Blonde bombshell Cameron Diaz is currently basking in the limelight thanks to her starring role in Nick Cassavetes’ romantic comedy “The Other Woman,” a so-far box office success that opened last Friday. Though this film has been eviscerated by critics for its woozy sexual politics, clearly audiences are happy to see Diaz again. (We’ll see how the second weekends holds.) So with a potential hit on her hands, what’s her next best move?
Signature line: “I don’t need a blackboard or a classroom to set an example.” -“Bad Teacher”
Career peaks. Diaz, 41, has been kicking around in mainstream comedies and dramas, and even indies, for two decades after cutting her teeth in the 1994 comic fantasy “The Mask” opposite Jim Carrey. Her true breakout, the Farrelly Brothers’ raunch-fest “There’s Something About Mary,” followed in 1998. But she’s delivered plenty of roles to remember. All frazzled hair and frittered nerves, Diaz garnered critical acclaim for her performance in Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” (1999) as the lovably woebegone Lotte Davis, quite literally trapped in a menage-a-trois between Malkovich and Catherine Keener. In Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” (2013), Diaz radiates feline sexuality as Ferrari-humping manipulatrix Malkina, eloquently delivering Cormac McCarthy’s chewy prose in a flashy, trashy role that allowed her to flex her Latina roots. Beginning in 2001, Diaz took home a pretty penny for voicing head-in-the-clouds rogue princess Fiona in the “Shrek” franchise, and she made bank from the “Charlie’s Angels” reboots.
Biggest assets. Like it or not, girl’s got delivery chops. She can go from klutzy-cute (“There’s Something About Mary”) to menacingly seductive (“Vanilla Sky”) in a hot minute. She’s gorgeous, but wears trashy well. With “Something About Mary,” Diaz suddenly became both sex icon and cult comedy icon, and that’s when the roles more or less started coming in droves. She is aging quite gracefully, which means she can carry younger-skewing parts but can also embody women of a certain age. She has frequently appeared in sexy movie star rankings in Maxim, Empire, Stuff and elsewhere. As heard in “The Counselor,” her voice is aging well, too: it’s something akin to a phone sex operator who has smoked many cigarettes.
Awards attention. While Diaz never been nominated for an Oscar, she has four Golden Globe noms under her belt, most recently (to be generous) for “Gangs of New York” in 2002. In 1998, the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle chose Diaz in “There’s Something About Mary” for Best Actress over some of the year’s more touted, and more highbrow, turns from Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep, among other A-listers. Two years later, she was inches away from an Oscar nomination in 2000 for the film that made viewers take her more seriously, “Being John Malkovich,” which nabbed her noms from SAG, the Globes, BAFTA and critics’ circles. In 2001, her histrionic, Globe-nominated performance as a high-strung fuck-buddy in Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky” rightfully stirred critical buzz, and she received an AFI nomination for Featured Actor of the Year.
Biggest misfire. The majority of Diaz’s box office flops have been indies (the icky “Invisible Circus,” for one) and female-oriented wish fulfillment fantasies. But looking back, it’s the films, not Diaz, that flopped. Last year, Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” plummeted at the box office, dividing critics heavily between the love-it/hate-it camps. Richard Kelly’s 2009 “The Box,” costarring James Marsden, went wide and sank like a turd, in spite of Kelly’s cult following from “Donnie Darko.” Lionsgate’s clunky ensemble rom-com “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (2012) barely broke-even at the box office, but thankfully for Diaz the film came and went, and was forgotten, with haste.
Biggest problem. Diaz hasn’t been consistently discerning or choosy about her roles. After the too-routine Summer 2010 action comedy flop “Knight and Day,” which reunited her pleasurably with Tom Cruise, she pulled herself, and a surprise hit, together the following year as a foul-mouthed, morally heedless educator in “Bad Teacher” (2011). Many of her characters are air-headed women (e.g. in “The Sweetest Thing”) and unfortunately, audiences can’t always separate the art from the artist, and Diaz almost damned herself by becoming a rom-com regular.
Gossip fodder. While the bubbly blonde could easily have attracted gossip flypaper, Diaz hasn’t courted too much controversy in her twenty-year-long career. Named the richest Hispanic female celebrity by Forbes in 2010, Diaz came under siege for her outsize politics in support of Al Gore in the 2000 election. In 2007, rumors about her romance with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake ran rampant, with a cheating scandal to boot. In a recent interview for “The Other Woman,” she expressed skepticism about monogamy, telling InStyle, “We all have the same instincts as animals.” Her remarks have become something of a meme among traffic-baiting internet rags but that’s about as scandalous as it gets for Diaz.
Career advice. Diaz does a strong, unflappable woman almost as well as she does a hot mess, and while “The Other Woman” isn’t exactly an affirmation of either, the good news is that she’s back on the block. It’d be nice to see her fitted in more roles like her villainous scene-stealers in “Vanilla Sky” and “Bad Teacher.” Seek smart, well-written and directed roles, whether genre–she can handle action–romantic or indie, but beware the look of desperate career reinvention. Diaz has never been an unvarnished method actress, so why change her tune? She’s a Hollywood star who clearly doesn’t need to chase a paycheck, so more Malkina in “The Counselor,” please.
Next step. Will Gluck’s controversial screen version of the musical “Annie,” starring Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan (ideal casting!), is in post-production, as is Jake Jasdan’s “Sex Tape.” Meanwhile, “Bad Teacher 2” is in its nascent stages.