This month, romantic comedy veteran Cameron Diaz (who only seems to get sexier with age) stars in the new Richard Kelly film “The Box.” Richard Kelly, the dark prince of contemporary directors, made his first splash directing “Donny Darko” when he was 24. “The Box” is based off the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson, also author of “What Dreams May Come.” The Kelly adaptation challenges a young couple living in Richmond, Virginia during the 1970s to push a button on top a box for a curious one million dollars.
Skimming over production notes and jotting down ideas, I called to check in with the college conference mediator last week. Once the human robot facilitating the telephone interview confirmed that Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Richard Kelly were on the line the following conversation took place before any students began inquiry:
Female (Cameron Diaz): Hello.
James Marsden: Hello.
Richard Kelly: Hello.
James Marsden: Is that Richard?
Richard Kelly: Who’s there?
James Marsden: Richard Kelly?
Richard Kelly: Yes.
James Marsden: James and Cameron.
Richard Kelly: This is James?
James Marsden: Yes. I have employees everywhere. Is this Richard?
Richard Kelly: Where are you guys?
James Marsden: How are we? Or where are we?
Richard Kelly: Where are you guys?
Cameron Diaz: We’re in some studio in Manhattan. Where are you at?
James Marsden: We’re partying.
Richard Kelly: I’m in my hotel room.
Cameron Diaz: (inaudible) come meet us here.
Richard Kelly: I’m watching Rachel Ray.
Cameron Diaz: Awesome. Getting more inspiration?
Richard Kelly: Yes. Wait, so Cameron, you’re in – are you – you’re in Manhattan already?
Cameron Diaz: I got in last night.
Richard Kelly: Oh, OK.
Cameron Diaz: I got in last night. I came in after (inaudible) and I got up this morning and you know worked it out, buddy.
Richard Kelly: Nice.
Cameron Diaz: Yes. We’re here and we just did a bunch of satellite interviews.
Richard Kelly: Excellent. Is it just the three of us on the phone right now?
Cameron Diaz: I guess so.
James Marsden: It is – well, we’re on speaking phone in a room full of people, but apparently we’re being patched through to a college moderator that is going out to 20 different colleges or something.
Richard Kelly: OK.
James Marsden: I didn’t describe that very well. College radio press conference.
Richard Kelly: OK. So we’re waiting for that person to then come on the line?
Cameron Diaz: Correct.
James Marsden: I believe so, yes.
Richard Kelly: OK.
James Marsden: You did not get your information from me. Last night …
Richard Kelly: (inaudible) we just went to dinner and just – I can’t remember the place that we went to…
James Marsden: (inaudible)?
Richard Kelly: I honestly can’t – the name is escaping me. But (Poster) – (Steven Poster) was there.
James Marsden: Really.
Richard Kelly: He is in town.
James Marsden: Nice. He’s going to be there tonight, I’m assuming.
Richard Kelly: It was fun. Yes. Yes.
James Marsden: Yes. Good.
The conference call began with a student from St. Mary’s School. Relaxed, I flicked on my tape recorder. Flashes of Cameron Diaz thwarting Leonardo DiCaprio’s kiss in “Gangs of New York” (2002) with a carnivorous bite occupied my sensory receivers. The radio textured voices on speaker phone faded while I waited for the operator to come on and open up the lines. Diaz’s threat, “Don’t you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not?” aimed at Tom Cruise’s character just before she drives him off a bridge in “Vanilla Sky” (2001) as Julie Jianni seemed to be coming ominously from my San Francisco apartment walls.
Operator: Your next question comes from (Sky Madden) from University of San Francisco.
This unexpected prompt brought on physiological unrest.
Blood exited my head. I felt my cheeks become cold. My mouth opened in vain. In that moment I realized Kelly and certainly Diaz were not a part of common reality. It was until they anticipated a question coming from myself that Diaz was only fleshy fiction, and Richard Kelly, the prodigious USC grad, existing as a film student parable. They simply were not a part of what I considered real.
The waiting silence in New York on the other end seemed to melt away the wax of fame and fiction. Diaz, the subject of pixel paintings accompanied by unnaturally recorded rehearsed audio, and Kelly, a mythical figure of rare autonomy in the American film industry, became warm things. The two betided me with quiet anxiety. My unprepared reach for a stock question I had successfully resorted to during a Jessica Alba interview in September of 2007 failed to restore my self-possession.
(Sky Madden): Hi. I’m wondering – this is specific for Cameron, actually. I’m wondering if you can recall during shooting, what you were listening to specifically music wise?
Cameron Diaz: Oh, gosh. It’s been two years. I can’t remember. What was I listening to specifically? I don’t think I was listening to anything specifically at that time.
Richard Kelly: Well, I remember I called you to make you listen to that Derrick and the Dominoes song. That was one song you were listening to I know that.
Cameron Diaz: Yes. I don’t – yes. I can’t remember, to tell you the truth. I think that I didn’t incorporate, often times I do incorporate music and different bands sort of in the you know preparation of my character, but often times, when I’m working it’s just so sort of nose down that I – culture kind of goes by the wayside for me, popular culture.
(Sky Madden): What about now?
Cameron Diaz: What about now?
James Marsden: You’re going to answer a music question.
Cameron Diaz: Yes. I’m going to answer a music question. I’m doing a film right now and I’m listening to a little bit of Kings of Leon at the moment.
(Sky Madden): Very well. Thank you.
Cameron Diaz: Thank you.
Blank. Listless. Repentant.
Why could I have asked something like , ”Did you learn anything from starring in the “Mask” (1994) that you’ve kept with you since its completion?”
*1! *1! *1!
I punched the sequence over and over again into my cell phone with fierce hope if getting another chance to speak with substance.
A bruised ego never lets you forget.
Official transcript produced by Terry Hines & Associates was referenced for this article. Interview took place Wednesday, November 4th 2009.