A fiercely independent actress who refuses to be pressed into a conventional mode or typecast, Eva Mendes was studying marketing in the late ’90s when an agent stumbled across her photo while perusing Mendes’s neighbor’s portfolio. Soon appearing in an Aerosmith video and making her film debut in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, Mendes worked her way through the gamut of aspiring actors to appear in such high-profile films as Urban Legends: Final Cut and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
Dropping out of school soon after being randomly discovered by an agent, Mendes appeared in a few made-for-television productions and hammed it up with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in A Night at the Roxbury before being cast in a prominent role in Urban Legends: Final Cut. Working against typecasting despite her teen horror resumé, Mendes next took roles in Exit Wounds, Training Day, and All About the Benjamins. Mendes next began work on a children’s book titled Crazy Leggs Beshee in which she wanted to introduce art, history, vocabulary, and values to children in a fun and easily comprehendable medium.
In 2003, Mendes’ career took off, with the actress taking on large roles in an ecclectic quartet of high-profile films. In 2 Fast 2 Furious she played a customs agent working with Paul Walker to bring down a Miami drug cartel. Out of Time found her reteaming with Training Day costar Denzel Washington. Flexing her comedic chops, Mendes was the love interest of half a pair of conjoined twins in the Farrelly brothers’ Stuck on You. And in Once Upon a Time in Mexico she played another government agent, this time opposite Johnny Depp.
The year 2004 saw no signs of Mendes slowing down, with the Cuban-American beauty starring as the ex-girlfriend of Luke Wilson in The Wendell Baker Story, a film Wilson co-wrote with brother Owen Wilson and co-directed with sibling Andrew Wilson.