There's usually much chatting and giggling when Cameron Diaz is around but at the moment, you could hear a pin drop. "Listen to how quiet my little baby is," the 29 year-old San Diego-born actress gasps excitedly as she pulls up to a stop sign in the Hollywood hills. Cameron's baby is her brand new Toyota Prius, a "hybrid" car that is powered by both gasoline and electricity. She bought it earlier today and it has exactly 18 miles on it. "I feel like I'm getting ready for the future." proclaims the former model and star of such hit films as Charlie's Angels, There's Something About Mary and My Best Friend's Wedding. "The gas motor regenerates the battery so you don't ever have to plug it in."

The jeans and sweater-clad actress is feeling plenty re-juiced herself these days, having taken a 8-month self-imposed exile from movie making after doing three films back to back. The first was Vanilla Sky, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Now comes the historical epic Gangs of New York with Leonardo DiCaprio and the anything-for-a-laugh sex comedy The Sweetest Thing. "I play a girl who is at a certain place in her life where she wants to have fun with no attachments," explains Diaz, who in her own life has been attached to actor Jared Leto for three years. "The one day, she finds herself not really wanting to be in that place anymore."

DENNIS HENSLEY: What happens in The Sweetest Thing?

CAMERON DIAZ: My character meets this cute guy, played by Thomas Jane, at a club and there's a flirtation. He invites her to a party and she doesn't go. She realizes later that maybe she should have gone and that the reason she didn't go was because he may be somebody she might actually get attached to. It turns out his brother is getting married so me and my girlfriend, Christina Applegate, go on a road trip to crash the wedding.

I hear that Selma Blair turns up also and has a rather embarrassing altercation with a guy.

She's giving this guy a blow job and his piercing gets stuck behind her tonsils.

Don't you hate when that happens?

(Laughs) There's a lot of penis humor in the movie. One scene has to do with a glory hole in a men's bathroom at a truck stop. As you can probably guess, this movie's not about changing the world. It's just a fun comedy about how girls are with girls.

I read that you got a nice chunk of change for The Sweetest Thing. Is it weird to have your salary printed in the newspaper?

That's the rudest thing that I've ever had to deal with. I was not raised with people asking each other how much money they make. I've been miffed about it this week because this woman from Access Hollywood said to me on camera, "So I heard you're making..." X amount and I looked at her and I said, "How much money do you make?" Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. If you can't answer that question, don't ask it of me.

Are you much of a bargain hunter?

I like thrift stores and flea markets but I'm not good at bargaining. I say, "You want $15 for it? No, no, no, take $30."

That's good though because so many people in your position think they should get everything for free.

I like paying for things, you know, and I have no problem standing in line. That's the way the world works.

Do you collect anything, like art or antiques?

I collect recyclables. (Laughs) My car always full of bottles. I collect them and then when I see a homeless person who collects them, I give them my stash.

And then he sells them on e-bay because Cameron Diaz touched them.

(Laughs) Good for him. I also have an entire room full of used wrapping paper and boxes. I haven't bought wrapping paper for years.

In addition to The Sweetest Thing, you play a seen-it-all prostitute opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York. Are you and Leo love interests?

Well, it's like a love square. There's Leo, Daniel Day-Lewis and Henry Thomas and they're all interested in my character for different reasons and at different times. Leo, by the way, is a man now. You won't even recognize him. He built himself up and he's quite a presence.

You've just signed to do Charlie's Angels 2 with the same cast. Are you going to skateboard in a halter top like Farrah did this time?

(Laughs) I'm sure there will be halters and a little beach action. I'm so excited about it. We get to go have fun again. It's like our sophomore year.

They made a doll of you from the first Charlie's Angels. What's it like to be a doll?

They make them exactly like you and it freaked me out so I had them change the nose and chin a little. I didn't want my doll to look just like me.

You don't want ex-boyfriends sticking pins in it.

Exactly, and turning head turned around backwards. (Laughs)

Speaking of guys, how are things with your boyfriend, Jared Leto?

(Smiles) That's something I don't talk about.

I interviewed you just before The Mask came out and you said then that you grew up thinking you'd be married by 20 and have a kid.

I think we all think we're going to do it like our parents did it. My parents found one another early and they're still together. The world is a totally different place now. This is my experience and I'll find my own way.

Do you think it's harder for couples to stay together in Hollywood?

Yes. Society in general today is so much different. There's a line in The Sweetest Thing where I say to a bride, "Everything is going to work out and if it doesn't, you can just get divorced." That's some people's mentality today.

Would you describe yourself as a romantic person?

Definitely. I just like when you're connecting with the person that you really want to connect with. That's the best.

What kind of qualities do you find attractive in a person?

Kindness and treating people with respect. I think that's very important.

Do you remember learning about the birds and the bees? Did you parents give you a talk?

No, I kind of always understood it. I've always loved boys and I definitely wasn't shy.

What's the secret to being an effective flirt, flipping your goddamn hair like Lucy Lui advised you to do in Charlie's Angels?

Yes, flip the goddamn hair. I think that the secret is just trying to be charming. I always tried to find a way to make somebody laugh and usually it was by making fun of myself.

Judging by your Soul Train dance in Charlie's Angels and the hair gel scene in There's Something About Mary, you're not afraid to look silly.

I love laughing at myself. I don't like laughing at other people unless they're in on the joke.

Has that always been part of your personality, even in high school where everybody's trying to be cool?

Yeah. I think if you're able to laugh at yourself, you're liberated of any sort of insecurity and you can let go.

What is something about guys you just don't understand?

Men are pretty easy to figure out. I totally get it, you know.

If you could be a guy for a day, what would you like to experience?

There's a certain bit of equipment I am desperately wondering about how it works. I really wonder what it's like to pee standing up, all those things. Just sort of like having that part of you on the outside, it must be so interesting.

What's a recent discovery you've made about men?

Well, it's not talked about, but you know how girls, as you get older, your boobs sag. Well, girls need to know that as men get older, their balls hang lower. It's called SBH; Senior Ball Hang. I think that's God's way of playing it fair so guys get to feel insecure too.

The term, SBH, is that something one of your girlfriend's came up with?

No, it's within the boy's circle.

What's your favorite item of clothing to see your man in?

I like a great fitting pair of pants, tight in the right places, loose in the right places. And I think tight shirts are sexy.

What's your favorite waste of time?

Laying around and calling girlfriends on the phone. I just love it.

You seem like a real girl's girl.

Women are the best things ever. I have a lot of amazing women friends who support me completely and unconditionally and there's never any weird stuff. I'm so not into women who don't like women. I can't deal with that.

Do you find that sometimes women are intimidated by you, like they're afraid they're going to lose their guy to you?

But I'm not competitive in that way. Any time I find anybody who is a maybe little intimidated, I try to make them feel comfortable. If I see somebody sitting alone in the middle of a room, I just want to sit with them. I'm always for the underdog.

You were the voice of Fiona in the animated hit Shrek. Is it cool to be in a movie that kids like?

I love it. Later today, I'm becoming an honorary member of the Girl Scouts, because they're having Fiona patches made. One is for not judging people by the way that they look, and the other one is for accepting yourself.

What's your favorite compliment to get from a fan?

When people say that when they're sad, they watch one of my movies to make them happy. That's so gratifying because I know I have those movies myself, like The Princess Bride, Raising Arizona and Best in Show.

You were working as a model when you landed The Mask. When did you start to feel like a real actor?

I still don't feel like a real actor. I feel like I'm a professional but as far as... I guess, yeah, I do feel like an actor. Being an actor is the coolest thing. Sometimes there are moments that are so pure and intense, it's like a drug. It's just that every film is a lesson and I just can't wait to accumulate more lessons.