Cameron Diaz nearly missed out on her star-making debut role in the slapstick fantasy film The Mask, after its director revealed that she was almost pipped to the part by none other than the late model and controversy-magnet Anna Nicole Smith.
Speaking to Variety in celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary, director Chuck Russell said that he had met with Smith for the role of Jim Carrey’s love interest Tina, but eventually decided she did not have the acting chops required.
“We met,” Russell confirmed. “Anna was charming and bubbly but did not have other qualities needed for the role. I never took the next step to run scenes with her.”
Diaz, meanwhile, was found when Russell and his casting director Fern Champion scouted a modelling agency operating in the same building as The Mask’s production studio New Line Cinema. There, he found Diaz.
“I saw Cameron’s 8x10 on the casting desk and asked, ‘What about her?,’” Russell remembered. “I was told she was submitted but had not acted in anything else yet. I said to bring her in and let’s see... [She] was the only person for the part as far as I was concerned after her first reading. And then I saw the chemistry with her and Jim. Eight callbacks later, including improvs with Jim, I finally convinced producers.”
At the time of The Mask’s filming, Diaz was a largely unknown model and aspiring actor while Smith had found fame as a Playboy model and face of Guess Jeans. Earning comparisons to historic bombshells like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Smith eventually transitioned into acting, most notably the infamous Skyscraper, a soft-porn spin on Die Hard. Following years of scandal, addiction and a notorious marriage to the 86 year-old billionaire J Howard Marshall, Smith died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2007.
Diaz, meanwhile, would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most successful movie stars throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, with roles in films including There’s Something About Mary, Being John Malkovich and Charlie’s Angels. She has not acted since 2014, with actress Selma Blair appearing to confirm in 2017 that Diaz had retired.
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