The model, who died in 2007 at the age of 39, was considered by the film’s director Chuck Russell to star as Tina, the nightclub singer who catches the eye of Carrey’s Stanley in the 1994 film.
Russell, 61, told Variety that Smith didn’t get far in the casting process as he “would have had to read her for the part to get that far.”
“We met,” he said. “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.”
It allowed for Cameron Diaz, then working as a model and just beginning her acting career, to take a shot at the role — and the rest is history.
“I saw Cameron’s 8×10 on the casting desk and asked, ‘What about her?’” Russell recalled. “I was told she was submitted, but had not acted in anything else yet. I said to bring her in and let’s see.”
Diaz, 46, nailed the audition with Russell saying the actress “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,” he continued. “Eight callbacks later, including improvs with Jim, I finally convinced producers [to cast her].”
The film established Diaz as a leading lady and cemented Carrey’s status as a leading man. The comedian earned a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of a bank clerk who finds a magical mask that transforms him into a mischievous and over the top gangster.
Diaz would go on to star in My Best Friend’s Wedding, There’s Something About Mary, Charlie’s Angels, Vanilla Sky, The Sweetest Thing and In Her Shoes.
In 2015, Diaz also married Good Charlotte band member Benji Madden.
The actress has taken a step back from acting in recent years, with a source telling PEOPLE in March that Diaz isn’t interested in acting full-time as she once was.
“There were times when she was so busy making movies that she barely had time to catch her breath,” the source said.
“Those days are over, but she could still take some roles — just not back to back,” added the insider.
A source previously told PEOPLE that Diaz prefers her private life out of the spotlight to her life of the past.
“[Cameron and Benji] are great” and “both very happy living the quiet life,” the source told PEOPLE. “The quiet life she lives now with Benji, she wanted for a long time.”