The last movie Cameron Diaz starred in was the 2014 film Annie. She didn’t announce her retirement, she simply stopped appearing in movies. In 2018, she spoke about her withdrawal from Hollywood during a reunion with her co-stars in The Sweetest Thing, Selma Blair and Jennifer Applegate. When asked if she would be interested in making a sequel of the romantic comedy, Diaz replied: I’m totally down. I’m semi-retired, too, and I am actually retired, so I would love to see you ladies.” Many took this as a joke, but this didn’t take away from the fact that the actress had no upcoming movies – a big turnaround for a star who had made 40 movies in 20 years. So why had the once-highest paid actress in Hollywood taken a step back?
For starters, a lot had been happening in her personal life. In 2015, she announced her marriage to Benji Madden, the guitarist of the band Good Charlotte, after a seven-month relationship and a 17-day engagement. While Diaz’s previous relationships with stars such as Jared Leto, Alex Rodriguez and Justin Timberlake often made the headlines, her marriage to Madden has been much more low profile. What is known is that they have a daughter, Raddix Madden, who was born via a surrogate. When announcing the news in a joint message on Instagram in 2020, the couple said: “While we are overjoyed to share this news, we also feel a strong instinct to protect our little one’s privacy. So we won’t be posting pictures or sharing any more details, other than the fact that she is really really cute!!”
Since then, she has turned to family life. “I couldn’t imagine being a mom now where I’m at as a mother with my child at her first year to have to be on a movie set that takes 14 hours, 16 hours of my day away from my child,” she said on the SiriusXM show Quarantined with Bruce.
The actress has also launched a new wine line called Avaline and written two self-help books: The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time and The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body.
Rise to fame
Diaz is the daughter of a Cuban-American father and a British-German mother. She was born and raised in San Diego and at the age of 16 was discovered by a model scout at a Los Angeles nightclub. Five years later, she made her feature film debut in The Mask alongside Jim Carrey. “Cameron Diaz is a true discovery in the film, a genuine sex bomb with a gorgeous face, a wonderful smile, and a gift of comic timing,” wrote movie critic Roger Ebert of her performance.
In 1997, she starred alongside Julia Roberts in the blockbuster, My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), which she followed with the comedy Something About Mary (1998). “Diaz is immediately able to operate in three dimensions, even if her character is constrained to two,” wrote The New York Times critic Dave Kehr. In 1998, there was some backlash after Diaz was named best actress of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle, instead of the esteemed Judi Dench. When accepting the award, Diaz joked: “Next time, I promise to act.”
But as Kehr pointed out, “Diaz had been acting, and quite well. It just wasn’t the kind of acting that traditionally wins awards, inasmuch as it did not involve a foreign accent, physical handicap, drinking problem or fatal disease.”
Diaz, however, soon broke into the independent movie scene. In 1999, she starred in Being John Malkovich, donning brown contact lenses and a frizzy black wig to play the embittered wife of a puppeteer. The role won her the best reviews of her career, as well as Golden Globe and Bafta nominations.
But Being John Malkovich wasn’t the first time she played against type. She also took on a different role in The Last Supper (1995) and She’s the One (1996). Indeed, if anything characterizes the first decade of her career, it’s her ability to navigate between blockbusters and independent films. In 2000, for example, she simultaneously won over critics with her portrayal of a blind teacher in Rodrigo García’s delicate Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her and swept the box office with Charlie’s Angels. But her biggest box office success was the animated movie Shrek, in which she voices the character of Fiona.
It wasn’t until 2006, with the movie The Holiday that Diaz’s career appeared to have taken a turn for the worst. It took another dive with What to Expect When You’re Expecting in 2012. The situation became so dire that Vulture magazine even dedicated a story to it: Why Can’t Cameron Diaz Make a Good Movie? “Whether the movies do well (like her spring sleeper The Other Woman) or arrive at the box office dead on arrival (like this weekend’s flop Sex Tape), you can always, always count on them to earn bad reviews,” wrote Kyle Buchanan. “If she keeps making bad movies, Hollywood will start losing interest in her long before audiences do.” But in the end, it was Diaz who lost interest in Hollywood.
That is, until friend Jamie Foxx brought her out of her “semi-retirement.” At the end of the year, Netflix will Back in Action – an apt title for Diaz’s comeback. She left the movie scene at 40, and now she is coming back at age 50, when roles for women are notoriously limited. But she is not going to let that stop her.