Anna Nicole Smith nearly landed what would have been a career-altering role in 1994's The Mask, Variety reports in its 25th anniversary special of the Jim Carrey comedy. The late actress was apparently up for the part of the sultry club singer Tina opposite Carrey's wild character.
Although the role ultimately went to Cameron Diaz (who was, ironically, a newcomer at the time), casting agent Fern Champion told the magazine that director Chuck Russell wanted the Playboy model to be his leading lady. However, after a meeting with Smith, Russell said he moved on from the idea relatively quickly.
"We met. Anna was charming and bubbly, but did not have the other qualities needed for the role. I never took the next step to run scenes with her. [I] would have had to read her for the part to get that far," Russell said.
At the time, Diaz was working as a model waiting for her big break onto the scene. After the headshot caught Russell's eye, he had a good feeling about her as the leading lady.
"I saw Cameron's 8x10 on the casting desk and asked, 'What about her?'" he 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."
Casting director Champion also told the magazine about the struggle that was finding the right woman to play Tina — but once she met Diaz, there were no more questions about it.
"[She had] an instant likability," Champion said. "She's a great girl. There were no barriers up. There was a brain behind her. She was just wide-eyed and blue-eyed, saying, 'Yeah, I want to act, sure. What do I have to do?'"0comments
After eight callbacks, an on-camera improv with Carrey and some convincing of producers, Diaz landed the role that would kickstart her career. "[She] was the only person for the part as far as I was concerned after her first reading," Russell said.
Joely Fisher, who played Maggie (Stanley's co-worker at the bank who rebuffs his interest), also gushed over Diaz, recalling a time when Diaz walked out of her trailer for her scene in the bank when the ingenue had "a light around her. She was just breathtaking in person. The character was so on the money for her to play. I knew she was going to be a star."