Even at the pinnacle of the Hollywood hierarchy, there are many degrees of fame. Some A-listers can go about their lives relatively unhassled by autograph seekers and tabloid photographers, provided they steer clear of sex scandals and DUIs. Sarah Jessica Parker, for instance, can often be spotted dining at one of the sidewalk cafés near her home in New York’s West Village, nary a lensman in sight. And Uma Thurman is able to handle school pickups and drop-offs without anyone causing a fuss. But then there are stars like Cameron Diaz, who, try as they might, never seem to get a break from the madness—even in a tiny mountaintop village in Peru.
Last year, Diaz journeyed to South America as a guest host of the Canadian travel show 4Real. The idea was for her to visit a young shaman in the Peruvian hamlet of Chinchero, where he leads spirit ceremonies and dispenses medicinal herbs. One would imagine this remote region to be among the few places on earth where Diaz wouldn’t have to deal with the paparazzi (or “motherf---ers,” as she’s called them), but, alas, that was not to be. “We couldn’t go anywhere without people being like, ‘Cameron! Cameron!’” recalls 4Real’s producer and host, Sol Guy. “And there were paparazzi everywhere, pushing and shoving us.”
The frenzy reached its apex when the show visited Machu Picchu, the so-called “lost city of the Incas.” As Diaz and her crew were standing on a cliffside spot from which the view is most majestic, a gaggle of tired-looking women in grubby cargo pants arrived, having just hiked four days to take in the vistas. And were they appropriately awed, after their long uphill trek, at the picture postcard–worthy sight before them? Nope. They hardly seemed to notice—they were too busy gawking at Diaz and begging her to pose for photos.
On a dreary February day in New York, there are, thankfully, no such scenes when Diaz shows up for her interview at Gemma, the restaurant in the trendy Bowery Hotel. It’s just after 4 p.m. on a Thursday, and the dining room is deserted, just as she had planned it. As she enters, the actress, who is running a few minutes behind schedule, breaks into a mincing slo-mo jog, bouncing across the room and faux-frantically waving her long arms. “I’m so sorry,” she says when she arrives at the table, practically somersaulting onto the leather banquette. “Mercury is in retrograde, and that messes with technology, and I was trying to get on e-mail to approve something, and my computer kept crashing....” And with that she starts rubbing her mouth against her cowl-neck sweater, then furiously wiping her lips with her hands. “I feel like I have stuff all over my mouth. Do I have, like, gunk on my lips? Am I grossing you out?” she asks, dissolving into a fit of giggles. “It’s like, eewwww, gross!”