Cameron Diaz © Cameron Diaz

Although Cameron Diaz has starred in a slew of successful dramas in her career, she’s probably best known for her performances in such comedies as There’s Something About Mary, My Best Friend’s Wedding and What Happens in Vegas. Now the actress takes on one of her most demanding characters as Sara Fitzgerald, whose child Kate (Sophia Vassilieva) was diagnosed with leukemia as a baby. In a desperate effort to save Kate’s life Sara had another baby, Anna (Abigail Breslin), a perfect genetic match, specially designed to service Kate’s needs. But when Anna is 11, she decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body…

This is the first time you’re playing a mom, and playing a mom to teenagers is a big step for an actress. Was there any hesitation or concern about going that route, or was the material just too good to pass up?

Cameron Diaz © Cameron Diaz

I didn’t really think about it. Nick [Cassavetes, the movie’s director] brought me this script, and it was wonderful. I didn’t really think about the fact that I would be playing a mother. I didn’t think about it in terms of what it meant to my career. I thought of what it meant to the story, and who this woman was and what her life experience was and what was happening in front of her.

Having a sister yourself, how did you feel when you read this script?

Family is so important. What drew all of us to this story was the family, and the stories of each of these characters. Reading this script, I think we all related to the fact that there isn’t anything that you wouldn’t give someone that you love that deeply. You do whatever it takes to keep that person alive. I think that that’s something that spoke to most of us, for this film, and what I think is so effective in the film.

Can you talk about working with Abigail and Sofia?

Sofia Vassilieva, Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin © Warner Bros

They are really amazing. They’re both extraordinary young women. What was amazing about working with Abby was that I realized you see her and you’re like, “Oh, she’s just a little girl,” but she’s got so much power within her. I went up to her mother and said, “Your daughter is a warrior.” She possesses something inside herself that is of the nature of a warrior, where she just knows how to push through. She can take all these things that are happening around her, that are these very adult, complicated, complex situations and ideas, and she’s able to somehow put something behind it with more strength than you see in most people. I was amazed by how strong she is. She’s just a powerhouse. And, Sofia is so tender. Everything is right there on the surface, at all times. She has such a depth of feeling and emotion. Both of these girls were so generous with me, as actors. Abby was crying off camera, and I was like, “Sweetheart, you don’t have to cry off camera,” and she was like, “It’s okay. I’ve got it.” It was such an enriching experience on a level that was totally new for me, so it was great.

How did you feel when you saw Sophia for the first time with her head shaved?

Cameron Diaz and Sofia Vassilieva © Warner Bros

She was 15 when she did it. If anybody thinks back to when they were 15 years old, the last thing you want to do is shave your head and then your eyebrows. That’s when you’re getting a real sense of who you are. It’s so formidable. It was very brave for Sofia to do. It was amazing.

This film deals with so many provocative themes. Were there any scenes that were difficult to film because they differed from your own personal beliefs?

I think this film succeeded, period, on what it set out to do, which is to make people feel. When I first read the script, I wasn’t worried about how to play somebody who other people might think is so unsympathetic. People might think, “How does this woman justify doing this to this other child?” The whole moral questioning about this really goes out the door. You think you’re going to really feel like she’s wrong, but you find, at the end, that you really cannot judge her. When I went to play her and understand her, I found that I can’t judge this woman. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child who’s dying. I don’t know what it feels like. All I know is that every parent that I’ve spoken to says the same thing. You do whatever it takes to save your child, period, whether it hurts another child of your own to do so.

What are you grateful for in your own life?

I think the most important thing that I’ve found in my life is just my family and friends. Your wealth in life are the people that you get to love and who love you back, and all the experiences that you get to have with those people, throughout your life. Some come and some go. Some stay for a really long time, some leave quickly, some linger, and all of those experiences are the wealth of your soul. Those are the things that I’m most grateful for.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane