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Actress Takes the Stand in Trial of Photographer

Cameron Diaz testifies he threatened to sell racy shots of her from 1992: 'I was furious.'

July 15, 2005|Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writer

Back when Cameron Diaz was just an unknown model -- newly graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High, making a living posing for department store newspaper ads -- she considered the idea of posing topless for a well-regarded photographer a career boost.

So in 1992, the 19-year-old Diaz posed for a photographer named John Rutter, known at the time for arty, edgy work published in European magazines.

"You kind of get bored being in catalogs all the time," Diaz told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Thursday. "I kind of bought in to thinking I would like to do images that are great images -- rather than just a model who sells clothes.... I didn't think of them as pornographic. I didn't think of them as perverted."

Diaz gave little thought to the daylong photo shoot as her career took off over the next decade -- first in "The Mask," then in a slew of other popular movies including "There's Something About Mary."

But in 2003, a week before the premiere of her big-budget "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," Rutter approached Diaz's manager, agent and lawyer, offering to sell the pictures from the photo shoot to her for more than $3 million.

At the time, Diaz said, "I knew it was about my celebrity."

Diaz testified for nearly four hours Thursday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, the star witness in a drama about old photos, newfound fame and celebrity privacy. Authorities allege that Rutter presented Diaz with a copy of a forged model release for the racy photos and later lied about the nature of that release. He is charged with forgery, grand theft and perjury.

Although the trial focuses on Rutter's actions, the attention in court Thursday was squarely on Diaz. She entered and exited the courthouse through a private entrance to avoid the dozens of photographers, television cameras and paparazzi camped out at every doorway to the criminal court building.

Throughout her testimony and cross-examination, Diaz, 32, appeared relaxed, polite and at ease, often using her hands as she spoke. Wearing a dark brown V-neck sweater over light brown tweed pants, she occasionally shifted in her chair, or twisted strands of her shoulder-length blond hair around a finger of her left hand.

At one point, prosecutor David Walgren asked her how many movies she had starred in. "Twenty, 25?" she ventured, then asked with a giggle, "Do you know?"

At the center of the trial is that 1992 photo shoot, held in an abandoned L.A.-area warehouse. In the photos, Diaz wore fishnet stockings, a leather vest, a bustier. She posed alone, with two other models and, ultimately, topless. "I felt it was a safe environment to do so," she said Thursday.

Jurors and the gaggle of reporters who crowded onto four benches at the back of the courtroom listened attentively as Diaz and her manager, Rick Yorn, described how Rutter had approached them about the pictures.

"If Cameron didn't come up with a lot of money," Yorn testified, Rutter "was going to sell them to various publications worldwide.... He strongly indicated we wouldn't want that to happen."

Diaz testified that Rutter said his buyers would put her topless images on "buses, billboards, kiosks. He said it would be highly publicized ... to portray me as a dark angel, in a bad light. He said, 'They are going to splash this everywhere.... They are going to use this against you.' "

Initially, Diaz said, she offered to do a deal with Rutter to jointly sell the photographs with him to what she called reputable venues. "If he was going to put the pictures out there," she said, "I said, let's figure out how we could do that together."

But after Rutter refused to disclose the names of buyers he told her wanted to use the photos, she said she became worried that he was trying to extort her.

"I was furious," Diaz said. "I have a temper with certain things

Diaz said the signature on the release was "absolutely, 100%" not hers. She said that as a young model it had been drilled into her never to sign a model release, especially at a photo shoot, without her agent's knowledge.

"It doesn't represent anything I would do," she told Walgren when he presented her with a copy of the alleged release. "The slant. It's not my C, my A, my D. It's completely foreign to me."

Prosecutors contend that Rutter used a signature he believed was Diaz's, from a signed publicity still he downloaded off the Internet, and forged a model release form after the fact using the computer software Photoshop. But, Diaz said, the signature on the publicity still, from the movie "Feeling Minnesota," was not hers.

Diaz said she posed for the topless photos taken during the 1992 shoot voluntarily. "I did not object to the content," she said -- adding that she would not be embarrassed by the photos were they to appear in what she considered a reputable venue, with her consent.

"My boobs looked good," she said at one point, looking at an exhibit of some of the images from the shoot. "At least I had that going for me."

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