Cameron Diaz is foul-mouthed, ruthless, and incredibly inappropriate as Elizabeth, the meanest, craziest, baddest teacher ever. She drinks, she gets high, and she can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and get out of her bogus day job. When she’s dumped by her fiancé, she sets her plan in motion to win over a rich, handsome substitute, played by none other than Mr. Justin Timberlake. At the recent New York press junket for the hilarious and irreverent flick, we “conferenced” with Diaz about tapping into her inner teacher … and we got quite the education.
Your character is outrageous. Were there ever moments where you thought you, your peers, or the script went too far?
Well the great thing about this movie is that there was no going too far. If you never have to apologize, then you can do anything. My character does whatever she feels like doing. She doesn’t have the conscience that it takes to have to worry whether or not you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Even though you think you should hate her, you also want to sort of be her. She never feels bad. It’s foreign to her. Thirty-pages into the script, I was like there’s no way I can redeem her. I had the mentality that you’re always trying to have people relate to a character and also like them. And so I thought I was going to have to redeem her in the end. And in the end, it’s a miracle that they never do in scripts. They didn’t redeem her, and there are no apologies.
There’s one particularly memorable “sex” scene – if you can call it that with Justin Timberlake. Tell us about shooting that scene.
The dry humping scene will go down in history. Justin and I wanted to create the least sexy sex scene ever put on film — to show the total lack of chemistry between them. And I think we succeeded. It was all done for the sake of comedy. It was great working with him because he’s so talented. We’ve always loved laughing together, and, yes, we went out and people think that should be awkward – but it’s not. We’re friends. We haven’t gone out together for as long as we were together. We’ve allowed our friendship and love to change into something completely appropriate. We love to make people laugh, and we both feel privileged to be able to make movies. And I have fun with him and trust him completely. There are no boundary issues. It was the perfect person to do that with. No other man would have made those faces and sounds on camera – he was so brave to do that.
You say that in the end your character doesn’t redeem herself. But there’s a little shift. Do you think she’s changed at all?
She has a total lack of self awareness in the way of an emotional or spiritual sense. She’s crafty and clever in obtaining things because she’s a crafty bitch. That’s the way she’s wired. Her view point and scope of experience is so narrow and she has such severe tunnel vision. She doesn’t see anything outside. She’s a girl who everyone has known and seen and it’s a sign of our times that people are motivated by material things. It’s like when she says to the kid she’s got her priorities all screwed up. And there’s a moment where she’s like “Is that me? Oh, nope.”
Who was your favorite teacher and your least favorite?
My best teacher – he kept his feet up on the desk the entire year. He told the best stories and didn’t teach anything all year.
I also had a teacher who always had food in his teeth, and it was terrifying that he was going to come talk to you in close proximity. It was amazing how much stuff he had in his teeth. I had a teacher who really hated me and I don’t know. I’m sure looking back now, she probably thought she was helping me and teaching me a life lesson, but it was so aggressive. And it was missed on me.
Did you ever cheat in high school?
I probably wouldn’t have graduated high school if I hadn’t cheated. I can’t recall how I graduated high school, but I’m sure it had to do with cheating.
Everyone in high school is so awkward. Can you pinpoint a really embarrassing high school moment?
I didn’t really have an embarrassing high school moment. I was modeling so I had already lived by myself at 16 in Japan. And you can’t embarrass me – you just can’t. It’s not the way I’m wired. I laugh at myself well before anyone else can laugh at me. I rarely get embarrassed, and that’s why I can do stupid things.
What was it like working with a teenage boy?
He’s so lovely. What a great sport, Matthew. The thing that was really funny working with a boy going through puberty is that it happens overnight. We had six weeks with this kid, and he had a squeaky voice and then it would go down and he couldn’t control it. His voice would be cracking and going all over the place.
Were there any scenes that were too racy to make the final cut?
The only scenes that didn’t make it in the movie, weren’t because they were too racy. They just didn’t work in the movie to make the best version of the movie.
Lucy Punch, who plays Amy, the goody two-shoes teacher and your character’s rival, said there was a scene where you had to throw up on her that was cut from the movie. She said it was really gross and you had to hold soup in your mouth for a really long time. For the record, what kind of soup was it?
It was like a mushroom gravy.
Bad Teacher is in theaters on June 24.