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Something About Mary

Cameron Diaz has 'something' going for her

Web posted on: Monday, July 13, 1998 5:04:21 PM EDT

From Bert Osborne
Special to CNN Interactive

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia (CNN) -- There's something about Cameron Diaz. Perhaps it's the blonde-haired, blue-eyed look that launched her modeling career at the age of 16. Or the winsome screen presence she has conveyed in a subsequent string of films, beginning with Jim Carrey's "The Mask" in 1994, continuing through Edward Burns' "She's the One" and Keanu Reeves' "Feeling Minnesota," and most recently including last summer's Julia Roberts hit "My Best Friend's Wedding" and last fall's Ewan McGregor flop "A Life Less Ordinary." Or, just maybe, it's nothing more than that infectious laugh of hers.

Whatever the case, it's high time the 25-year-old Diaz got her very own top-billed movie vehicle -- even if it is a low-brow comedy like "There's Something About Mary." As the sweet-natured title character, she's the hapless object of affection for a motley crew of suitors, played by Matt Dillon ("Wild Things," and Diaz's off-screen beau of 2-1/2 years), Ben Stiller ("Flirting With Disaster"), Lee Evans ("Mouse Hunt"), Chris Elliott ("Cabin Boy"), and even Brett Favre (the Green Bay Packers).

"Mary" is the latest effort from the writing/directing Farrelly brothers of "Kingpin" and "Dumb and Dumber," er, fame, who certainly can't be accused of letting success go to their heads. Woody Allen they aren't. How's this for amusing: If you like the fishhook-in-the-nose scene, you're going to love the penis-in-the-zipper scene; if a cute little dog being electrocuted, set ablaze and steamrolled isn't objectionable enough for you, wait for the gag about a misplaced wad of sperm; and nothing's more riotous than the mentally retarded character who goes beserk whenever somebody touches his ears, unless it's the physically handicapped guy who's so hilarious with his crutches every time he drops his keys on the floor and tries to pick them up.

Clip: "What kind of dog is Puffy?"
2.6Mb QuickTime movie

Entire theatrical trailer
4.2Mb QuickTime movie
Windows Media: 28.8 or 56
Real: 28.8 or 56

Walking line between humor, offense

At a press screening last month in Los Angeles, audience reaction was fairly well divided among those who laughed until they cried and those who were so offended they just felt like crying. It begs an interesting question, though, about how the Farrelly's raunchy brand of comedy walks a fine line between humor and disgust. Exactly how much fun can you have with those mentally and physically challenged characters, for instance, without making fun of them?

Diaz takes a moment to formulate her response during a recent interview at the historic Greenbrier Resort here in the remote West Virginia mountains, as if the question had never occurred to her before. "We were never making fun of them, not by any means. We're pointing the finger and making fun of creeps like (the Matt Dillon character). Anyone who'd make fun of those with a mental or physical disability, those are the people we're ridiculing," the actress maintains.

She pauses and elaborates, "If anything, we're saying that even though it may seem like a burden sometimes, there's a huge reward in having a mentally or physically challenged person in your life, because they enrich the lives of those around them. That was the great thing about this. You can laugh at it without feeling like you're hurting anybody's feelings."

"My main concern was that I didn't want Mary to look like an idiot."
-- Cameron Diaz, who plays the title role in 'There's Something About Mary'

Moviegoers' feelings are one thing; their comedic sensibilities are something else entirely. The most uproarious/tasteless scene in the film defies a fully accurate description at this time, but Diaz has dubbed it "the hair-gel scene," recalling with a laugh, "I'd actually heard about that scene before I read the script, and my first thought was, 'That's sickening.' Once I finally read the script, I found it to be really funny. I just didn't know if I was prepared to do it.

"(The Farrellys) kept telling me they wanted these characters to have validity, you know? They didn't want this to be just another broad comedy like the ones they'd done in the past. They said they wanted people to care about the story and about what happens to the characters, right? Then you come across a scene like that, and it's your job as an actor to question it and see how far you can go with it. It gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie. People can't believe it. They're shocked, but it's hysterical at the same time," Diaz said.

"My main concern was that I didn't want Mary to look like an idiot," she insists. In retrospect, that only makes her laugh again. "I have to admit, I started out thinking of her as just very accepting of other people, but the more I acted her out, the more I figured maybe she just wasn't too terribly perceptive."

Diaz, Dillon pair up

"There's Something About Mary" marks the first on-screen pairing of Diaz with real-life sweetheart Dillon, whom she met three years ago while on location in Minnesota (she was there for "Feeling Minnesota," he was filming "Beautiful Girls"). Conventional wisdom suggests couples who live together should never work together, too -- and nowhere would that seem more advisable than in Hollywood -- but, then, the Farrelly brothers are all about damning conventional wisdom, aren't they?

For her part, Diaz says, "Matt and I had sort of been looking for a project to do, and when the opportunity to do this came up, the timing was just right. It was great, being on the same set and getting to spend some time with each other. We had a blast."

But in terms of collaborating as one fellow actor to another, how did the reality compare to her expectations going into the project? Did she learn anything new about him, either personally or professionally, or both? What did she learn about herself? She pauses for a beat, then quips, "You know, my rule in life is not to have expectations about anything."

Seriously, though. "Seriously? I don't know. At the end of it, we walked away realizing it could've been potentially disastrous. We could've had a really horrible time, but we didn't. It worked out that we were both mature enough to handle it. It wasn't like we were pretending like we weren't together, but at the same time we tried not to bring a lot of baggage with us to work, either. We were really comfortable, just doing a job, that's all."

Diaz pauses again. "I don't know if I really learned anything about myself. The fun and the challenge of the work for me is getting people to see you differently every time, and this is definitely the zaniest thing I've ever done," she admits. "For the most part, I think I've done a pretty good job of changing my image from one role to the next, bringing something new to the work and trying not to repeat myself."

Oh, yeah? Then how does she explain her next film, the upcoming "Very Bad Things" (opposite Christian Slater and directed by Peter Berg)? Another laugh. "Can you believe it? I can't believe I'm playing a bride again. After 'Feeling Minnesota' and 'My Best Friend's Wedding,' this is like the third time I've gotten married in a movie," she said.

Beyond that, she adds with a smile, "I'm not sure what's coming up for me. I can just tell you that I can't imagine wanting to spend any more time in a bridal gown, ever."

(Hmm. Read into that what you will, Matt.)

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