June 9th, 2009
03:19 PM ET
Not all journalists enjoy asking painful questions. My old journalism professor would tell us about how he would arrive at the home of a murder victim, to gather information for a story... only to discover the police hadn't yet told the family the news. He'd have to break it to them - and then get background, and a photo of the deceased for the paper. Not a job for a sensitive soul.
Entertainment news is usually a lot lighter than that, of course, but "real life" often intrudes, whether it's Phil Spector, Chris Brown, or David Carradine. This past weekend, I attended the junket for "My Sister's Keeper," which stars Cameron Diaz as a mother desperately trying to keep her eldest daughter from dying of leukemia. Emotional stuff, but fiction. What wasn't fiction was what happened in the middle of filming last April: her beloved father, Emilio Diaz, died of complications from pneumonia.
So, do I ask about it at the junket? Depending on how you look at it, it's directly related to the movie and her performance, or not related at all. I figured if the conversation led to an opening, I'd take a shot.
For the interview, Diaz was joined by the actresses who play her daughters, Sofia Vassilieva and Abigail Breslin. All three are quite good in the film, especially Vassilieva, who plays Kate, the daughter with cancer. The 16-year-old co-star of TV's "Medium" told me she loved that Kate didn't waste precious time with attitude and isolation: "She cut right to the point of being happy, and thankful for every day and the relationship she had with her sister, her mom, and her family."
"And the rare times that attitude flagged," I noted, nodding at Diaz and Breslin, "one of you was there to pick her up." I'd meant their characters, of course, but... hmm, the idea of mutual support - maybe this was my opening?
"I'll ask this and we can just move on," I began, looking at Diaz. "You had some tough stuff during filming... while you had your own family problems, did it help to have already bonded with these people [the cast]?"
Diaz didn't flinch. "Absolutely. I had to go back to work - there was no option to it, and of course I want to fulfill my responsibilities, and it really helped to go back to a group of people who I trusted, and who were there with open arms and who - literally, I mean these girls literally held me," she said, reaching out to Sofia and Abigail on either side of her. "So it was a blessing: even though that happened at that time, the blessing is I got to go back to that group of people."
We went on to other topics, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd tried to be polite; she had been gracious; and the potentially awkward moment was past.
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