Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz
Bad Teacher - Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) © 2011 Columbia TriStar
Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz
Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) © 2011 Columbia TriStar

Cameron Diaz has established herself as an actress who can handle comedy, drama and action, doing such diverse movies as Knight and Day, My Sister’s Keeper and There’s Something about Mary.

She returns to the comedy genre with her outrageous performance as the title role in Bad Teacher. She portrays Elizabeth Halsey, a teacher who doesn’t give a F. She’s foul-mouthed, ruthless, and wildly inappropriate. She drinks, she gets high and she can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and walk away from teaching.

When she’s dumped by her fiancé, she put a plan in motion to win over handsome and rich substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), competing for his affections with an overly energetic colleague, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).

What was it about this role that intrigued you?

Bad Teacher - Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz
Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) and Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) © 2011 Columbia TriStar

I think that parts like this do not come around very often for anyone, man or woman. It was such a well written script, every part of it just worked and that doesn’t happen very often. In the world of making movies you’re often trying to fix things as you go, and nothing needed to be fixed on this. It was just perfect and we had an amazing group of people who wanted to be a part of it.

Why did you like Elizabeth so much?

I couldn’t pass it up playing this character. The first 30 pages I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m doing this. I can’t play this character. She’s despicable. There’s no way to redeem her.’ And by the end of it I was like, ‘Yes, the greatest thing is they don’t redeem her, there’s no apology in the end.’ That just doesn’t happen.

Usually the last twenty pages of a script is apologizing for the first 80 or 100 pages. What’s fun is that this person just doesn’t apologize, because a lot of people don’t, and that’s how it goes. There are no repercussions for her.

Was it enjoyable to make fun of her self-image values?

Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz
Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) at the car wash © 2011 Columbia TriStar

Completely. Obviously if I thought that I could get somewhere by having bigger boobies, I would have done it by now! For her it’s everything, it’s called hard economic times. You can’t find a millionaire like you could three or four years ago, because of the crash. So yeah, she’s working hard for those.

She knows that to get what she wants you have to have a goal and her goal is to invest in her business and get a pair of tits.

The one thing that Elizabeth doesn’t do, one line she doesn’t cross, is take on a seventh grader. That’s the one thing she doesn’t do, thankfully. I don’t think I’d be down with that. That would be a different movie, clearly.

But she wants to find a Sugar Daddy?

I’m not judging, but the thing about it is if we really believed this was the right thing to do we wouldn’t be making fun of it. So it was really fun to make fun of it, especially living in this town. We all know what it’s like to come up against people who have their priorities a little screwed up, and focus on the wrong things.

It was really fun to be able to go to work everyday and have a team of people all on the same wagon going towards complete and utter distaste, and throwing everything out the window. It was fantastic and we had a lot of fun doing that.

What was it like working with such a great comedic ensemble?

Bad Teacher - Cameron Diaz and Lucy Punch
Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) and Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) © 2011 Columbia TriStar

It’s like comedy marksmen. Everybody pulls back the arrow, they take their breath and slow down their heartbeat and then they let go and it’s like bulls-eye. You have to do that with this kind of fast paced comedy where we never stop. It’s not leisure time for us, we have a schedule, so you have to come in and hit it.

Every person in this cast is a genius comedian. There’s nobody in there that doesn’t deliver a fantastic performance with an unforgettable character. Elizabeth is transparent, she’s clear, you know who she is from the beginning and she doesn’t change.

What I love about all the other characters is, you start off thinking that you know who they are and by the end of it you’re like, ‘Wait a second, what is this person all about? What a weirdo!’

With Bridesmaid doing well, it looks like the time for women behaving badly and funny is now. Have you thought about how that’s changed over the years?

My commitment to it is pretty obvious. Women have always behaved badly, probably worst than men. Maybe men just don’t have the stomach for it. They don’t want to see it on film because they just can’t take it.

Any of my guy friends when I start to tell them what women really talk about, and what really goes down, they don’t want to hear it. They plug their ears, they can’t take it.

Maybe it’s just at this moment it’s the time for women come [into their own]. People are willing to laugh at those things now. This movie would have been just as hilarious with it being a male role as a female, which I think is great because it just goes to show that you can make something funny for everyone.

I think that we can find a lot of similarities in what we laugh at.

I haven’t seen Bridesmaids yet, I’ve been out of the country and it’s not open in England at the moment, but I can’t wait to see it.

Judy Sloane

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