The first Shrek hit cinemas on May 18, 2001, and was an instant hit. As well as rewriting the way fairytales were portrayed in animation, it competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes and then won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Although Diaz doesn’t appear directly on the screen (obviously), her role perfectly summed up her meteoric career, fusing irresistible charm with comedy and an instinctive drive to subvert the portrayal of beautiful women (and cartoon princesses) in Hollywood. So why did she suddenly disappear in 2014? It had nothing to do with her film career at all.
Raised in Long Beach, the California schoolgirl was spotted by scouts and signed to Elite Model Management in 1989 at age 16.
She didn’t take long to jump across to the big screen with a spectacular debut in 1994’s The Mask. While the film was a hugely successful vehicle for Jim Carey, Diaz also shone, holding her own against the OTT comedic antics of her leading man.
It set the pattern for a career that combined obvious physical beauty with a refusal to be typecast simply as blockbuster eye candy.
Diaz’s career hit new heights in 1997 with My Best Friend’s Wedding alongside Julia Roberts, and then her infamous scenes in There’s Something About Mary.
The star’s willingness to embrace physical comedy and outrageous gags culminated when her character accidentally used something shocking as hair gel – and gained the actress her first Golden Globe nomination.
Impressively, Diaz combined highly-regarded performances with dramatic roles in 1999’s Being John Malkovich (another Golden Globe and first BAFTA nomination) and 2001’s Vanilla Sky opposite Tom Cruise.
The same period saw even greater success with the first Charlie’s Angels reboot in 2000, alongside Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore.
It was followed by the start of the biggest film of Diaz’s career – the Shrek franchise.
The four movies and Christmas special made Diaz one of the highest paid and most popular stars in Hollywood, gracing red carpets and magazine covers and dating a series of superstars from Matt Dillon to Jared Leto (four years) and Justin Timberlake (four years to 2007).
The first decade of the new millennium was a mixed bag on the big screen, aside from the Shrek films, although 2006’s The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Jude Law was a notable global smash.
Major big-budget releases Knight and Day (2010 with Tom Cruise) and Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet in 2011 underperformed at the box office, and within a few years, the star decided to call it quits.
In 2014, Diaz made her final three movies, all panned by critics.
Revenge comedy The Other Woman was a worldwide hit. Outrageous comedy Sex Tape saw the star push her boundaries regarding onscreen nudity but was a box office disappointment.
The hip-hop remake of Annie with Jamie Foxx was an extremely high-profile flop and certainly would have contributed to Diaz’s subsequent desire to leave the “hard-knock life” of Hollywood.
However, major changes were also happening in her personal life.
In spring 2014, Diaz was reintroduced to Good Charlotte musician Benji Madden by Nicole Richie, who is married to his brother and bandmate Joel Madden.
The pair had met back in 2004 at a charity basketball game. Ten years later, they quickly fell in love and were married on January 5, 2015.
In August 2020, Diaz looked back at why she had decided to walk away from Hollywood at that time: “I stopped and really looked at my life. When you’re making a movie they own you. You’re there for 12 hours a day for months on end, you have no time for anything else.”
“I realized I handed off parts of my life to all these other people,” the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ star added. “I had to take it back and take responsibility for my own life. I had been going so hard for so long, working, making films, such a grind. I didn’t make any space for my personal life.”
Diaz added: “I realized I handed off parts of my life to all these other people,. I had to basically take it back and take responsibility for my own life. I had been going so hard for so long, working, making films, such a grind. I didn’t make any space for my personal life.”
Since 2015 her focus was her personal life. The couple welcomed a daughter Raddix in December 2019.
As an ecoawareness campaigner, Diaz has also written two books, 2013’s The Body Book and 2016’s The Longevity Book, and invested in bioaware start-up companies.
Her Instagram feed is filled with home cooking videos, lifestyle, activism, and wellness blogs. Her most recent project was launching an organic wine range, Avaline, last year.
As for movies, Diaz officially “retired” in 2018 but, when asked again if she would ever return to the screen, said, “I’m never going to say never.”
Read More: Hollywood News