"Comedy is so tricky. In drama, if I'm sad and I'm crying, people can really relate to that. … You can see the hurt and pain it's associated with," the star of "There's Something About Mary" told UPI in New York recently, while promoting her new film "Bad Teacher."
"Comedy, it's totally relative. People find different things funny," observed the 38-year-old actress. "Not everybody finds the same thing funny. And, also, because you're filming this part of the joke here and two weeks later you're finishing a joke and you don't really know how it's going to pay off until it's edited and put on the screen and people laugh at it and you go, 'Oh it works.' That's why your character is important. That's why you have to really know what the situation is. What I feel really great about this film is that I feel like it is really a character piece for all of the characters, not just [my character], Elizabeth, but for all the characters. It's not about just one big joke here and another big joke here. And we're going to get a big laugh out of this and none of it's connected. … This is a storyline that's hilarious and the situations are absurd and they all connect to each other and you laugh through the entire thing."
In "Bad Teacher," Diaz plays a self-absorbed middle-school teacher killing time until she finds herself a rich husband.
Diaz's real-life ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake plays Scott, the quirky substitute teacher with family money on whom Elizabeth preys. Lucy Punch plays Amy, her perky nemesis, a fellow teacher who catches the eye of Timberlake's character, while Phyllis Smith portrays Lynn, a shy co-worker eager to be Elizabeth's friend and Jason Segel plays Russell, the gym teacher who sees Elizabeth the gold-digger for who she is but still wants to date her.
"I was reading the script and 30 pages in, I was like: 'I can't do this. This woman is so horrible, there is no way to redeem her,'" Diaz recalled. "And I was going on the assumption it was like every other Hollywood script. You do horrible things for the first half of the movie and then you spend the second half of the movie trying to apologize for it and make her a good person everybody likes. Nope. Got to the end and it was like she's still a bitch and she doesn't apologize for nothing and I was like, 'I have to play her.' … She really was just so much fun to play. I really wanted her to be blunt. I didn't want any charm or charisma or maybe a woman trying not to hurt somebody's feelings. I wanted her to be like an unmovable rock."
Asked about an awkward, but hilarious sex scene Diaz has with Timberlake, in which both of their characters are fully clothed, Diaz joked: "Our objective was to create the least sexy sex scene ever put on film to show the total lack of chemistry between these two people. And I think we succeeded."
Despite the fact they broke up in 2006, Diaz said she and Timberlake remain friends and share a similar sense of humor.
So, how do two people who have chemistry off-screen fake not having it when the cameras are rolling?
"We'll do anything for comedy. Clearly," she laughed. "So we were really trying to sell how bad it was and how weird his character was and how if Elizabeth was really going to take this on, was the money really worth it? At the very least, you want the guy that you have to sleep with for money to be good in bed; even if he's not attractive in any other way. The fact that that was the option she was looking at was pathetic."
"Bad Teacher" is in theaters now.
Diaz's other film credits include "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Charlie's Angels," "Gangs of New York," "Vanilla Sky" and the "Shrek" franchise.