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There is a quote that I love,” Cameron Diaz says. “It goes something like, ‘Comparison is a brutal assault upon oneself’. How often do most women compare themselves to other women? What a waste of good energy.”
She sighs. She may be the author of The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body, may be a fixture on Most Beautiful Woman lists and, to judge by her new film Sex Tape, has lost nothing since turning 40, but Diaz admits that she wasn’t always happy with what she saw in the mirror.
“’If you are what you eat, I was a bean burrito extra cheese, no onions, extra sauce with a large Coca-Cola girl,” she laughs.
But the actress who calls herself “a former junk-food junkie” definitely doesn’t look the part. Lean and tall in beige pants and a matching sweater, Diaz looks at least a decade younger than her age, which will be 42 on August 30.
“As women we don’t allow ourselves and other women to age gracefully anymore,” she says. “If we don’t look 25, then we feel like we have failed. I don’t accept that it’s our job as women to stay in a stagnant place. I want to keep living in motion while I get older and wiser.”
“Ageing is a privilege,” Diaz adds. “I feel more vital and the fear falls away. You don’t worry about what other people think anymore.”
Not that other people are thinking bad things. It’s hard to cast aspersions at a 41-year-old who can still star in a summer comedy called Sex Tape.
In Jake Kasdan’s film, she plays Annie and Jason Segel plays Jay, her husband. After two kids, their sex life has slumped, and they decide to liven things up by making an epic sex tape, strictly for own amusement. They plan to erase it the next day… but, due to a technical glitch, the tape makes it onto the Internet and threatens to make them world-famous.
“The movie really talks about how you need to keep things private in this information age,” Diaz says.
She and Segel previously co-starred in the hit comedy Bad Teacher (2011). “We just hit it off,” Diaz says.
That comfort level came in handy for the actress, who was doing her first screen nudity. “It’s part of the movie,” she says matter-of-factly, “plus Jason and I are buddies and partners in comedy. We have the same comic sensibilities.”
Segel couldn’t agree more. “There is no one I wanted to do this film with more than Cameron,” he says in a separate interview. “I just had to look like a romantic partner and drop a few pounds.”
Creating that one night of freewheeling sex took two weeks of careful work on the set, but Diaz says that the actual performances were “spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment”. “You don’t just film that scene in one day,” she says. “It’s all about the set-ups and the choreography along with just having fun with it.”
Her first venture into screen nudity didn’t intimidate her though.
“I love to take risks,” the actress says. “I remember when I started in this business, with The Mask. I was asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’. I was like 22, and said, ‘I’d like to be happy’.”
Diaz grew up in Long Beach, California. At 16, she began working as a fashion model for Elite Model Management. By the next year, she was on the cover of Seventeen. She was 21 when she entered films in 1994.
“It was definitely a case of learning on the job,” Diaz says. “But acting was so much fun I wanted to learn.”
The Mask made Diaz a sex symbol and an overnight star, and she went on to a prolific career that has included such hits as My Best Friend’s Wedding, There’s Something About Mary, Any Given Sunday, Charlie’s Angels and Gangs of New York.
Her most recent film is the revenge comedy The Other Woman, in which she, Leslie Mann and model-turned-actress Kate Upton play women being quadruple-timed by a husband/boyfriend.
“Usually, when it’s a story about three women and a man, it’s about eyeballs being scratched out. This was a story of friendship and how women support each other,” Diaz says.
Next up is a role against type: She will play the ageing, sadistic Miss Hannigan in Annie, a revamp of the musical.
Good genes definitely contribute to her astonishingly youthful appearance at 42, but Diaz emphasises that a great deal of hard work also goes into it, as well as strict control of what she eats and especially drinks. “I definitely have to move my body when I wake up in the morning,” she says. “I do sit-ups, I walk. Moving is so important for health.”
“Give yourself two weeks off soda,” she continues, “and you’ll see the change. And don’t get those huge coffees. We can’t keep living in excess.”
It was Diaz’s desire to communicate her message of health and fitness that inspired The Body Book.
“I decided to write a book, at age 39, after having a lot of conversations with women my age,” she says. “So many women say, ‘How does this work when it comes to my body?’. I thought it was kind of crazy that you could live in your body for that long and still not understand how it works. “The book explains the science of your body.”