Anna Nicole Smith rose from obscurity to become one of the fashion industry’s most recognizable faces in the 1990s, but a longtime friend believes she could’ve made an even bigger splash on the big screen if she hadn’t missed out on a major role.
Smith’s life is the subject of a new Netflix documentary, “Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me.” Archival footage in the film shows the model and television personality having a phone conversation in which she says she’s been offered the role of Tina Carlyle in 1994’s “The Mask,” starring Jim Carrey ― but balks at the paltry-for-Hollywood salary of $50,000 she would’ve earned.
Ashley Wells Lewis, a film producer with whom Smith briefly lived during her lifetime, supports the documentary’s account. Speaking to People in an interview published Tuesday, she said her famous pal forever regretted her decision to turn down the role, which eventually went to Cameron Diaz.
“She never got over it,” Lewis told the publication. “I think it could’ve set her off the right path. It certainly didn’t hurt Cameron Diaz.”
“The Mask” was a critical and commercial hit, raking in a reported $351.5 million at the box office worldwide. After making her big-screen debut in the film, Diaz went on to star in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “There’s Something About Mary,” among other 1990s blockbusters.
Smith, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2007, idolized Marilyn Monroe as a teen and, like Monroe, hoped to parlay her success as a model into an acting career. She made appearances in a number of films, including “The Hudsucker Proxy” and “Naked Gun 33 1⁄3: The Final Insult.”
But Lewis believes Smith’s late-career pivot to reality television, most notably with 2002’s “The Anna Nicole Show,” contributed to her eventual downfall.
“She was rewarded for being high and drunk, doing crazy things that made her more interesting for them to film,” she told People. “She used to say, ‘Ashley, if they say bad things about you, it’s better than not saying anything, so I let them say bad things.’ I think she would maybe not feel that way right now.”
Speaking to Variety in 2019, director Chuck Russell acknowledged having met with Smith to discuss “The Mask,” but stated that he’d never officially offered her the part in the end.
“Anna was charming and bubbly but did not have other qualities needed for the role,” he said. “I never took the next step to run scenes with her.”
Due out Tuesday, “Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me” charts Smith’s seemingly rags-to-riches rise from small-town Texan to Playboy centerfold and, later, Hollywood bombshell.
Directed by Ursula Macfarlane, the documentary doesn’t shy away from Smith’s experiences with drug and alcohol addiction, and offers insight into her brief yet tumultuous marriage to oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, who was 62 years her senior.
Speaking to People last month, Macfarlane said she’s “always been fascinated” by Smith, whose real name was Vickie Lynn Hogan.
“She’s a woman who deserves our attention and our understanding,” she said. “I want people to come away loving her as much as I do, but at the very least I want her to be appreciated as the multi-dimensional and deeply vulnerable woman she was.”