Last year in Rebecca Miller’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Camilla Belle delivered one of the most complicated, unnerving portrayals of an adolescent coming of age in recent years, starring opposite heavyweights Daniel Day-Lewis and Catherine Keener as the daughter of a widowed former radical (Day-Lewis) who must deal with her father’s deteriorating health as well as the consequences of her own sheltered upbringing. If Belle’s performance in the film signaled her arrival as a dramatic heavyweight-in-training, two other recently released movies have earmarked her as one of this era’s most viable new teen obsessions: the girl every teenage guy wants to be with and every teenage girl wants to be. In The Chumscrubber, Belle put a new spin on the kind of character that Winona Ryder once made de rigueur. It’s a film that deals with the tried-and-true teen-flick formula of itinerant parents dealing with a precociously smart, at times manipulative, and reasonably rebellious youth, featuring a virtual repertory of the movies’ hottest young talent, including Lou Pucci, Jamie Bell, and Justin Chatwin. And her latest film, When a Stranger Calls, a recently released remake of the 1979 horror film, sees Belle playing a straitlaced teenage girl who takes a babysitting job to make a little extra money and winds up running for her life. The 19-year-old Los Angeles native, who has been appearing onscreen since before she could even walk or talk, recently sat down with her friend and co-star in Invisible Circus (2001), Cameron Diaz, at a Hollywood restaurant.
CAMERON DIAZ: So, hi Camilla.
CAMILLA BELLE: Hi, Cameron.
CD: What are you doing?
CB: I’m sitting here with you, drinking water, on this sunny day.
CD: It’s, like, 90 degrees in Los Angeles. Strange. We’re both from California, though, so it’s fine. [both laugh] So you just turned 19. I was out of town, but I’ve been to your birthdays before. You always have crazy parties where you get all dressed up.
CB: This year I didn’t have a party, because all my friends are away at college, so I’m here alone with leftovers.
CD: Really? Scraps?
CB: Yeah. It’s a little lonely.
CD: Do they know they’re the leftovers?
CD: Do they consider you a leftover?
CB: We’re all leftovers because our hard-core group of friends are on the East Coast. I didn’t have a party; I went to Europe instead.
CD: You went to fashion shows.
CB: Yes, it was really fun. We went to the Dior show. I got to meet John Galliano. The Chanel show was amazing.
CD: How is your French?
CB: I understand a lot, so that’s helpful. I can get along fine. I can order food at a restaurant.
You’ve got to love those bruises. Otherwise life’s no fun. What’s the point?Camilla Belle
CD: You also speak Portuguese, which is actually your first language because your mom is from Brazil, right?
CD: To me Portuguese sounds like Russian.
CB: It’s very different, very strange.
CD: [laughs] Your mom’s rad, though.
CB: She’s obsessed with fashion. That’s what she used to do when she was in Brazil. She had her own line and she was a designer.
CD: So what does fashion mean to you, Camilla?
CB: Are you seriously asking me that?
CD: This is what people want to know!
CB: It’s just the face you made when you said it.
CD: Well, you’re very stylish.
CB: I’m starting to appreciate fashion more now. Going to shows is amazing. It is an art form. They have to be so creative to come up with a new look every season. I want to go to more of them.
CD: And meet the designers. It ain’t a bad life. You’ve been in this business for so long. How old were you when you started?
CB: Nine months old.
CD: Nine months. So you’ve been doing this your whole life. As far back as you can remember, did you always enjoy acting?
CB: My view on it has changed. Before, it was more for fun. My friends would be on a soccer team or play baseball, and this just happened to be what I did. I would leave for a month and go do a movie and then come back. It was just kind of my hobby. Then when I took three years off to stay at school, I started to really miss acting. Doing The Ballad of Jack and Rose with Daniel [Day-Lewis] just completely changed the way I thought about it. Now it’s something that I realize I am really passionate about and want to continue.
CD: He gets so intensely into character.
CB: You had it harder than I did!
CD: On Gangs of New York , you mean. He definitely went deep into character. It actually was sort of liberating for me.
CB: To see that it’s okay to go that far.
CD: And to see that everybody does it differently. So how did that experience affect you?
CB: It was more inspiring than anything. By watching him and his preparation, I kind of got into that world as well, trying to be the character instead of just acting like her. Daniel even knew how the character would roll a cigarette. He knew how the character sat down, walked, and everything.
CD: It takes it to a whole new level. Did you meet him before he went into character?
CB: I read with him twice before we did the film, and he was Daniel then. Then once I got to the set he wasn’t Daniel anymore. He was definitely Jack.
CD: Do you do any of that sort of work for a movie like When A Stranger Calls?
CB: That was hard because it was such a technical film. Also, the character wasn’t really as complex. She’s just a normal high school girl who babysits to get some extra cash, and then becomes the victim of something awful. In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what to do.
CD: Like, “Maybe I’m overthinking this.”
CB: Exactly. Maybe I shouldn’t be getting this inside if I’m exhausted after one take. It can be kind of frustrating. I was working by myself al-most the entire time. Just a phone and the director’s assistant on the line, trying to be a scary man.
CD: That’s hard, dude. I always hate doing phone scenes.
CB: I did get to do my own stunts.
CD: You did?
CB: It was really intense. But fighting was so much fun. I mean, I’ve never had so many welts and bruises all over my body in my life.
CD: You don’t feel those bruises and lumps when you’re getting them, either.
CB: No, you don’t. It’s afterward, when you look at your legs-
CD: And they’re all black and blue and lumpy. Have you seen the original When a Stranger Calls?
CB: I have not. I hate horror films. But the one we did is more of a psychological thriller.
CD: [in an announcer’s voice] A psy-cho-log-i-cal thrill-er! I used to watch the first one all the time. My girlfriend had, like, four movies, and one of them was When a Stranger Calls. We used to watch that movie every single day of the summer.
CB: Really? That’s so funny.
CD: Seriously, it was like the scariest thing. And there was no blood.
CB: Your mind will always create something scarier. That’s why I really like this film, because it’s not showing you anything. It’s not showing you the stranger’s face.
CD: It can be as scary as you want it to be. Did you like your director?
CB: Yeah, Simon West. He’s the best. He did Con Air  and Lara Croft Tomb Raider . He loves a little action. He gets so excited about the fight scenes. It was invigorating. It was fun.
CD: It’s so great to get in shape. Like, that’s your job. It’s one of the reasons why I did the second Charlie’s Angels movie -“All right, let’s go get thin again!” You get to be really strong doing those kinds of movies.
CB: I felt really strong after doing When a Stranger Calls. All my friends were afraid of me.
CD: Do you ever have that impulse where you’re standing in line at the grocery store and you visualize yourself just doing a donkey kick to the chest of the person standing behind you? [Belle laughs] I have to stop myself.
CB: Yeah. Or just get hit. There’s this one scene with me being dragged downstairs, me being thrown across a wall. A couple of times I hit my head pretty hard.
CD: You’re so tough. You’re like a football player; they just love to go in for a battle.
CB: Exactly. You’ve got to love those bruises. Otherwise life’s no fun. What’s the point?
CD: I don’t know. I don’t really want to try to live it the other way.
CB: Me neither.
CD: So, acting is what you want to do?
CB: For a while, dot, dot, dot.
CD: Until you figure out something else?
CB: We’ll see. I definitely want to continue going to school.
CD: What would you do?
CB: I want to continue learning more languages. And maybe do some type of charity work. I love art history as well. There are so many things that I’m interested in, that I can’t really pinpoint what I’d want to be. I love cooking.
CD: We have to cook a meal together!
CB: Oh, definitely. Every Oscar night, I have a bunch of friends over, and I make this really elaborate meal with five courses. It’s a tradition now. It’s really hard-core. And everybody votes on what they like best.
CD: What’s your specialty?
CB: I kind of delve into everything. I guess it would be putting a good pasta dish together out of scraps from the fridge.
CD: I’ve really gotten into salts lately. I have about seven different kinds. I’m really hooked on gray salt right now.
CB: I’ll have to get some of that.
CD: How do you end one of these?
CB: I don’t know. I’ve never done one before.
CD: I have done one other interview for Interview magazine. I interviewed Selma Blair [February 2002].
CB: How did you end that one?
CD: I think I pushed the stop button on the tape recorder. [both laugh]
CB: And then there was silence.