Cameron Diaz, John Cusack, and John Malkovich explain what it's like to be constantly bugged by fans

By Josh Wolk
Updated October 29, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Melissa Moseley

Sure, it seems like celebrities have it all, but after seeing ”Being John Malkovich,” you might gain a little more sympathy for stars who can’t shop for toilet paper without being slapped on the back and hounded for autographs. The surreal comedy is about a puppeteer (John Cusack) who discovers a portal into Malkovich’s brain where anyone who enters can experience the celebrity’s life for 15 minutes. In the film, Malkovich is constantly being approached by people who want to talk about his past roles, usually ones he didn’t actually do, a situation that reflects his real life. ”It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to have a conversation, have a nervous breakdown, get divorced, or get married,” says Malkovich, 45. ”They don’t care. They just come up and say, ‘You were great in that jewel thief movie!’ But I wasn’t in a jewel thief movie, I say. ‘Sure you were!”’

Of course, Malkovich has had 15 years in movies to get used to the loss of privacy. His costar, Cameron Diaz (who plays Cusack’s unrecognizably frumpy wife), is relatively new to fame and is still adjusting to having fans. ”When it first starts happening to you, you can get really frantic about it,” says Diaz, 27. ”But I’m fortunate that the people I have coming up to me are nice and want to say good things. But if I end up with a complete jerk, I have no problem saying, ‘You’re a complete jerk, get out of my face.”’

Usually any fan approaching does so out of respect for an actor’s work. However, if a star is even slightly insecure, the most well-meaning comment can ruin his or her day. ”When a cab driver says, ‘You were good in that one movie,’ he’s putting out something really positive,” says costar Catherine Keener. ”But what you hear is, ‘Jesus, and I was so bad in my other 50.”’

But the biggest lesson celebrities learn is that once they make a popular movie, they’ll hear about it for the rest of their careers. Take it from John Cusack, 33, who’s still reliving 1985’s ”Better Off Dead.” ”I’ve been in a deep conversation with a woman, and a guy will come up and say, ‘I really don’t mean to bother you, I can see you’re having a romantic dinner, but I just gotta say… I want my two dollars!’ And they start feeding me these lines from movies I did when I was 17.”

This actually gives some actors incentive to make another hit, if for no other reason than to hear different lines parroted back. ”Now for a couple of years,” says Malkovich, ”instead of people coming up and going, ‘Hey, Cyrus the Virus!’ [His ”Con Air” character] they’ll go, ‘I loved you in the jewel thief movie!”’

Being John Malkovich

  • Movie
  • R
  • 112 minutes
  • Spike Jonze