Five years ago, Cameron Diaz was one of the most A-list celebrities in the world. In 2014 alone, she was on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Self, Marie Claire and Esquire. She starred in “Sex Tape” and “The Other Woman,” as well as a remake of “Annie,” which together grossed more than $450 million worldwide. She hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the fourth time.
And then she all but disappeared. No more movies or TV. Only the rarest of appearances (showing up last year for pal Lucy Liu’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony) and interviews — including one in 2018, when she told Entertainment Weekly she was “retired.’”
So it was a shock when she posted an announcement to her 6 million Instagram followers on Jan. 3: She and her husband, musician Benji Madden, were parents to a baby girl, Raddix Chloe Wildflower, born Dec. 30.
It even came as a surprise to people who had once known Diaz well.
“They keep to themselves. No one outside their tight small circle hears from them,” said a screenwriter who has worked with the actress.
Sources suggest motherhood may have been a big impetus behind Diaz’s decision to walk away from Hollywood.
“They tried forever to get pregnant. They did acupuncture, special diets, IVF, supplements. They went to the best fertility doctors. They tried to adopt. Nothing worked,” said a Diaz pal, adding the baby was born via a surrogate. “But for Cam, this was her priority over acting, doing books, any kind of career. She was compelled.”
Still, it’s not like Hollywood has turned its back on her.
“There was no studio who wouldn’t hire her [when she was still acting],” said one executive who has worked with Diaz multiple times. “They’d hire her now. They’d develop projects especially for her. But she always passes.”
Insiders said the actress is sticking to her plan.
“Everyone thought Cami loved the attention,” said one old friend of the actress. “But really, she just knew how to ride a wave, had fun with it, made a lot of friends.”
Two other big things happened to Diaz in 2014. For one, she quit social media — and her reasoning offered a glimpse into her view on fame.
“The way people use it to get validation from a bunch of strangers is dangerous,” she told Cosmopolitan UK in January 2015. “What’s the point?”
(She later returned to Instagram, then took a hiatus from 2016 to 2018 and now rarely posts anything — and certainly nothing personal besides the baby announcement.)
Also in 2014, she began dating Madden, guitarist for the band Good Charlotte, whom she married in January 2015.
“Cami always came off as the good-time girl, the fun girl, the sexy girl,” said a former assistant to the actress. “She had a long list of boyfriends, but never felt safe with any of them.”
Among the men she dated: Justin Timberlake, Matt Dillon, Jared Leto, magician Criss Angel and Alex Rodriguez.
Meeting Madden, the assistant said, changed Diaz. “With Benji, she’s in a totally different mindset: domestic, cooking, all about wellness. Even though she’d said she never thought of having kids, that all changed when she met him.” (Diaz told Esquire in 2014: “I was never drawn to being a mother.”)
The actress, who grew up in Long Beach, California, and went to high school with Snoop Dogg, worked as a teen model before bursting on the big screen at age 21 in 1994’s “The Mask.”
She often played the hot, fun blonde, in movies such as “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “The Sweetest Thing,” “There’s Something About Mary” and the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise. In 2013, she was the highest-paid actress over 40, with ticket grosses hitting $3 billion.
“Very few actresses ever rake in that kind of box office,” said the screenwriter who has worked with her.
But her old friend said that, despite the actress’ bubbling laugh and big personality, the roles into which Diaz was pigeonholed didn’t exactly fit her.
“I always thought she was more like her ‘Being John Malkovich’ character than all the sexy chicks she played,” the old friend said. “She’s incredibly soulful.”
As for how Diaz and Madden came up with their daughter’s unusual name, a family friend told The Post: “Raddix comes from ‘Rad,’ their favorite word. And her best friend Drew Barrymore’s autobiography is called ‘Wildflower.’ Also, Benji has a band called Rad Omen.”
Sources say Raddix is still sleeping in her crib in her parents’ bedroom in Beverly Hills, but will soon move into a pink nursery.
“She has little interest in going out right now,” said the pal of Diaz. “Benji’s an amazing caretaker. And they have no interest in a nanny right now. They want to do it all together, utterly hands on.”
“Right now, Benji just wants to take care of Cameron and their little girl,” said a music-industry source. “Fifteen years on the road and after that, you want to stay home.”
The couple are also close to Madden’s twin brother and Good Charlotte bandmate, Joel, and his wife, Nicole Richie.
“Benji saw how happy his brother is being married to Nicole and being a dad,” said the former assistant. “Benji loves his niece and nephew like they’re his own kids.”
While Good Charlotte hasn’t had a Top 40 hit since 2010, the band’s last album, 2018’s “Generation Rx,” reached No. 18 on Billboard’s Top 100 album chart.
But Diaz, whose net worth has been reported at $140 million, is set.
“Cam was very smart toward the end of her career,” said the former assistant. “She took only a million-dollar salary for ‘Bad Teacher’ — then made $40 million on the back-end deal.”
And just because Diaz is retired from performing doesn’t mean she’s not planning to work again one day.
“She loved doing books,” the former assistant added of the actress’ wellness-focused “The Body Book” (2013) and “The Longevity Book” (2016). “I bet she writes one about becoming a mom in [her] late 40s.”
As Diaz wrote for InStyle last year: “I’ve given more than half of my life to the public . . . I don’t miss performing. Right now I’m looking at the landscape of wellness and all that. But whatever I do, it has to be something I’m passionate about — something that just feels effortless.”
“She’s always been into yoga, pilates, acupuncture,” said another Hollywood insider of the actress. “But she’s not as ambitious as Gwyneth.”
As for right now, there’s only one thing on the horizon for Diaz and Madden.
“Diapers,” the pal said with a laugh. “Diapers are all they’re thinking about. And maybe another baby.”
And where are these A-listers?
Cameron Diaz isn’t the only one of her Hollywood contemporaries to seemingly go MIA as of late.