Diaz, Marsden unlock secrets of The Box

Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star together in a new movie called The Box, directed by Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko fame. Based on a 1970 short story by Richard Matheson titled “Button, Button” that was remade into a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone, the film is a modern psychological thriller.

Marsden and Diaz play Arthur and Norma Lewis, a couple coping with Arthur’s losing his job as a NASA engineer. Norma solemnly tells her husband in the film’s trailer, “We’re already living paycheck to paycheck. We’re going to have to move.”

In these dire times, a mysterious and disfigured man arrives at their door, bringing with him a box and a case of money. For the desperate couple, this is both a blessing and a curse: If they push a button (inside the titular box that the stranger brings), they’ll receive $1 million in cash. The catch? As the stranger explains, “Somewhere, someone that you don’t know will die.”

When asked if she thought most people would push the button, Diaz’s response was not a simple yes or no. “In today’s society, we’re pushing the button already,” she said. She mentioned things like “dropping stuff in the ocean,” which will have an effect on something or someone else, which is exactly what The Box is about.

Diaz added, relating the question to her character specifically, “[Norma] didn’t want to have to suffer the consequences.... She saw Arlington [the stranger that delivers the box] and the million dollars, and somewhere in her heart she wanted to believe that there would be no consequence.” Kelly was drawn to the story when he heard Arlington’s response to the Lewis’ question of who he works for: “I can assure you that the organization is large and international in scope.” This obscure response hypnotized Kelly, who wanted to explore this stranger’s motivations. “What’s the point of it all?” Kelly wondered. It was this question that propelled him to take on this project.

The characters of Arthur and Norma are directly inspired by Kelly’s own parents, as he felt it appropriate to pay homage to the most important people in his life. This allowed for some conveniences during production — one in particular involving accents. The movie takes place in Virginia and lets Marsden’s Oklahoma roots come out without being a distraction to the film itself. Diaz, on the other hand, had to work to find an appropriate born-in-Texas-lives-in-Virginia accent to accompany her character.

Although a thriller, comedy abides on the sets of the movie, and Marsden admitted that he found humor in having a heart-to-heart with Diaz, quickly followed by her rushing to the bathroom and vomiting. He also referred to a scene that was physically draining yet provided some comic relief: During a take when about a thousand gallons of water was dropped on the couple while sitting in bed, Diaz was actually knocked onto the floor by the water pressure.

For Marsden, it was “great to do something different; as an artist, it’s nice to change things up a bit.” He also added some words regarding his character, saying that “the further [the character] is from me, the more difficult it is to go there.” After working on The Box and the upcoming Straw Dogs, both dark psychological thrillers, Marsden said, “I may be looking for something light and fluffy after this.”