Model-turned-actress Cameron Diaz seemed to come out of nowhere when she made her 1994 screen debut opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask. However, her unusual beauty -- the result of her Cuban-American and Anglo-German-Native-American parentage -- helped to ensure that she would not be soon forgotten.
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Born in San Diego, CA, on August 30, 1972, Diaz left school at 16 to become a model. For the next five years, she traveled the globe, working in Japan, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, and Paris. As a model for the Elite Agency, she did commercial work for such products as Coke, Nivea, and L.A. Gear. She returned to California at the age of 21 and was unknown in the film industry when cast in her breakthrough role as the target of Jim Carrey's hyper-animated lust in The Mask. Following the hoopla surrounding her performance -- or, more specifically, her physical appearance -- in the film, Diaz opted to take acting lessons and appear in a series of small, independent films, including The Last Supper (1995), She's the One (1996), and Feeling Minnesota (1996).
After starring opposite Ewan McGregor in Danny Boyle's A Life Less Ordinary (1997), Diaz further endeared herself to audiences and critics with her performance in My Best Friend's Wedding (1997). Proving herself an acceptable foil for the film's star, Julia Roberts, she went on to greater success in the Farrelly brothers' There's Something About Mary in 1998. Starring as the film's titular heroine, Diaz turned in an audience-pleasing performance in the cheerfully bawdy film, which proved to be one of the year's biggest box-office successes. The same year, Diaz cameoed in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and starred as Jon Favreau's unhinged fiancée in the black comedy Very Bad Things. Now fully established as one of Hollywood's hottest properties, she accepted leads in 1999's Being John Malkovich, in which she played puppeteer John Cusack's wife, and Any Given Sunday, in which she played the president and co-owner of a football team in Oliver Stone's paean to American football.
In 2000, Diaz joined Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu in Charlie's Angels, the much-hyped big-screen remake of the television classic. A comically self-aware and fairly faithful adaptation of the original series, Charlie's Angels served up Matrix-style action with retro-sensibilities, propelling the franchise into the new millennium. The following year found Diaz endearing herself to younger audiences as the voice of Princess Fiona in the animated box-office smash Shrek, as well as using her wide-eyed innocence to horrific effect in the Tom Cruise mindbender Vanilla Sky. Headlining the ill-fated comedy The Next Best Thing in 2002, Diaz would take a historical trip to the birthplace of America in director Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York before becoming the second (after Julia Roberts) actress to join the "20-Million-Dollar Club" with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Like its predecessor, the film performed well at the box office, and Diaz further proved her box-office clout in 2004 when another sequel, Shrek 2, became the third-highest grossing film of all time.
Diaz switched gears altogether in 2005 when she headed to the small screen, hosting and producing the MTV reality show Trippin'. With its focus on ecology and conservation, the program found the actress and her celebrity pals traipsing the globe to explore various natural environments. Diaz also remained a strong presence in Hollywood during the Christmas season of 2005 in the well-received Curtis Hanson film In Her Shoes. In this picture -- adapted from the Jennifer Weiner novel by Susannah Grant -- Diaz plays the beautiful yet thoroughly harebrained and irresponsible Maggie, sister of the prim, proper, and conservative attorney Rose (Australian import Toni Collette), with whom she comes to blows during their ill-advised stint as roommates. As Maggie discovers a grandmother that she never knew existed (Shirley MacLaine) and travels to Florida to bond with the woman, Rose experiences a significant romantic breakup and decides to change careers. A long-buried and dormant secret from the past then comes to light that reunites the women and forges a path to reconciliation. In Her Shoes struck box-office gold and won the hearts of many critics. And though it surprised just about everyone who foresaw a dopey, lame-brained romantic comedy, assiduous devotees of Hanson's career were perhaps less shocked given the director's keen intelligence and marvelous track record.
Diaz maintained a relatively low profile throughout 2006, following up the Hanson film with yet another lightly comic dissection of contemporary relationships, Nancy Meyers' Holiday, followed by a voice-only turn in Dreamworks' tertiary installment of the Shrek franchise, Shrek the Third. Never shy about doing what her fans love, Diaz was soon signing on for more romantic comedies, starring alongside Ashton Kutcher in 2008's What Happens in Vegas and 2009's My Sister's Keeper. For her next project, however, Diaz tried something out of the ordinary, working with Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly for the supernatural thriller The Box. While not well received, the movie reminded critics and fans of Diaz's wide range.
As the 2010's rolled onward, the actress proved that her charm was as strong with audiences as ever, most notably in action fare like Knight and Day, and comedies like the deliciously naughty Bad Teacher. In 2014, Diaz had a resurgent year, with the comedies The Other Woman and Sex Tape, before tackling the iconic role of Miss Hannigan in the remake of Annie. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi