At just 21 years of age, Cameron Diaz went from being a relatively unknown entity - a model signed to Elite Management - to becoming an international sex symbol with a co-starring role in the Jim Carrey vehicle of 1994, The Mask.
Although the role wasn't precisely taxing in any real way, Diaz applied herself to acting lessons and a year later, she had shifted gears entirely and was starring in two less-than successful films from indie darlings Edward Burns and Stacy Title. From there, Diaz starred in a string of independent films, including Feeling Minnesota with Keanu Reeves, but her breakout role came opposite Julia Roberts in the box-office smash, My Best Friend's Wedding.
Shortly after this, Diaz appeared in Danny Boyle's follow-up to Trainspotting alongside Ewan McGregor in A Life Less Ordinary. Though the film was largely panned, Diaz's career remained largely unscathed, her next major role was There's Something About Mary, in which Diaz played the title character and object of affection for, well, everyone. Diaz's performance in There's Something About Mary was pitch-perfect; and the easy-going charm and the ability to go from high-brow indies to studio comedies such as these was noted by contemporary reviewers.
Yet, for all of this, Diaz followed up There's Something About Mary with Spike Jonze's feature-length directorial debut, the engimatic Being John Malkovich. Diaz, famous for her beauty and style, was barely recognisable in the role of Lotte Schwartz. Playing the wife of John Cusack's harried puppeteer, Diaz's performance was manic and unique in a film that was equally so with a difficult character trajectory to manage. The physical transformation worked, as Diaz reportedly was able to arrive on set with members of the crew not recognising her - even when she spoke to them.
Press shot for A Life Less Ordinary, 1997
Throughout the mid '00s, Diaz worked prodigiously. From 1999 until 2005, she starred in a total of eleven films - including Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, Shrek, Charlie's Angels, Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York, and Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, where she starred alongside Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz. Like most acting talent, Diaz was able to balance overtly commercial work like The Holiday with more thoughtful, smaller films like Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. However, during this period, Diaz's life was the subject of constant tabloid scrutiny and speculation - and more sinister elements as well. In 2005, a photographer by the name of John Rutter was sentenced to nearly four years in jail for attempting to blackmail Diaz.
At the age of 19, Diaz posed topless for a photoshoot with Rutter. The photographer claimed that he was offering Diaz "the right of first refusal" on the photos, and said that he would sell them on if Diaz didn't agree to pay him $3.5 million. In his summation and sentencing, Judge Michael Pastor said that Rutter had "definite criminal sophistication," and that he lacked remorse for his actions. Rutter claimed that the whole thing was misunderstanding - however Rutter made his demands on the eve of the release of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Two years later, Diaz would sue National Enquirer for defamation relating to a photo of her hugging a producer - who was a married man - on a MTV show she was involved with.
For all these problems, Diaz's output never ceased - but by 2014, the actress had all but finished with her career. In an on-stage interview with Gwyneth Paltrow in 2017, Diaz explained that she'd effectively left acting behind. "I just went, 'I can't really say who I am to myself.' Which is a hard thing to face up to," said Diaz. Both the nature of her work and the frequent travelling had, she said, played a part in her decision to retire from acting. Her two last credited roles came in 2014, starring alongside Jason Segel in Sex Tape, and in the modern remake of Annie with Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx.
Since leaving the entertainment industry, Diaz worked on publishing wellness books, penning two bestsellers - one of which dealt with aging in the female body - and has largely kept out of the media. An article in January of this year for Us Weekly stated that Diaz "hasn't wanted to work", and seems largely focused on starting a family with her husband, Benji Madden. Whether she returns to acting in the future remains to be seen, but there's few actresses working today who can lay claim to such a diverse filmography as hers.