Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake – Can ex lovers remain friends?

July 2011By Philip Berk

During Hollywood’s heyday, many of the great stars were having affairs while working together; most notoriously, Clark Gable and Loretta Young, who sired his illegitimate child and kept it a lifelong secret.

Surprisingly when Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake were announced as costars in Bad Teacher, the media was amazed even aghast that the two, who had been together for eight years and then went their separate ways, were playing opposite each other in a romantic comedy.

At their press conferences neither seemed one bit fazed by the casting or the question. 

What went through their minds when they were offered the roles?

Cameron has no qualms about answering the question. 

“As Justin puts it, we have to believe there are other people out there in the world  who can still be friends with their exes. I don’t think either one of us had any reservations. We had a long  relationship. It’s eight years that we’ve known each other  and it’s been half that time since we’ve been broken up. It’s not that either of us was holding onto something that happened four years ago. We’re totally different people who still love each other.  We still love who we are. Justin is just an amazing person, and I hold him with so much respect. I respect his talent, I wanted him to be part of this movie. I knew he would be amazing in it.”  

Justin is a little less generous in his response, not surprisingly a little more guarded.

“I just happen to like the girl. We still love and respect each other, just in a different form. We’re friends now. And there was no weird process we had to go through for this to be comfortable for both of us.” And then flashing that elliptical smile, he adds, “Although  it takes a huge amount of chemistry to create characters who have no chemistry. And by the way, when I first got the script the part that excited me the most was knowing that Cameron was going to be involved.”

The film has been the surprise box office hit of the American summer, in effect the little engine that could.

It started out slowly earning largely negative reviews, and yet it’s become one of Sony’s biggest moneymakers this year reaching that magic $100,000 number in the US and Canada.

Of course Cameron is largely responsible for that. But some questioned why she chose such a politically incorrect character – a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, gold-digging junior high school teacher character — to play?

She agrees, “The first fifty pages I was, ‘No way. There’s no way I’m playing this person. Who is she? I don’t know her. I don’t like her.’ There was no redemption for her, but then ten pages in, I was like, ‘She’s kind of bad ass in a way. She just says what she’s really feeling; there’s no filter for her,’ and by the end I was really pleasantly surprised. There actually was redemption for the character, and what I liked best was the last twenty pages didn’t try to apologize for everything. That to me was a breath of fresh air. She didn’t suddenly arrive at this new life and understanding. I liked that and that she didn’t apologize for anything.”

And Justin, what attracted him to the role?

“When I first got the script I was really apprehensive to sign on, even knowing that cameron was involved. I didn’t know who this guy was. He’s just a weird guy. I couldn’t put my finger on anything about him that was interesting, but then I read it again and I said, ‘Wait, that’s what makes him interesting. There’s a lot of ground there to create something different.’ The way I read him in the script he was this more energetic, kind of jovial person, playing off Lucy (Punch’s) character, who is the antithesis of Cameron’s character, where one’s really brash and foul mouthed, despicable in some ways, and the other’s the opposite who doesn’t say curse words, makes a humongous effort never to use a cuss word.  So I saw this movie as a duel between these two characters, and I’m caught between the two of them. It was exciting. It’s rare that women get that opportunity  to play the hero and villain; so for me it was an opportunity to  really bring it down. There’s a lot of different ways to do humor, and after rehearsing I felt we found a good rhythm to what Scott, my character wasn’t as opposed to what he was.”

This year he turned 30, so what is he looking forward to in the next decade?

“I’m looking forward to my thirties. In my twenties I wanted to do so much, but now I don’t necessarily need to do everything, which is a great place to be in. It’s the same with my music. I don’t feel I have to be validated by some huge album or some huge movie. I want the freedom to make choices that are interesting so that I can commit 100 percent to the work.”

Cameron is almost ten years older.

Thirteen years ago she played the innocent ingenue in what turned out to be another shockeroo, There’s Something About Mary.

Are there parallels?

“They both very much of their time. Back in the 90s  it was a sort of innocent time, the economy was really surging. things were plentiful, we didn’t have 9/11; there was all this hope. People were able to buy the things they wanted. And there was an abundance of men.  Mary depends on a man to take care of her; she doesn’t have to take care of herself. But now it’s the present, we’re in this economic downturn. She’s having a hard time like everyone else. There are no sugar daddies out three as there used to be. She’s struggling and has to take a part time job to make ends meet. So this is a story of this time.”

Filming their love scene in the hotel, the director said they were laughing all day. Were those scenes choreographed?

“There was a description of what they were going to do; we had a sort of road map, but Justin’s faces, which were hilarious, were pretty much his own invention.”

Were they comfortable doing them? 

“If it was anybody other than someone I trusted, as I trust Justin, it might have been awkward, but it wasn’t with Justin because we know where we stand, our relationships very clear, we know who we are in the relationship; so there was never any confusion that he would be getting off on this. There is a lot of trust between us.” 

Justin’s been involved with so many women. How does it usually happen?  How does he make that connection?

“I could sit here and say anything right now, and it’s probably going to end up misconstrued. I’m way less interesting than whatever version  of me you’ve heard about. That’s a really tough one. I am going to back off of that one.”

He plays a nerd in Bad Teacher and in Social Network he played Sean Parker the coolest guy in the world. In real life which is he, shy or extroverted?

 “I think we’re all nerds. Cool is not not worrying what cool is…”

It’s been almost six years since he released his last album. Is it because he’s disillusioned by the music business?

“Listen, I love making music. I just don’t feel the need that every song I write has to be heard by the world. I’ve always thought the music business weird ever since I was a kid. That doesn’t take away my joy of making music. You have to detach yourself from the business otherwise everyone will tell you how good or bad you are. I could never tell anyone their song is bad or good. I enjoy it for what it is. I am attached to the music, not the business.”

This year’s he’ll be seen in three movies, all starring roles. (Besides Bad Teacher he has Friends with Benefits and In Time.)

Does he find acting more rewarding?

“My relationship with music is so pure, sometimes almost vitriolic, sometimes almost peaceful. It’s a very emotional experience. With the films I’ve been doing, I’m finding more and more similarities with the process that I do with music. But don’t forget I started out as an actor on a television show.  My first job was around cameras and sketch comedy. I’ve had a successful career in music, but that’s not what I was trained to do. It comes from a genuine place.”