacher” as grownups trapped in school’s more childish modes of behavior — from tattling to cheating, from rumor-mongering to the violence of dodgeball. So, I asked Segel, did he enjoy dodgeball in his youth — or was he more often hit than not? “I certainly played dodgeball, but I was actually very good at it. I’m lithe — agile as a gazelle.” Not to be outdone, Timberlake tried to one-up his co-star: “I was pretty awesome at dodgeball, which is something to be extremely proud of. When it comes to dodgeball?” Timberlake indicated himself with his thumbs: “King.” Segel, not to be outdone, kept the ‘rivalry’ going. “When it comes to dodgeball?” He indicated himself, two thumbs aloft: “Prime Minister. So that makes me more relevant.”
As Elizabeth is driven to more and more extreme acts in pursuit of happiness in the sealed world of the John Adams Middle School, the film ramps up the comedy. How, I asked Diaz, did she shake off being such a horrible human being the next day? Diaz’s laughing answer also explained director Jake Kasdan’s fast-and-loose directing style: “You roll into it the next day. The great thing about Elizabeth is she says the truth, she says it how she sees it. There’s great wisdom in what she says, in fact. It’s how she delivers it, which I’m sure would be more effective or more appreciated if she delivered it in a less cutting way — but that’s not who she is. The fun thing is that she ends up understanding herself better, knowing her truth and realizing what she has to offer. I appreciate that she chooses not to change how she delivers it.”
Diaz also praised Jake Kasdan for keeping the film light on its feet — and screenwriters Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky for sticking to their guns. “Lee and Gene did an amazing job at creating these characters, and there was really nothing (changed) — they would come to set and throw out some alternative lines, and that was it. That was all. They’d be, ‘Ah, say this!’ during the middle of the take, and we’d start laughing and go, ‘Okay, I’ll try to get it out without laughing.’ That was about it. It was really such a pleasure to do it. We did this movie very quickly. We were hauling ass; we went non-stop. There was not a moment of downtime. I knew that going in, that there’s not very many takes, — we all had to come hit the ground running every day, we packed a lot in every day. It was a small film. We made it work because that’s the luxury of having a great script. Oftentimes on bigger budget films where scripts are not working, they have the money to go, ‘We’ll fix it as we go.’ You spend a lot of time on set trying to figure it out and unravel the mystery of the characters and the plot, as you’re filming. We’re really lucky. We went, ‘Let’s just take this as is and shoot it.'”
Finally, Diaz tried to sum up exactly why she loved being a “bad Teacher” — and why she had to agree to play a horrible human being without predictable Hollywood sentiment and soft-eyed redemption tacked on to the end of the film. “That was the beauty of this script. Reading it 30 pages in, I was like, ‘This character … I can’t … because how can I redeem this person from all the horrible things she’s doing?’ By the end, I was like, ‘Yes! No redemption whatsoever. I don’t have to apologize. How genius is that?’ Usually you’re apologizing, (in) the last 20 minutes of the movie, for the first hour and a half of the movie. We don’t have to do that with this. There’s a very minimal character arc.” Diaz beamed with the joy of an upstart student eager to enjoy their detention: “So it’s beautiful.”
CinemaCon: Bad Teacher and Horrible Bosses With Cameron Diaz, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis
Attending CinemaCon to receive the Female Star of the Year award and to introduce her new film, “Bad Teacher,” Cameron Diaz also met the press. I asked her if, years after being surrounded by raunchy material in “There’s Something About Mary,” the fact that she’s now the one bringing the crassness as unprepared, unprofessional teacher Elizabeth Halsey was some odd sort of moment of progress. “I think for me, I’m not a feminist. Everything has evolved over a period of time,” she said. “I think this character is meant to represent the good and bad of what is possible in a human being, and I think that’s something that I appreciated — the fact that there’s certain things she doesn’t apologize for and there’s certain things she admits that she needs to do better on. She has a human level of incremental growth that we all have.”
Considering Diaz recently performed the heroics of “Knight and Day” before switching gears to the coarse comedy of “Bad Teacher,” I asked her, which is more exhausting: shooting the modern action film or shooting a comedy like “Bad Teacher,” where you spend the entire day representing the human id run rampant? “I’ll tell you what’s really exhausting: Shooting the action movie for six months and then going directly into shooting the human id running rampant. I (shot) six months of the action movie, had about four days off, and went straight into this movie. I was tired. I was like, ‘God, I should have taken a nap.’
Also representing comedy’s axis of evil? Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, who play three wage slaves out to eliminate — not fire, but kill — their wretched employers in “Horrible Bosses.” The three debuted the film’s teaser at CinemaCon. Did they feel any anxiety at the unveiling? Bateman brushed it off: “None. I don’t think any of us were investors in the film, so we don’t give a s—.” Sudeikis chimed in: “We don’t give a s—. I got paid.” More seriously, Bateman added: “We love this movie, and we hope that everybody loves it as much as we do. Yeah, the first time you send out those pictures of your baby, you think, ‘I hope people don’t call her ugly.'”
I asked if part of the film’s appeal was how it spoke to our current economic climate. Bateman, ice-cold, skewered my pretentions: “Way to tie it to the national zeitgeist. Well done.” Sudeikis stepped up: “‘Zeitgeist’ is in the zeitgeist now. I hear that word a lot. That’s addressed in the movie a little bit. We can’t hit people over the head with it, because it’s more of a good time than the Steven Soderbergh version of this film, but it’s definitely layered in there.”
“Horrible Bosses” also looks — with its inept murder plots — like a Hitchcock film with brain damage. (Sudeikis perked up: “Can we use that?”) Bateman explained: “We definitely had to incorporate an air of stupidity with these guys. You have to make these guys kind of dumb to make it plausible that they would entertain this notion, but you have to make them somewhat intelligent and feel somewhat real — they can’t be cartoon-y — so it’s relatable to the audience. The audience has to feel like us so the situation pops: ‘That’s me up there. I’d love to kill my boss. Let’s see, how would it work?’ Obviously it’s a comedy, so things can’t go right. It was this line — we try to make it sound like science, but we did dance this line a little bit between absurdity and reality from scene to scene. Nobody wants some super-highbrow comedy, because then three people see that. Nobody wants some stupid, booger-eating, lowbrow comedy …” Sudeikis laughed: “Because (then) 40 million people see it.”
Continuing the countdown of the bad, the odd and the inexplicable, here’s the rest of the 10 Most Dangerous Films of 2010 — the movies that aren’t merely bad (or, in one case, aren’t bad at all), but which are actually bad for moviemaking and moviegoing.
Never mind the creepy young Jeff Bridges effect, or the huge plot holes (Why does digitized Sam Flynn have blood? Inside a computer?) or the absolute lack of feeling on the screen. “Tron: Legacy” is the epitome of the modern blockbuster: made from parts of other movies, with a liberal helping of absent-father questing we’ve seen before, a movie that took 10 years to conceive and, apparently, a long weekend to write. Is it pretty? Sure. Does it evoke faded memories of the not-great “Tron” from 28 years ago? Yep. But special effects aren’t storytelling, and nostalgia isn’t narrative.
Who, exactly, is it in Hollywood who lies awake and can’t sleep, wondering when they can bring back a cartoon from the Kennedy administration for the benefit of an audience who can barely remember the original, if at all? Add in 3-D — the No. 1 garnish added to bad movies to make them look alive when their scripts and souls are dead — and “Yogi Bear” combines baby boomer nostalgia with modern high-tech emptiness for a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter mix — if everyone were allergic to both chocolate and peanut butter.
Hey, once-interesting indie directors: Using studio resources to make movies that are as shallowly sentimental (“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”) or as sleepily stupid (“Cop Out”) as bad big-studio films? That is not, in fact, a victory.
I feel bad putting “Scott Pilgrim” — which is, at the very least, beautifully and cleverly made — alongside the odious and toxic “Kick-Ass,” but they both speak to a simple fact that Hollywood needs to recognize: Maybe every comic book doesn’t need to be a movie, and while it’s awesome you’re making nerds happy, mouth-breathing word of mouth only goes so far.
This Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz caper is not bad at all — in fact, it’s quite good — and yet it flopped at the box office. That’s bad form on both the part of the studio that made it (but seemingly couldn’t sell it) and the audiences that shunned it — because if audiences don’t make it out to see a lively, fun, well-made caper adventure that isn’t based on an earlier film, a comic book, a TV show or a breakfast cereal, it means that we might as well just get ready for a whole lot of Roman numerals, reboots, sexy vampires and superheroes at the theater, because we’re telling Hollywood that’s all we want.
The Rundown June 22, 2010: The Rundown: Knight and Day with Cruise and Diaz, plus the Secrets of the Summer’s Funniest Film, Winnebago Man
“Sitting down in Austria, the stars of the romantic-comedy-action-summertime film “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are relaxed and affable on a balcony overlooking Salzburg’s old world charm. Meeting Cruise and Diaz in the flesh is briefly dislocating — they are exactly as you would expect them to be, but moreso — and both of them are glad about the chance to take questions about their comedy-caper film and director James Mangold’s approach.
I ask if globe-trotting from location to location — “Knight and Day” unfolds in Salzburg, the Carribean, Boston, Kansas and Seville, Spain, among other far-flung spots — is even vaguely fun for them, or if it’s just part of the job. Cruise makes his enthusiasm clear. “For me as a kid, it was always a dream to travel, be part of a new culture and learn about different cultures. I mean, look at this; it’s like a Hollywood movie set; it’s so beautiful.” When I point out to Cruise that, for him, Salzburg was, in fact, a Hollywood Movie set, he laughs: “Yes, exactly!”
Even better than the travel, for Cruise was who he got to do it with. Diaz’s warm-hearted mechanic June Havens is the perfect foil to Cruise’s super-spy Roy Miller — a seemingly flighty civilian who comes into her own throughout the film as she gets caught in Miller’s tangled web. Cruise acknowledged that Diaz’s comedy skills were a huge part why he wanted to work on “Knight and Day.” “She’s brilliant at it; I had to say, I couldn’t wait. When I read the script, I thought ‘This is going to be so much fun.’ Just to see her do that stuff. And as we were going along, the script obviously evolved, and there were sequences and stuff where, obviously, I couldn’t wait, just as a fan of her movies and her as an actor, to see her play them out.”
Diaz enjoyed herself, too: “It’s fun; I love my job. I have the best job in the world — I’m grateful every day that I get to do this. And I knew that [‘Knight and Day’] was one of those movies that people got to have a great time on. Tom and I, when we first started talking about it and said ‘Let’s do it,’ we said ‘If we don’t have fun every single day of this movie, we don’t deserve …” Cruise jumps in: “… to be alive. To be alive. We had so much fun, and we just wanted to translate that for an audience. To make that summer movie where people just feel joyous at the end, to have a good time.””