LAS VEGAS -- As big-screen teachers go, Cameron Diaz will not be joining, say, Sidney Poitier or Sandy Dennis as inspiring role models to her classroom kids.
The title of Diaz's school comedy pretty much sums up her character: "Bad Teacher."
Diaz's Elizabeth Halsey is a cussing, conniving, boozing, even skanky schoolmarm who calls her students morons as she hurls their test papers at them, dresses like a stripper for a class car wash and has only one educational goal: to get her hooks into a rich substitute teacher. He's played by Diaz's real-life ex, Justin Timberlake.
"Bad Teacher" arrives just in time for summer vacation, debuting in theaters June 24.
Diaz, who stopped by theater owners' CinemaCon convention Wednesday in Las Vegas to collect an award as female star of the year, described her character's life as "one big F-bomb."
"This woman is so wrong but so right," Diaz, 38, said in an interview. "She says and does everything you wish you could say, and does it just irreverently. She doesn't really care, and sometimes, I think people want to walk through life not really caring."
So how does a woman like that end up a teacher, a hallowed profession in such big-screen dramas as Poitier's "To Sir, With Love" and Dennis' "Up the Down Staircase"?
"According to her, she thought she was doing it for all the right reasons. She has no accountability, she has the summers off," Diaz said. "The system allowed it to happen, and she took advantage of it. She could kind of skim by and get the sort of minimal out of the minimal that she was giving, enough for her to go and chase her dreams of marrying a rich man."
Timberlake's the wealthy heir Diaz's character pursues while he's slumming as a sub, and Jason Segel co-stars as a gym teacher whose advances she rebuffs.
Diaz, who is about to begin shooting the heist romp "Gambit," co-starring Colin Firth and Alan Rickman, said there was no awkwardness acting opposite ex-boyfriend Timberlake.
"We wanted the best person for the job, and Justin was that person," said Diaz. "He's such a great comedian. He's proven himself over and over again. We all knew what he would deliver on this and how great he would be.
"The only thing that I think we were concerned with was what people would make up. The stories that people would make up about us. We were hoping that wouldn't happen, because we're there to work, and we didn't want to have to be distracted by any of those things. And fortunately, for the most part, the media behaved themselves."
Diaz had fun cutting loose with streams of profanity on the set. But her character's raunchy language was not exactly foreign to her.
"I don't think I've ever pretended to have, like, a clean mouth," Diaz said. "I've always had to sort of curb my usage of the words that are not allowed on screen often. I do definitely have to watch my language. I've gotten better over the years, but where I grew up, you kind of had to be able to use those words."