Nothing can quite prepare you for Cameron Diaz bounding into a room. Jude Law, her co-star in seasonal rom-com The Holiday, recently commented that the Californian cracker is like a permanent beam of sunshine. Yeah right. These bleedin’ lovies, eh.
The Holiday follows the comedic and heartbreaking tribulations of two women, English rose Iris (Kate Winslet) and American sweetheart Amanda (Cameron Diaz), as they swap homes for Christmas - running from some serious man problems.
So, as TF perches in a hotel room, waiting with Holiday helmer Nancy Meyers for Cammie’s arrival, we experience the Diaz effect first hand. Cameron bowls through the door with a dash of cool, a dollop of goofy and a smile that could melt a box of choc ices – and we’re underway…
So, what was Cameron like to work with? I know she's sitting right next to you but there's no need to be polite...
Nancy: Oh she was a doll. She's delightful; she's absolutely willing to try anything and really extraordinarily gifted as a physical comedienne. Like when she's slipping and sliding on the ice. Of course we didn't want Cameron on day one of shooting breaking her leg, so we had a stuntwoman we brought in who's an expert at this kind of stuff, but I'm looking at Cameron and I said 'it's not that funny the way she's doing it,' so she said 'do you mind if I try, I won't get hurt,' and I'm like, 'oh that's right, you're a Charlie's Angel!' She went over and in two takes, she did it.
So Cameron, how much of your larking about is on the page and how much do you improv when you're on set?
Cameron: There's a considerable amount of it on the page. Then Nancy and I would fool around with it. We didn't want to take the film into a broad comedy, so we tried to play it realistic. Moments that would happen, like hitting your head, you know, sometimes you just hit your head, and you're like – ‘What? How did that happen?’ So we just played it easy; we just found it together.
We hear you're like a human anti-depressant when you're on set. Do you see it as your role to perk up the mood?
Cameron: You know everyone is on set for a bare minimum of 12 hours a day and we're all there away from our families and friends and we're dedicated to the time that we're there. So yeah, I do feel that there's a tone you can set on a set that lets people know that they're appreciated for being there and that we're all part of the same team.
Nancy. Did you have Cameron in mind when you wrote the role?
Nancy: I did, I absolutely did. But a lot of people that write movies want Cameron Diaz. She's a terrific actress and it's natural to want her.
Do you often have celebs in mind for your characters, like Jack Black for Miles?
Nancy: I do. On Something's Gotta Give, a friend of mine was friends with Jack Nicholson. I said ‘will you introduce me to him?’ I didn't wanna spend the next year thinking of Nicholson with every line if he absolutely would never be in a movie like this. Anyway, he was interested in the idea and he liked it and it was such a good experience for me actually writing with somebody in mind. I mean it doesn't mean he's gonna be in it, obviously he has to read it. So anyway I saw School of Rock and I just though Jack was the cutest guy I have seen in a movie in so long. I just fell in love with him.
How did you get him interested?
He came over to my house; we sat in my kitchen and had pasta together and I told him the idea and I said, 'would you ever be in a movie like this?' And I said I was thinking of Kate Winslet, and he said 'you want me in a movie with Kate Winslet?'. It's funny because when I told Kate that I wanted Jack Black to be in the movie with her she was so excited, so I thought, 'I'm onto something, I'm not the only girl who thinks he's really cute and great.’
And a lot of fun on set I'd imagine?
Nancy: He's tremendous fun, yeah he is. People have been asking me, 'did I have to rein him in?' But he's not like that at all. He's not bigger than life; he knows his lines, he's doing a character in our movie, and the character doesn't do outrageous things.
So Nancy, what the hell happens if you write a character with someone in mind and then you can't get them? Are you pretty much screwed?
Nancy: It's a disaster really because undoubtedly you're gonna come up with someone you can't get. But I think other writers that tell you they don't have people in mind, I don't believe it. They have to secretly want somebody, and yeah, we don't always get the people we want, but sometimes we do, sometimes we're lucky.
Cameron, what was it about the character of Amanda that attracted you to the role?
Cameron: First off, Nancy is just a wonderful writer; she's so honest. Iris and Amanda both are her in some way. She just has this amazing way of being totally honest about herself especially in her writing. Also, I felt that Amanda was totally relatable because we've all been in that situation; we've all had these relationships. I loved the bravery that Amanda displayed, that she may have not known what she was initially going after. She leaves everything behind simply to learn about herself. She's left this incredibly secure situation and gone somewhere with only herself to depend on. In that she learns about who she is and she opens herself up to the possibilities that she's never allowed herself to have before.
How do you pick your projects? Is it literally just if something speaks to you like that?
Cameron: It's always director and script first. Those two things are pretty much head to head. Because even if I loved the script, the director has to be right, because it's all about the filmmaker; it's their vision. They're the ones that go back into the editing room and they assemble the film. I have to really be able to trust that person and work out whether or not I'll be able to have a relationship with them and want to follow them down that road, wherever it may lead.
TF heard that Hugh Grant was a possibility for Jude Law's character. Were you writing with Hugh Grant in mind?
Nancy: Of course you naturally think of Hugh Grant. He is great at it, but I must say that Jude Law is to me the biggest surprise in the movie. Even though I wanted him in casting and I thought he could do it, he still surprises me with absolutely how brilliantly he can cross over into this genre. I'm thrilled.
Talking about Jude - he's kind of known for playing these quiet, broody roles. Is it true that you had to keep telling him to stop being such a grumpy git?
Nancy: Well I did have to remind him... but actors are like this sometimes, they do what's comfortable for them. Like I remember in What Women Want, Mel Gibson at times would come in like a tough guy in the morning and I'd have to say ‘Mel, it's not that kind of movie, don't be so tough’. Then the same with Jude - he's played a lot of dark characters in more serious films and so sometimes I'd have to go, ‘come on, come out and play.’ But he was really game, I thought.
Cameron, was the project made anymore appealing to you when you realised you were playing a romantic lead opposite Jude Law?
Cameron: Jude was the last to be cast on the film so I didn't know who it was going to be. Kate wasn't even locked into the movie when I joined the film. Neither was Jack or Eli. So I guess I was the first one.
Nancy, in the two couples, you've got one who's a natural comedic character and then you've got the Oscar nominated one. Did you find they were learning from each other?
Nancy: Jude has told me that he has learnt a lot from watching Cameron because she's much more used to this kind of film. In terms of Jack and Kate, I know that Kate just could not keep a straight face with Jack. We have the best out-takes of any movie I've ever done, and a lot of them were just Kate cracking up laughing.
Do you think you learnt anything from Jude, Cameron?
Cameron: So much. I always think it's something if you're working with somebody, especially somebody like Jude, who's done it all you know. He's wonderful on the stage but he's played wonderful characters with very little dialogue too. How natural he was and how effortless and how open he was in allowing himself to play a character that fell in love on screen, you know, who cried, whose heart was just open to these possibilities - it was something that I really admired in him.
You've also got a great scene with Ed Burns as well, and you get to spark him out. That must’ve been a pretty cool day…
Cameron: My hand killed! No, Eddie's the greatest. I really wish there was more with his character, Ethan. When Nancy said Eddie Burns, I was like 'oh my God, that's perfect.' He was so great as Ethan, you know. He needed to be punched.
Eli Wallach's ageing screenwriter is the one who helps to mend Iris' broken heart. Was that something you came up with initially, or...?
Nancy: At first I didn't have this character, but I had this routine everyday - I'd have lunch and I'd take a walk, just in my neighbourhood, and there was this man who I would see walking. He was with a nurse who never spoke to him and never looked at him. He was really quite ill, just getting over a stroke or something. He was on a walker. And I do not know why I was so interested in this man but I would find myself after my walk coming back to my computer and just thinking about him. I'd wonder who he is... and the next thing I know he was in the movie!
Cameron, your character is pretty culture shocked when she comes across to Blighty. What do you think of how we do things over here?
Cameron: Well I think it's crazy that you guys drive on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car, but that's what I love about Amanda - she's like, 'I can do this, I can drive on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car,' which is totally terrifying.
You're very convincing as a terrifying driver...
Cameron: Thank you!
And how was it filming in England during what we laughingly call Spring?
Cameron: We got really lucky with the weather. We didn't have a lot of rain. A couple of times actually it did snow, like blanketing the countryside which all the British crew swore never happened so we got lucky a couple of times and got to say ‘told you so.’ But in movies these days we can make anything, anything's possible, so of course we had the best snow guys in the bizz. The snow bizz, and they made beautiful snow.
Nancy: They really did. But oh my God, it was so cold! LA people are so spoiled, every day is 72 no matter what season you're in, and so we get really excited if it gets into the 60s. So we came here and it was so cold for us. And yeah, of course they said to me, 'you know your movie's got snow in it but it never snows here' and I said 'but there was snow in Bridget Jones!'