One of the most successful comedy actors of the ’90s and beyond, Cameron Diaz was once Hollywood’s go-to funny girl. From The Mask and The Holiday to Being John Malkovich and There’s Something About Mary, the star was everywhere for a while. Then in 2014 she took a step back from acting, officially retiring in 2018. But there’s a particular reason behind her decision to turn her back on acting. And she finally revealed it in a recent interview.
Before 2014 Diaz enjoyed a successful career, surviving a few bumps along the way. She’d been publicly adored for the most part, earning acclaim and tons of box office. That year, however, saw a string of flops that may well have influenced her decision. Starting with The Other Woman, the revenge comedy saw her playing a vengeful woman taking on her cheating boyfriend. Critics mauled it, but it opened at the top of the American box office.
Next Diaz and Jason Siegel starred in Sex Tape, playing a couple searching for a naughty recording they’d somehow mislaid. Critics were disappointed with it, but audiences mostly disagreed, making it a modest success. But it was the star’s final film of 2014 that may well have put the final nail in the coffin of her career.
Despite its commercial success, the critics abhorred 2014’s Diaz-starring remake of Annie. The star in particular came in for a mauling, variously describing her as “obnoxious”and “strident.” One reviewer was even prompted to point out that she “overacts to the point of hysteria.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the actor hasn’t made a movie since.
Despite this ignominious end to Diaz’s career, it began incredibly brightly. Born in California in August 1972, the future star was the younger of Emile and Billie Diaz’s two daughters. She spent most of her childhood in Long Beach, a place she still calls home. The actress went to a local elementary school, before taking a place at the city’s Polytechnic High School, where she met another star-to-be.
Believe it or not, while a student at the high school, Diaz counted rapper Snoop Dogg among her classmates. The star would later describe her early years as happy, despite the family having little money. Which might explain why she took her first job. And it had nothing to do with acting.
Before Diaz had even finished high school, she was offered a deal with Elite Models. She was just 16 when she completed her first shoot. Although brief, her modeling career kicked off in style, with her appearing in ads for both Levis and Calvin Klein. In under a year, she’d made the cover of Seventeen magazine. And she was just getting started.
The next year, Diaz spent three months working in Australia. While Down Under, she even starred in a Coca-Cola commercial. But her greatest success was still to come. Out of nowhere, one of the Elite Model agents recommended her for a movie role. And in 1994 she got her first-ever acting job.
Despite having no acting experience, Diaz was cast in the Jim Carrey-starring classic The Mask. Just 21 at the time, the former model immediately began taking acting lessons. They definitely paid off. Playing the sultry club performer Tina Carlyle, she wowed audiences. The movie went on to be one of the biggest of the year, making a whopping $350 million worldwide.
From there, Diaz made the pitch-black comedy The Last Supper. A 1995 arthouse release, the plot involves a bunch of liberal students bumping off their conservative dinner guests. The former model continued to prove her comedy – and indie chops – with appearances in 1996’s She’s the One and Head Above Water.
After starring alongside Ewan MacGregor in Danny Boyle’s quirky A Life Less Ordinary, Diaz once again returned to box-office gold form. Joining Julia Roberts in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, the former model helped the movie become an unqualified smash, raking in nearly $300 million. But the film’s success didn’t end there.
My Best Friend’s Wedding was one of the biggest cinema hits worldwide that year, making the box-office top ten. It received dozens of award nominations, including a Satellite Award Best Supporting Actress nod for Diaz, and it is often considered one of the all-time most beloved rom-coms. But it would be the star’s next film that cemented her comedy reputation.
In 1998 Diaz starred in what would become her most iconic movie. There’s Something About Mary, in which she plays the titular heroine, was a surprise smash. It crashed into the top five highest-grossing films of that year and has since become a classic. In fact, it’s included in both the AFI and Total Film magazine’s list of greatest comedies. And the star in particular was praised for her performance.
Playing Mary earned Diaz her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She then went on to win gongs from both The American Comedy Awards and The New York Critics Circle. And the movie’s success kick-started a string of commercial and critical smashes for the star, beginning with indie perfection in Being John Malkovich.
The Spike Jonze-directed comedy cast Diaz in a completely new light. Playing the dowdy Lotte Schwartz, the star was almost unrecognizable in a frizzy brown wig and no make-up. So unlike herself did she look that movie critic Roger Ebert proclaimed, “Diaz has fun with her talent by taking it incognito to strange places and making it work.” And the Golden Globes agreed, as Being John Malkovich earned her a second nomination.
With Diaz having more than proved her comedy chops, she then dipped her toe into the world of drama, starring alongside Al Pacino in 1999’s Any Given Sunday. Critics didn’t love it, but cinema audiences very much did, with the movie earning $100 million worldwide. At the turn of the century, though, the star made another iconic career move.
In 2000 Diaz teamed up with Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore in a remake of ’70s TV show Charlie’s Angels. Playing a trio of private detectives working for the titular Charlie, all three women earned praise for their strong performances. Entertainment Weekly magazine singled out the former model, though, gushing that she was “not just an Angel – that’s a star.” And from there came another awardworthy role.
Starring opposite Tom Cruise in 2001’s Vanilla Sky earned Diaz Best Supporting Actress nominations from the American Film Institute, the SAG and Critics’ Choice awards. Critics praised her “ferociously emotional” approach to the part of Julie Gianni. After that success, the star then took yet another uber-successful role, but this time, she didn’t spend a second on-screen.
Diaz voiced Princess Fiona in 2001’s Shrek. The animated picture became a global smash-hit and would eventually spawn three sequels and a musical. On screen again in 2002’s Gangs of New York, the star played pickpocket Jenny Everdeane. The movie, though, was criticized for its paper-thin female roles, which left the star with little to do but look pretty.
Perhaps burnt by that Gangs of New York experience, Diaz returned to comedy for her next four movies. Among them were 2005’s In Her Shoes and Nancy Myers’ classic The Holiday, made the following year. During this period, the star also managed to squeeze in not one, but two successful Shrek sequels.
In 2010, with a fourth Shrek installment under Diaz’s belt, she earned another accolade but not for acting. That year, Forbes magazine placed her at number 60 on its wealthiest 100 list. The ranking, believe it or not, made the star the richest celebrity who just happened to be woman. Despite this, within four years, she would retire completely from acting.
Before that though, 2010 saw Diaz make another movie with Tom Cruise, Knight and Day, an initial flop that she followed with an even bigger box-office failure. In 2011 came the disastrous remake of The Green Hornet alongside Seth Rogen. So bad was it that one critic dubbed the flick “overblown, interminable and unfunny.” That year, though, wasn’t all bad.
During 2011 Diaz also starred what might have been another iconic comedy role. Playing the titularly horrific educator in Bad Teacher saw something of a return to box-office success for the star. Despite a critical mauling, audiences loved it, and her performance earned a Best Actress gong at that year’s Teen Choice Awards.
A supporting role in the modest hit What to Expect When You’re Expecting followed in 2012, but Diaz’s next movie would be perhaps the least successful of her entire career. Gambit, written by the Coen Brothers, made just $10 million at the box office and was hated by critics. This failure appeared to mark the beginning of the end for the star’s career.
Diaz made only one film in 2013, the psychological thriller The Counselor. Although her turn as a sociopath and pathological liar was praised as one of her best, the movie itself was panned. Some critics, though, believed that decades from now, it would be considered a classic. That attitude, however, didn’t help the former model at the time.
By the time 2014 rolled around, the writing was on the wall for Diaz’s career. After the mauling she’d received for her performance in Annie, it’s perhaps understandable that the star wanted to take a break from acting. But it was while on hiatus, it seemed, that she focused on her personal rather than professional life.
Over the course of Diaz’s career, she’s dated several celebrities. Her most notable partners include fellow actors Jared Leto and Matt Dillon, baseball legend Alex Rodriguez and singer Justin Timberlake . And while the star’s relationship with the singer lasted four years, she’d eventually settle down with an altogether different musician in 2015.
Diaz first met Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden in 2014. After a whirlwind romance, the pair tied the knot in 2015 with a Jewish-faith ceremony. Since then, the newlyweds have been living a fairly low-key life in Long Beach. After two years of marriage, the star officially announced her retirement in 2018. But she never really explained her decision to quit Hollywood. That is, until 2019.
In August that year, Diaz wrote a piece for InStyle magazine. In the article, the star finally explains why she turned her back on a successful acting career. Despite the fame and celebrity she earned, it seems that the price she paid may well have been too high after so long in the limelight.
“I started [experiencing fame] when I was 22, so 25 years ago — that’s a long time,” the article began. Diaz then went on to explain her feelings at the time that she had made the decision to retire. “The way I look at it is that I’ve given more than half of my life to the public.” As a result, the star said, “I feel it’s okay for me to take time for myself now.”
Of course, not being paparazzi fodder anymore has its own benefits for Diaz. As she told InStyle magazine, “It’s fun to just not have anybody know what I’m up to.” And that, she says, is a direct result of not being a movie star anymore. “I’m not selling any films, and because I’m not selling anything, I don’t have to give anybody anything… I’m living my life.”
Nevertheless, having been famous for so long also had its perks, as Diaz mentions in her article. “At this point, I’ve done so much, I feel fulfilled with the adventures I’ve sought out in my life,” she said. But as it stands, the star has found that, in retirement, “My time is all mine.” That doesn’t mean, however, that former actor has been idle.
In fact, in 2013 Diaz co-authored The Body Book, a in-depth look at how humans function. It spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list, and led to the publication of her second co-authored work. The Longevity Book followed in 2016, giving advice on how best to approach aging. A subject that, it seems, is close to the former actor’s heart.
“I think the 40s are the best decade,” Diaz wrote in her InStyle magazine article. “You just get to be real with yourself… You get to let go of giving a shit about anything. You’re done! Don’t care. I really don’t. It’s such a relief. I’m a 47-year-old woman who’s like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”
Whatever Diaz is doing, this new life certainly seems to agree with her, and that includes her marriage. As she wrote for InStyle magazine, “My husband’s the best. He’s the greatest human being… Getting married to him is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Despite this enthusiasm, though, the star is a realist when it comes to relationships.
“Marriage is certainly hard, and it’s a lot of work,” Diaz wrote in her article. “You need somebody who’s willing to do the work with you, because there’s no 60-40 in marriage. It’s 50-50, period. All the time.” And it’s just possible that these sage words were written with a very specific and life-changing situation in mind.
Indeed, it seems that at the time Diaz’s candid InStyle article was on the stands, the star was keeping a very big secret. In the piece, she hinted at new projects that she had “brewing.” But it would take until January 2020 for the former actor to reveal exactly what she had been working on.
As 2020 began, Diaz posted something to Instagram that shocked the world. Not only did it reveal what her new project was, it also made clear that her stance on living her life in private had not changed. “Happy New Year from the Maddens!” the post began. And then the star surprised everyone.
“We are so happy and blessed to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden.” That’s right, the pair had become parents for the first time over the new year period. But the tweet didn’t end there. Like any new mom, Diaz had some things to say about her new baby.
Diaz went on, “[Raddix] has instantly captured out hearts and completed our family.” The new mom, though, then went on to explain why we wouldn’t be seeing the infant any time soon. “While we are overjoyed to share this news, we also feel a strong instinct to protect our little one’s privacy.” So the couple made a decision regarding that very subject.
The tweet went on, “We won’t be posting any pictures or sharing any more details, other than that she is really, really cute!” So with a new baby in her life, any return to the screen appears even less likely for the former actor. In fact, as she wrote for InStyle magazine, “I don’t miss performing.” Whatever her decision, we’ll always have the ’90s.