In the process of putting together Vulture’s Nancy Meyers Week, I had the distinct honor of hopping on the phone with dozens of the stars and collaborators who helped bring Meyers’s work to life, forcing them to reach back into the depths of their memories to share stories about their contributions to Meyers’s impressive filmography. One of the best conversations I had was with Cameron Diaz, who stayed on the phone to recount, in great detail, a scene from Meyers’s The Holiday, wherein Diaz’s character, Amanda, an emotionally stunted movie-trailer editor, stops her black car on its way to the airport, gets out, and runs in stilettos through the snow back to Jude Law, who is weeping alone in Kate Winslet’s cabin. The scene accounted for about four lines in the script, but it took a week to shoot, during which, as Diaz put it, “I ran probably seven miles a day in those heels. Through mud and hills.”
Hi, Cameron. Sorry it’s kind of a crazy time to be doing these interviews. “Besides the coup, everything’s fine.”
[Laughs.] I know, right? Really crazy. When they say, “It’s unprecedented,” you’re like, “No shit it’s unprecedented.”
It’s true madness. Which is kind of why we’re doing this whole week, because we anticipate that it’s going to be a pretty sad holiday season, and we want to bring people a little joy.
She brings the joy.
What was your first impression of Nancy? What do you remember about the first time you met her?
First of all, she’s just so chic and put-together. You know when somebody just feels so self-possessed? She just knows who she is. And it’s very refreshing to see somebody who’s pointed in a direction and always [knows] who she is and what her art is, what she wants to create, just driving all that energy forward. I’m trying to think of one word that could sum it up. I don’t think I can.
She had gravitas.
Oh, good word. Where were you? When you met.
I think it was at Sony. [Inaudible noise.] Sorry, that’s my dog choking. Okay. He’s okay. But I think it was at Sony. Was that where we first met? She’d probably remember better than I do. She has a great memory. I have a shit memory, but I think it was at Sony. And I remember the first chunk of time that we really spent together was doing wardrobe.
What was that like?
We were in a huge dressing room full of every piece of cashmere that was available to any one person. We collected every piece, and it was just wall-to-wall cashmere sweaters and coats. And we just spent the whole day pulling out outfits and putting them together, and talking about scenes and what we would wear, and what my character would wear. Amanda. Is that her name, Amanda?
What Amanda would wear. And for each of the scenes. And we just had so much fun.
How did she sort of set the tone for camaraderie and chemistry among the cast?
The funny thing is that I did a lot of acting on my own, and just with Jude. Because we only had one scene with Jack and Kate. Our characters never crossed over. Basically Kate and Jack did their movie; Jude and I did ours. We only had the one scene at the end, where we all came together, and we shot that kind of at the beginning of the [shoot].
Jude and I had a lot of fun shooting our bits. But I mean, there’s a lot of scenes where Amanda’s just kind of trudging along on her own. Trying to figure out her life. And I’m just acting with Nancy the whole time, which was a lot of fun.
How did she sort of play off of you? When you say you were acting with her —
Nancy likes to do a lot of takes. She’s kind of known for that. That’s all day long. Her coming over and being, “I like that. Just a little bit more like this, and let me see it again.” So you go in there, and you try to do it exactly the same, up to the moment that she wants it different. And then you try to give her that difference. And then she’ll come back like, “That was great. So do it exactly that way again.” Okay, so we do it exactly that way again. “Okay, let me just see it one more time exactly like that?” So you just kind of go through it over and over and over again. Like, “Okay, that’s it. That’s all Nancy. I’ve done it 32 times. I’m going to stop now.” [Laughs.]
What is the coziest part of being on a Nancy Meyers set?
I think the sets are so wonderful. There’s just a real world that she knows how to create. Lots of textures, lots of layers. Clear distinctions for each of the character’s worlds that they live in. So that kind of wraps around you when you walk on set. Oftentimes when you walk on a set, you’re like, “I’m on a set. I’m making a movie.” But going on to the sets for The Holiday, you just felt like you were walking into the characters’ homes. You kind of forgot that you were on a soundstage, that there was lighting hanging above you and cameras all around you. That dissipates and you’re left in these very clear, thoughtful environments that the characters live among.
What’s the best bit of direction that she gave you?
I remember when we were doing the scene where I’m dancing to “Mr. Brightside.” She kind of did it for me. It was very Nancy — you just kind of let loose. So that was really funny, when she was on set and danced it out with me the first time around.
Is she a good dancer?
She’s a great dancer. She sent me a video of her dancing at the beginning of quarantine to “Mr. Brightside.” But she’s, like, going crazy because she’s been on her own in her house with Clorox wipes.
What’s the best line of dialogue your character had in The Holiday? What was something that you really enjoyed saying?
Oh my gosh. I haven’t seen the movie since it came out as a premiere. So I’m not as well-versed. But as far as what Amanda embodied — Nancy has this real ability to speak for women of a certain age and a certain phase of life. I think that for Amanda, she really nailed the woman who sort of put everything forward. The importance of her life was her career. And success. And being a boss and a good boss. Being something in the world. And really not putting the energy and importance on this other aspect of her life — that being the thing that she really desired and hoped for and was brokenhearted over not having. And then that woman being self-sufficient and thinking that somehow, she could get away from the boyfriend who was a jerk and go take care of herself in this way that is quite brave.
We all say, “I’m going to go away and be by myself, have this experience, and I can just do it on my own.” But nobody really does it. Few people really do it. And she did. And it kind of cracked her open — what she was lacking, and what she was missing. That ability to be vulnerable, to be open to her heart. She let this guy kind of ride in and ride on her coattails through their relationship. So what I love about Nancy is her clear point of view, that is just fun — and she does it in such a way that’s aspirational.
In what way?
People look at Nancy’s movies as a statement, in a way. It’s set in the real world, but it’s like, Who’s getting on first class, and flying, and taking this cute little cottage in the middle of England? Who gets to do that? You always wish that was you. You want to go do that. When people watch The Holiday, it’s just so aspirational. They’re like, One day, I’ll be able to do that. It’s almost like a modern-day Prince Charming, but not a helpless princess. It’s more like the fully capable princess who could have whatever she wants, but she can’t have it until she breaks open her heart and is vulnerable, and lets in the right man. And not just Prince Charming, but the guy who’s actually capable of showing up in all the ways she needs him to.
And aspirational in terms of being able to run a mile through the snow in heels.
[Laughs.] Oh, girl. I was running, like, seven miles a day in heels. That whole scene took a week to shoot. That wasn’t even in the script.
We were in England, and Nancy came up to me. She goes, “I’m so excited. We just got the okay to shoot, blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “What scene?” And she gave the number. And I was like, “What is that scene? What do you mean, ‘We got the okay to shoot it?’” She was like, “This scene.” And it’s literally just the stage description of what Amanda does: She’s in the back of a car, she realizes she has to go back, she stops the car, she gets out. The line is, “Stop the car.”
And she gets out of the car, and she runs back down the road to the cottage. But Nancy had her already a half a mile away. It was not like she got to the edge of the driveway and decided she needed to go back. She was halfway to the freaking airport. She’s almost to Heathrow, and she’s like, “Stop the car.” And for some reason ran back. I was like, “Okay. Cool. Great.” Literally no idea. They only used two shots, but we shot like ten shots of me running across ten different fields. And I’m wearing that Valentino cashmere, wool trench coat, a turtleneck cashmere sweater.
And jeans, and my high-heeled boots. And we covered all the hillside with this fake snow, which was totally biodegradable. It was the most incredible — it doesn’t snow in England. It rains in England. But there are swabs of snow. It’s all these long shots, like really far away. I’m just this tiny little thing running in the distance. And of course, the music is blasting while I’m shooting it. So I had the tempo to which I’m running. I’m flying down this field and up this hill and down this row of trees. And the camera’s on a track, and it’s tracking me as I run through the trees. Literally, I was so fit by the end of that week. I ran probably seven miles a day in those heels. Through mud and hills. It was so hilarious. I was literally like, I’m not even complaining right now because my job is to run, and I’m okay with that. But I’m sweating.
But you don’t appear to be sweating. That’s the most impressive part.
Well, movie magic, as they say. Because when I finally get to the gate, of course, it’s the day I had not been running. I run up, pretending like I’d been running, with my heavy breath. Breathing as if I had just run seven miles. I think we shot it in over a week. And I just said to Nancy, “How did this go from four lines of description into a two-week scene of shooting?” She was like, “I don’t know. I just always pictured it this way.”
I love this story. Is that typical for her?
Yeah. Everything’s very detailed. All directors are different. When they’re directing, some of them have a very clear view of how they want to see something done, so they really try to guide you toward that, and see where it ends up. Some directors, they don’t have as much of an idea, and they want to just see what you’re bringing. Nancy’s kind of both. She already knows exactly how she wants to see it, but she needs to see it first to make sure that it’s what she’s seeing. And once she sees it, it’s almost like she has to see it, I’d say, seven times consecutively. If she saw it exactly the same seven times, then she felt that she had it. And then when she had it, she had it. And then she’d want to see it differently. And then if you do it differently, you’d have to do it another seven times exactly the same.
But look at what it reaped. Look at the end product! People love that movie. I can’t even tell you. People come up to me all the time since the first time they’d seen it, they’re like, “This is my movie. I watch it every holiday season. It’s the first thing I put on at the beginning of December. I watch it every single day. I watch it with my sisters. I watch it with my mother. I watch it with my best friends.”
I love it, too. How would you describe Nancy’s sense of style? How does she dress, and how does she dress her characters?
Understated, simple. She loves a neutral palette. It works very well. She has that down. And everything’s textured. There’s the beautiful silk and the beautiful cashmere. It’s very luxe. Luxe but understated.
What’s the most Nancy Meyers memory that you have? If you could pick one story that sort of crystallizes her to you, what would it be?
I love the way Nancy talks. She talks with her hands, and she moves her head. And she has this very particular way about her mannerisms. Her glasses are always perfectly right on her nose in this way where you think that — you’re not sure if she’s ever pushed them up, but they’re not all the way down. So you’re not quite sure where they’ve lived — if that’s the spot they’ve lived on her face all the time or if there was another version of their placement.
But I just love her mannerisms. And she’s small. Nancy, she’s shorter than I am. And I always had heels on, so there was always more height difference. But she kind of stands back and looks up at me. She’s got this head tilt where she’s looking up at me, or she’s standing back and she’s looking up at me. And I always just think she is just — the word isn’t cute, because that’s patronizing. I’m analyzing a grown woman. But there’s just something about her stature and her presence that’s just … It makes me just want to hug her. I have so much respect for her. She walks to the beat of her own drum. [Inaudible noise.] Sorry, my dog’s snoring.
But I think she’s picked her lane, and she stays in it. That’s what I really love about her. She’s not trying to reinvent anything. She’s like, “I created this wheel. I made this path. This is my lane. I’m in it, I own it, and that’s just what I do. And everybody can get onboard or not. But this is the train going this way. It’s already left the station, and it’s on it’s way to its destination.” I think that there’s something great about that.
How would you characterize your friendship with her after working together? Do you guys ever see each other? Have you hung out? Do you talk?
We do. It’s been a long time, but we’ve always stayed in touch. We text each other. We call each other. We FaceTime. She comes over. Not always. Not consistently. Our lives are both full. She’s got her grandchildren and her daughters and her work. So she’s always busy. But we have stayed in touch and been invested in each other’s lives in a way that doesn’t happen always, especially after a long period of time from the time we worked with each other.
That’s so nice to hear. What’s your favorite Nancy movie? And it can be The Holiday, but it’s also okay if it’s not The Holiday.
That’s a good question. Funny thing is, I don’t think I really have watched any of them. That’s not true. I have watched Something’s Gotta Give. I’m trying to think of the last time I watched a Nancy Meyers movie. Parent Trap. I remember Parent Trap, when it was first made. And what was the last one that she did with Alec Baldwin?
It’s Complicated, yeah. And The Holiday. Holiday’s great.
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