Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a teacher who just doesn’t give an 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 her day job teaching middle school. When she’s dumped by her fiancé, she sets her plan in motion to win over a rich, handsome substitute (Justin Timberlake) – competing for his affections with an overly energetic colleague, Amy (Lucy Punch) – but finds herself fighting off the advances of an irreverent gym teacher (Jason Segel). Elizabeth’s outrageous schemes and their wild consequences will shock her students, her co-workers, and even herself.
MoviesOnline sat down with Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith and director Jake Kasdan to talk about their new movie at a press conference in Los Angeles. They told us what it was like to be part of such a terrific ensemble cast, how fun it was to play fully drawn characters that were so over-the-top outrageous, and why having a woman in the lead role pushing the envelope made the script insanely funny. They also shared their most memorable teacher moments and explained why finding a sugar daddy during an economic downturn is a smart financial strategy that even Susie Orman would approve of.
Q: Cameron, I love how your character was blatantly motivated to get a boob job. Was it fun to have the wrong self-image values?
CAMERON: Completely. Obviously, if I thought that I could get somewhere with having bigger boobies, I would have done it by now. But, for her, it’s everything. It’s called hard economic times. Have you ever heard of this? You can’t find a millionaire the way you could three, four years ago before the Crash. So it’s a lot of work for her now. It’s an investment. Susie Orman would have been like “Girl, 5-Year Plan.” So yeah, she’s working hard for those. She knows that to get what you want you have to have a goal and her goal is to invest in her business and get a pair of tits.
Q: It was blatantly to find a sugar daddy too. That’s not right either.
CAMERON: But I’m not judging, clearly. I’m not judging. But the thing about it is that if we really believed this was the right thing to do, we wouldn’t be making fun of it. Right? So it was really fun to make fun of it because 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. 14-year-old boys, I love it! So it was really fun to be able to go to work every day and have a team of people all on the same wagon going towards complete and utter distaste and throwing everything out the window. It’s fantastic. We had a lot of fun doing that.
Q: Have you had any memorable teachers that really stand out?
CAMERON: (referring to her co-stars) They have better stories than I do.
JASON: Well I would like to give a shout out to a teacher called Ted Walsh who was my high school drama coach at a school called Harper Westlake in the Valley. He really changed my life and right before I left I got to see him in a high school play. I had started working with Jake (Kasden) in “Freaks ‘n Geeks” 13 or 14 years ago now. It’s crazy. He said right before I left, “Don’t ever forget, the best actor in the world is out there stuck doing dinner theater somewhere so don’t ever get arrogant about thinking you’re entitled to this.” And it stayed with me for this whole time.
JUSTIN: I had a teacher in 7th grade who told me I should have more realistic goals than being a songwriter because my school work was suffering and you can quote me on this directly to her: “Suck it!”
CAMERON: I had Mr. Fujikawa in 6th grade who used to come in after the weekends and tell us about his 3-year-old son that he would spend the weekends with and how wonderful it was to teach him and have a child to pass on knowledge to and how you want to encourage them and also teach them life’s lessons as he sat with his feet literally kicked up on the desk talking about how wonderful it was this weekend. His son was starting to walk and how gratifying it was that when he took the four steps up the porch to get to the top to the front door, as he got to the very last step, he would pull on the string that he had tied around his leg to bring him back down to the beginning to help him get back up the next four or five steps. I just thought that was the most amazing – like I laughed so hard when he told that story. Everybody else was like “Whoa!” and I was like “That’s awesome!” Of course, I could relate very well to it. But yeah, that to me was somebody who helped form and shape me, really, honestly.
JUSTIN: I feel like these three stories really explain who we are as adults.
Q: Justin and Cameron, I think you achieved creating the most iconic dry humping scene in cinema history. Can you talk about putting that together?
JUSTIN: Putting that together…well, I think we created the only dry humping scene ever seen in a movie. I’d like to say that Jake (Kasden) had – he wasn’t literally between us but figuratively he was there and honestly…
CAMERON: He was our humping coach.
JUSTIN: He was my humping coach. I gotta say there’s nothing wrong with a good jean jam. I’m serious. I don’t know why that’s funny to you guys. But also, collectively, both of us felt that we had a responsibility and that was to the young people who are going to buy tickets to “Transformers” the second week and go see this movie because they’re underage. It really is a public service announcement for safe sex.
CAMERON: You can’t, you know, when you’ve got the denim on denim.
JUSTIN: Nobody ever got pregnant with their jeans on.
CAMERON: We’re totally promoting that. That’s pretty much the only message that’s in the movie that we are proud of. Other than that, it’s completely …there’s nothing else. We thought we shouldn’t just be making a movie about nothing that is of any importance. If we’re going to try to be role models in any way, we should offer up at least a jean jam at the very least.
JUSTIN: And it is jamming on my part.
Q: Justin, how hard was it for you to sing that crazy song without cracking up and did you contribute to the lyrics at all?
JUSTIN: Simpatico? The original composition by Scott Delacorte? Yeah, it’s a special song that goes out to that special someone. That was an idea that Gene (Stupnitsky) and Lee (Eisenberg) and Jake (Kasden) came to me about. In the script, there was a loose idea about the teacher band show and Scott doing a singer/songwriter thing and I remember Jake coming to me and saying if we’re going to do this, we have to create something that’s going to be terrible. So it’s pretty obvious that I put my body on the line for comedy, why not put my voice on the line for comedy? But honestly, the lyrics were Gene and Lee and then they brought it to me and I just tried to create the most terrible melody that I could to it. The mission was to make it so bad that they would not be able to market it in the trailer. It’s really just an extension of the character. It was totally a collaboration between the writers and Jake, the director.
JAKE: We had an enormous advantage having Justin play the part obviously. Nobody is as funny as him. We had the idea that Scott could sing the worst song ever written and sort of proudly and Justin nailed that thing for sure.
Q: Lucy, what exactly was the depth of your character’s mania
LUCY: Well I did have a specific idea of what had happened to poor Amy Squirrel but out of respect for her, I think it was a manic episode. I think she was highly medicated and perhaps because of the drama with Elizabeth and Scott, she perhaps forgot to take her meds and then she started to unravel pretty quickly. She definitely unhinged and definitely needs to be on valium probably to make her calm.
CAMERON: She needs medication.
Q: Phyllis, you almost pursued a career in education, didn’t you? Did you have any misgivings or is this a profession that’s really ripe for comedy?
PHYLLIS: Briefly, in a past life. The profession itself? All my teachers were exactly like those in the cast, every one of them. So that’s what made me the way I am today. Actually teaching is a tough profession, and I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I’m glad I’m not in it any longer. I kind of like being up here and doing what I’m doing. I don’t have the grit that it takes to face a class full of kids anymore, so I’m right here where I should be.
Q: Was there a reality then? Were there experiences that are in the script where you’d say ‘This is only half of it’?
CAMERON: The puke and the urine and the blood?
PHYLLIS: We have a puke scene… Cameron, you should tell them about that.
CAMERON: That better be on the DVD – the vomit scene. That was pretty amazing.
JAKE: There was a running idea that inexplicably Phyllis’s character was always covered in some kind of bodily fluid without any real explanation as to why. And like a lot of jokes where the joke is that there’s no explanation for why, eventually someone says “But why?” In this case, we weren’t able to answer it satisfactorily so it’s not in the final film. But, as Cameron says, when that DVD comes out, we’ll learn more about her character.
CAMERON: Also, the puking scene that I volunteered for, that didn’t make it into the final cut.
JAKE: That’s right, Cameron threw up and it’s not in there.
LUCY: All over me, several times.
CAMERON: And it’s not there, all of that work.
JUSTIN: You guys know what it’s like, you gotta kill babies when you make movies. Sometimes those gems just end up on the DVD.
Q: What’s your opinion of public education and how many of you are a product of it?
CAMERON: I’m as public as education gets.
JUSTIN: Man, we gotta figure out a way to pay our teachers more. That’s my opinion of it. They’re like surrogate parents away from home and in doing the junket for the last couple days I’ve come across the realization, especially when you keep getting the question “Have you had a bad teacher?,” and I get why you ask us that because of the little hook with ‘bad teacher.’ It’s a natural question. But, you keep coming across this idea about how… We started talking about it and we found that the teachers that we actually learned more from were the ones that taught us life lessons more than trigonometry. I mean, they have such a huge responsibility and they’re underappreciated and underpaid. So that’s my opinion.
Q: Jake, was it difficult to take on a project with a storyline about a sexy teacher, especially when we keep hearing about so many teachers who are hooking up with students? Did that restrict the story at all and what you decided to do?
JAKE: That’s what I wonder is whether we just hear about it when it comes to light or whether it’s actually epidemic or not. It wasn’t tricky. I mean, it was just an insanely funny script.
CAMERON: The one thing that Elizabeth doesn’t do, the one line she doesn’t cross is take on a 7th grader. That’s the one thing she doesn’t do, thankfully. I don’t think I would be down with that. That would be a different movie clearly. That would just be a completely different movie.
JAKE: She doesn’t really inflict any lasting damage on the kids.
CAMERON: Nothing their parents haven’t done to them already. You know what I’m saying?
JAKE: We hardly even talked about it, honestly.
Q: Jake, regarding the stuff we may see on the DVD, a lot of stuff was shot that we don’t see in the movie. Were you strictly going by what the MPAA regulations said you could put in?
JAKE: No, it’s ‘R’ rated so you can put anything in. The MPAA doesn’t care.
CAMERON: We were just talking about story arc and character arc. We were just trying to serve that.
JAKE: Part of how we do this is our system is to shoot a ton of material and a lot of different jokes, and for every joke, there’s a variation on it. The final movie is very close to the script that we all fell in love with, but along the way, we shoot a lot of stuff. One of the upsides of it is that you’re able to cull from a pretty deep well of jokes that are in fact very much representative of what the movie is like, but stuff goes in and out like that and you end up with your best shot at what you think the best version of the movie is. So when we first started putting things together, there are things in the movie that don’t end up in the movie, but there was no ‘Don’t be dirty police’ from anywhere really.
Q: Cameron, you were in “The Sweetest Thing” a number of years ago. Then there was “Something About Mary.” And “Bridesmaid” is doing really well this summer and this is coming out shortly. It looks like this is the time for women behaving badly and funny in movies now. Can you talk about how that’s changed over the years and what your commitment to doing that is?
CAMERON: My commitment to it? It’s pretty obvious. Women have always behaved badly. I think probably worse 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. I mean, if any of my guy friends, when I start to tell them what women really talk about and what really goes down, they’re like “Lalalalalalalalala!” They don’t want to hear it. It’s like plug their ears. They can’t take it. So, maybe it’s just that at this moment it’s the time for women to come. There are a lot of those films now. I think people are willing to laugh at those things altogether now and to know that 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 so I can’t wait to see it. I’ve been out of the country and it’s not open in England at the moment so I actually don’t know the humor of “Bridesmaids” so I can’t really speak to that. But, I think that people are just willing to take a chance and I think the studios nowadays are willing to. Formulaically, we’re tired of seeing the same old thing. After a while, it just doesn’t work anymore. This is a business and we want to make some money and we want to make things that work and I think they’re taking a chance at different things.
JUSTIN: As a male who actually enjoys hearing those dirty things that women say, I think funny women have been around forever – Carol Burnett, Madeline Kahn – I mean, there’ve always been genius female actors in comedy. I also think that we live in an age where technology has afforded a generation a lot more of a crass look at the world. The internet is a really strange place to be. I think the level of what we can understand about brash humor mixed with all these different elements with all types of movies like “The Hangover” and things like that, I think that people like Jake and directors who step up and say “We want to push the envelope but in a way that we know can get laughs,” that always fuels the engine. But also it is great, like Cameron said, that’s the coolest thing about this movie is that a male could have played this lead role. It’s a great thing to see a female that can do it and do it as well as Cameron does it.
JASON: I feel like the boob job storyline would have been a little weird.
CAMERON: This is true but we could’ve worked around it somehow.
JAKE: I hear you. It would have played differently.
CAMERON: It could have been like calf implants or something.
JAKE: There’s a lot of things in the movie that would have played really differently with a man.
CAMERON: Aren’t calf implants a big thing now for guys?
JAKE: It’s the story of a guy saving up for his calf implants.
JASON: Worst movie ever! Can you imagine?
CAMERON: But funny!
Q: You guys are a great ensemble cast with a lot of experience doing comedies. What was it like to come together to make this movie?
JUSTIN: Well after the first week of rehearsal and the first orgy, it all just kind of came together.
JAKE: It wasn’t that hard I don’t think. We just got really funny people to play every single part and the material is really funny and they’re all nice people. It wasn’t really that hard.
CAMERON: It’s like comedy marksman. You know what I mean? Everybody is like precision. They pull back the arrow, they take a breath, they slow down their heartbeat, and then they just let go and it’s like “Bull’s eye!” You have to do that with this kind of fast-paced comedy where we’re shooting like this and we never stop. It’s constant. It’s not leisure time for us. We have a schedule so you have to come in and just hit it. When Jake would come up to me and give me notes, and then he wouldn’t say anything to Jason, and Jason would say “So just be as awesome as I was last time?” and he was like “Yeah.”
JASON: I’m super good at this.
CAMERON: So we didn’t have to. That cuts down time because you don’t have to give people like Jason notes because he hits the mark, the bull’s eye, every time. It’s precision comedy.
JASON: For me, when you’re involved in a cast like this, there’s kind of a mutual admiration society element to it where especially when you’re doing your off-camera, you’re sitting back in awe watching great comedians do their thing and that’s always when I feel the luckiest and when I feel totally like I’ve tricked everyone. You know you’re sitting around people who are actually amazing at the thing that you profess to do. It’s a very humbling experience.
JAKE: Watching them do this stuff is 90% of my job and that’s incredibly [rewarding]. This movie had a little bit of a thing where, as much as anything I’ve ever worked on, although I’ve had a couple of things that were like this where you almost couldn’t believe you were allowed to do it. So there was fun…almost like we were doing it fast and we were really having a good time together and so there was a little bit of ‘Oh my God, let’s finish this real quick before anyone notices that we’re acting’ and cut it together and hope for the best. We really had a good time with it.
Q: Jason, with all this mayhem that was going on in the story, was it appealing to you to be somewhat the voice of reason?
JASON: Yeah, it was really fun. To some extent, I’m a straight man and I think in a small way I’m sort of the eyes of the audience a little bit. I’m the one who pops in and calls her on her BS which I think is what the audience wants to do at points, like ‘What are you doing?,’ and I’m the character that gets to voice that opinion. So that was really fun. I got to come in and just observe and try to get a couple zingers in there. That was kind of my goal and then just be natural. It was very easy to act against Cameron and the entire cast.
Q: Do any of you have a funny story to tell about Jake?
CAMERON: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
JUSTIN: Hold that thought.
CAMERON: I am.
Q: Some of the scenes might have played differently if it was a male teacher. What about that wet T-shirt car wash scene which was so inspirational and uplifting? When you approach something like that, is it a nightmare or do you embrace it?
PHYLLIS: I actually taught her how to do that.
CAMERON: She did!
JUSTIN: I’ve been waiting to be asked that question. I feel like I nailed it. A lot of people don’t know this, but I’m just going to tell them about what we did. I choreographed the car wash scene. That will also be on the DVD extras. There’s a behind the scenes look at me demonstrating how to wash that car.
CAMERON: In his shorts, in his Daisy Dukes.
LUCY: I got to watch it in my very unattractive track suit from the sidelines and the best of it was not actually watching Cameron, but watching the crew. Nothing was being shot, everyone was slightly distracted. It was incredible.
JUSTIN: The shot of the black and white hitting the car, there was a police car that came by while we were shooting and Jake just literally saw what was about to happen and had the DP pan the camera over and we just caught some reality.
Q: Justin, it looks like you’re in line to join the Five-Timers Club on SNL if you haven’t already. I haven’t quite kept count. What makes a host a good fit for that show and do you ever meet up with the other Five-Timers that got involved in your comics?
JAKE: That was a sketch once, wasn’t it?
JUSTIN: Yeah, it was, the Five-Timers Club. I’ve hosted four times. The season finale was my fourth time although it does seem like more because when I’m in New York City, they can’t keep me out of “30 Rock” which is probably annoying to them on some level. I grew up with SNL as an institution. It is part of the humor and chemistry between me and my father. I come from a divorced family and didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my father when I was young and it’s something that we share that is really special to me. Growing up with that show, it was just an institution. I remember staying up late. It was really bad parenting because I was too young to be watching some of the jokes that were on SNL, but hey, I turned out okay. I’m just such a huge fan of the show, and to be honest, I’m here at this press conference because of SNL. I have no doubt in my mind about that. I owe getting the shot to be in “Bad Teacher” with these genius comedians and comediennes directly to SNL and Lorne Michaels for letting me be there and rock out with…
CAMERON: …your dick in a box?
JUSTIN: …all I got. And, I mean, can we just say that that is a thoughtful Christmas gift?
CAMERON: It is. I think it’s amazing.
JUSTIN: I don’t know. I feel like…
CAMERON: The smaller the bow, the bigger the package.
JUSTIN: That’s true. Trim your bow, gentlemen. I directly owe any opportunity that I ever get on film to be in a comedy to SNL so I’m so thankful for that show as a kid and as an adult.
JASON: I’ll join the Five-Timers Club if I host five more times.
Q: Cameron, your character says some horrible things but I like her and I’m wondering if that’s just your sunny personality coming through? How did you work on trying to get us to like her as well?
CAMERON: That was the great thing about this movie. There was not one ounce of energy spent trying to make anything about this character likeable. It was genius. It’s what I loved. As I went 30 pages into this script, I was like “There is no way I’m playing this character. How could I ever redeem her? There’s no redemption for her. This is a horrible person.” And then 10 pages later, I was like “Ahhh, I think I like her.” And then, by the end, I was like “This is amazing because I don’t have to apologize. There’s no apologizing for this person.” And that’s the beauty of this script and what I think is such a breath of fresh air while you watch it. Usually you spend the last 20 minutes of the movie trying to apologize for the first hour and a half of it because people are afraid of just owning what it is. In life, we don’t just have an epiphany and change our entire life style. It happens but it’s not the norm. You have the sense that this person is just sort of slowing down the train to jump off so she could get across the platform to get back on the train going the other direction. I really appreciated that and I didn’t want to mess with that. I didn’t want to try to make her happy. She has one moment where she says to the kid that she’s got her priorities all screwed up and you see this sort of flash, like “Nahh! Okay!”
JAKE: A brief near miss with self-examination.
CAMERON: Exactly! I didn’t feel there was any reason to [apologize for her]. I think the reason people like her, if they do at all, is because she’s honest and people wish that they could be as honest as she is and that they don’t have to suffer the consequences or repercussions of their actions. She doesn’t, and therefore, she’s kind of like a hero even though she’s totally not. She should be the anti-hero.
Q: What about the “R” rating from the MPAA? A lot of young kids aren’t going to be able to get in to see this movie. What’s the harm in 15 and 16-year-olds seeing this movie anyway?
CAMERON: It’s arbitrary honestly, the rating system. Who’s to judge what is “R” rated or not. It’s all relative, right? It just depends on who’s watching it if it’s something that’s inappropriate or not. So I say “Get rid of the ratings, man!” [Justin starts imitating a bugler while humming the melody for “Taps”] Our youth is suffering that they are kept out of movies like this. We should give this to our children. They need it. Take off the “R” rating.
JAKE: I think ideally parents would decide what their kids are seeing and help them. And instead, they have these ratings.
CAMERON: God, Jake, buzzkill!
JUSTIN: The only person at the table with a conscience.
JAKE: I’m not a huge fan of the system but it is what it is. That seems to be the way it works. It seems pretty arbitrary from the perspective of making this stuff a lot of times.
CAMERON: This content against like the video games, where they all get to slash each other up and cut each other’s head off or even just Viagra commercials in the middle of the Super Bowl. I mean, that, to me, I take more offense to.
[Justin resumes humming the melody to Taps]
Q: Is that the theme song for the ratings system?
JUSTIN: One can also argue that if you take away the ‘R’ rating, it’s going to take all the fun out of being a teenager and sneaking in.
CAMERON: This is true.
JUSTIN: So let’s be honest, they’re going to do it.
Q: Cameron, your character gives some tough advice in a way that most people wouldn’t do it. Would you rather see adults give kids realistic advice or is it good to protect them and say ‘Yes, you can’ when you know they really can’t?
CAMERON: No. I believe that you should always be honest with kids. You’re doing a disservice to not only the child, but to society if you’re breeding a child that doesn’t have the tools to cope in the real world. I’m very direct. I told the kids when they all showed up to set. I was like “Yeah, so your parents let you do this, right? You know what’s going to happen? You think you do but you don’t. Be ready, be aware, we’re not holding back. We’re not sugar coating any of this. I’m not watching my language. If you don’t like it, if you have a problem, you can leave. It’s fine.”
JUSTIN: Don’t move your face and just take this dodgeball.
JASON: And then you said there’s no Santa. That was really totally unnecessary because they’re like 12.
CAMERON: But I let them keep the Easter bunny.
JUSTIN: But, after that, everything was uphill. “Don’t move your face and take this dodgeball, kid.”
Q: Jason, maybe there is no Santa, but there are muppets. This has been a dream project for you over the years but is this also a case of ‘Be careful what you wish for’?
JASON: No, it was very difficult to make. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into logistically and technically. It’s tricky. You have to build elevated sets. There’s all sorts of stuff that I didn’t foresee.
JAKE: That you would have to build the sets, you mean?
JASON: Just one guy and a hammer. I was like John Henry out there. It was truly a dream come true. I can’t say enough about those puppeteers as well. Part of their job is to be invisible. You’re not supposed to think about the puppeteer when in reality these guys are actors and musicians and contortionists a lot of the time and comedians. I was just in awe. I cried when they brought out Kermit for the first time and he started saying stuff I wrote. It was crazy. It’s been four years in the making, but coming up Thanksgiving time, I think we’ll all be very happy.
JUSTIN: Jason just wants the world to be happy.
JASON: I just want people to be happy.
Q: Phyllis, do you have any tidbits you can give us on the next “Office” for the upcoming season?
PHYLLIS: Unfortunately, I learn everything about what’s coming up in the next season when I do the red carpet and you all tell me. So no, I really don’t.
“Bad Teacher” opens in theaters on June 24th.