From “There’s Something About Mary” to “The Sweetest Thing,” the talented Cameron Diaz, who is said to be retired from acting, has delivered a wide range of impeccable performances. In celebration of her birthday, Variety is ranking her 10 best film performances to date.
Diaz blazed onto the scene as the stunning Tina Carlyle, the love interest of Jim Carrey in the smash hit, “The Mask” (1994). She quickly established herself as a box office draw with her infectious laughter and vivacious personality. After “The Mask,” she began earning critical acclaim and awards accolades in various characters and roles, swiftly becoming one of the most in-demand actors of the 1990s and 2000s.
When Diaz took on her first significant leading role in The Farrelly Brothers’ raunchy comedy “There’s Something About Mary” (1998), one of the funniest films of that decade, she was propelled into superstardom. As Mary Jensen, the famous love interest of Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller, who gives herself a new hairstyle with “hair gel,” her performance drew raves, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a comedy or musical.
Her flirtation with Oscars was an ongoing trend after “Mary.” She moved into the debut works of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as Lotte Schwartz in “Being John Malkovich” (1999), which she received noms from BAFTA, Globes and SAG. Unfortunately, not enough room for two actresses from the same film, as only her co-star Catherine Keener made the cut.
Stretching herself as an artist, she took on the romantically obsessed and suicidal driving Julie Gianni in Cameron Crowe’s critically divisive “Vanilla Sky” (2001), once again being snubbed by the Academy in the end despite Globe and SAG recognition. Interestingly, that year’s SAG lineup for supporting actress had only one crossover to Oscar (Helen Mirren for “Gosford Park” since eventual Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly was nominated in lead).
She went for the gold one more time under the helm of Martin Scorsese in his best picture nominated “Gangs of New York” (2003) as the Irish Jenny Everdeane. Despite a Globe nom, the shoddy accent work and divisive nature of the film may have kept her on the outskirts.
But Diaz’s career hasn’t been all about awards, as some of her other notable films include portraying fiancée Kimberly Wallace, who battles Julia Roberts for Dermot Mulroney’s heart in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), the Soul Train dancing Natalie in “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), the voice of Princess Fiona in the “Shrek” franchise and seductive and cunning Malkina in Ridley Scott’s critical misfire, “The Counselor” (2013). Her last on-screen performance was in the remake of “Annie” (2014), and while she says she’s done with the business and has never been happier, perhaps there’s a role, somewhere out there, that will have return to the form for one final outing.
In honor of Diaz’s time in the spotlight, her ranked performances are down below:
Honorable mentions: “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Holiday” (2006), “My Sister’s Keeper” (2009)