Spike Jonze Cast Cameron Diaz In Being John Malkovich For A Lot More Than Her Star Power

"Being John Malkovich" remains just as inventive and thought-provoking in 2022 as it was at the time of its 1999 release. The movie marked the feature film debut for screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, and they have each gone on to impressive careers as both writers and directors in the years since. Starring John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, an unsuccessful puppeteer who finds a secret passage way into the mind of actor John Malkovich, the movie also stars Cameron Diaz as his dowdy wife, Lotte. I know what you're thinking: How could Cameron Diaz possibly look dowdy?

Diaz's appearance in the film may have been completely different from how audiences were used to seeing her, but her part was about so much more than Lotte's looks. The actress gives an impassioned and sincere performance as Craig's mild-mannered wife, who goes on quite a journey of self-discovery as the film progresses. Diaz was a majorly bankable star in 1999, but that's not actually why Jonze cast her in the role. How did Diaz wind up playing Lotte?

Being Cameron Diaz

When speaking to Filmmaker about "Being John Malkovich," Spike Jonze was asked about Diaz's casting in the film. The interviewer brought up Wong Kar-wai and his penchant for dramatically altering the appearances of extremely famous actresses in his films and asked if Jonze was doing something similar. The director explained:

"No. It's funny, because people are writing about this 'stunt'—disguising Cameron. Cameron was the last one to come on the movie. The movie was already [green-lit]—we didn't have to cast her to get the movie made. We cast her because of her understanding of the character, her acting, and her energy. Her character actually has two energies going on—the repressed thing and the one that discovers herself. We talked a lot about this. Do you cast someone who has this natural energy to them and then have them play more repressed as a person and then try to bring them out, or do you cast someone who has this natural energy to them and then have them play more repressed at the beginning?"

Lotte does indeed go through a pretty radical transformation in the film, so the part definitely requires someone capable of portraying who she is at the beginning, as well as who she's become by story's end. Lotte has so much simmering beneath the surface and Diaz manages to show all of these conflicting feelings on her face.

Why the frizzy hair?

The interviewer also asked Jonze about the timeframe in which he spoke to Diaz about her appearance in "Being John Malkovich," as well as how he went about creating this very different look for her. Jonze responded:

"We talked about it from the beginning. I showed her pictures — I take a lot of pictures of people, just driving around the street — and I get wardrobe and character ideas from that. We wanted Craig and Lotte to be a struggling artist couple living in Brooklyn, and we wanted to take them seriously as characters, make them as real as possible. You know how couples end up looking alike after they've been together for a while? I wanted them to look a little similar, and that's where the [frizzy] hair came from."

We've all either met or been those couples who've been together so long that they kind of morph into the same person. It's amazing how much of an effect a wig, contacts, and lack of makeup can have on what someone looks like, and head makeup artist Gucci Westman had quite a difficult task in making Diaz less attractive. Though she is virtually unrecognizable in the movie, Diaz didn't just rely on her new look to tell us who this character is. The actress gives an incredibly nuanced performance, making Lotte's emotional journey feel quite real, not only when she's speaking, but also when she's barely saying a word. Thankfully, Diaz will soon be coming out of retirement, starring opposite Jamie Foxx in Netflix's "Back in Action."