BUZZ: CL Interview: Jennifer Aniston

Talking tech with one of America's favorite friends.

You know Jennifer Aniston is the pampered 20-something Rachel on prime-time TV's smash comedy hit Friends. You know she's beautiful and talented. You know she started a huge haircut fad of which you may be a victim. You may have seen all or some of the four feature films (She's The One, 'Til There Was You, Dreams for an Insomniac, and Picture Perfect) and at least two television series aside from her regular gig on Friends she appears in, in 1996 alone. You may even know she's the late Telly Savalas's goddaughter. And if you don't know any of these things, you can find them out just about everywhere. Aniston, the 27-year-old actress of Greek descent, is about as cool right now as dry martini and as ubiquitous as the Internet.

Aniston has not left one stone unturned in her steady run for the media spotlight. You'll even find the star in this month's release of Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair, a movie-making strategy sim from Knowledge Adventure that wraps a game around an already challenging premise - how to make a big Hollywood movie on schedule and under budget. Along the way, would-be directors have the opportunity to direct Aniston, who plays an actress called Laura, and help her save her boyfriend Jack Cavello (played by Quentin Tarantino).

BUZZ Senior Editor Sean Kelly (Mr. Bonzai was vacationing in Hawaii) recently spent some time with Aniston discussing only the things you don't know: her thoughts on Director's Chair, Big Brother, and the sex appeal of technology. (Incidentally, her brother just had a baby, but you've probably already heard that.)

Kelly: You've been busy this year on Friends, on several films, and on a CD - how was acting for a CD different from acting for either television or feature films?

Aniston: This project was very animated and also very quick. We really just worked with a video camera, as opposed to a whole set, which reduced the time that it took to do all the preparation for television and for movies. It was simpler.

Kelly: Did you use the time you saved in setup to hang out and bond with Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino?

Aniston: Yeah, it was unbelievable to talk with Steven and be able to discover what a wonderful, down-to-earth guy he is. I mean, you just never know. I'm sure we've all had our awful experiences of having idols and then you meet them, and say, "Oh my God, how could I have ever looked up to them?" And you wish you'd just kept them a figment of your imagination. And he was absolutely wonderful - as was Quentin Tarantino. I found it surprising that they could be so curious and interested in me. I almost felt embarrassed answering questions they asked. Steven Spielberg was fascinated by the whole television world.

Kelly: So you had a nice interaction on both sides - he got some insight into your world. Did you learn about his world, about directing?

Aniston: Oh yeah, of course. I learned a lot, which I think is true about any job. If you keep your eyes open and watch, it's your choice whether or not to learn. You can't help but see the process.

Kelly: How did you get involved in this project?

Aniston: I really don't know how or why they picked me, but my agent called me and sayd, "Steven Spielberg wants you to do this thing, and you'd start the day after tomorrow and here's his phone number." It was almost frightening, kind of intense.

Kelly: Do you feel that you were more or less connected with the finished product than with film or TV? Does Director's Chair reflect what you thought you portrayed in your role?

Aniston: Working on a CD, I think you're as connected as you'd be anywhere else. You're there, and you are putting in your time and energy. There were certain things I felt more connected to, because I got to work with Steven, and there I was on the set and there he was talking to me and advising me. It was educating, but also a lot more about having fun than other serious acting roles.

Kelly: Do you think computer entertainment provides a new opportunity for actors?

Aniston: Actually, I don't think so. I don't think, as it is now, you can really achieve a full, red-blooded, wonderful performance on a computer screen. You just can't. So I don't think computers are as much for the actor's work, really, as for helping the editor to edit, the filmmaker to make films, and the director to direct. It's more of a production tool than anything else. Still, I do have a fear that actors are going to become obsolete and replaced by computer-generated images.

Kelly: I think you're safe for some time to come...

Aniston: I hope so, but hey, you have to find the possibilities.

Kelly: Is your primary impression of computers that they're threatening, or are they becoming more hip?

Aniston: It's fun - it's like a new toy. It's wholly another world that seems to be opening up. Until recently, I've tended to be resistant to computers, having a kind of fear of a Big Brother kind of world. I just got a new computer and I enjoy what it does for my life, but I'll never be a part of some technological overthrow, you know, where computers will take over and you'll no longer need those 300 workers.

Kelly: You said you just bought a new computer. How do you use it in your daily life?

Aniston: In my daily life, I use my computer to write letters, keep a journal, do my finances, make my plane reservations. Right now I'm really just discovering it all, but I plan to do the whole gardening CD-ROM thing, and check out the gourmet-cooking CD's. Then there's stuff from Martha Stewart, all sorts of fun home CD's, if that's what you're into, or CD's for cars. There's a little bit of everything for everyone.

Kelly: Have you checked out the Net yet?

Aniston: Oh, yeah. I use it for e-mail, for instant communication. I cruise around and see what's going on. I sometimes have a little fun seeing what the latest thing is that's going on in my life.

Kelly: I did a search for your name just this morning and found all kinds of interesting stuff. Lots of good rumors: Who you're dating, who you've been seen with.... There's a good and bad side, isn't there?

Aniston: There's a good and bad side to everything. Especially if you're an actor. You're just out there.

Kelly: Do people in Hollywood use computers a lot like cell phones or fashion accessories? You know: lunch meeting, flip a notebook open, look good.

Aniston: Nooooo. But when they do, it's annoying. Cell phones are a necessity. People on cell phones now use them to do work, not to be hip. I think that unless you're a writer or someone similar doing work, doing something with a computer to make you look hip is pretty obnoxious.

Kelly: Computers have often been poorly associated in Hollywood with geeks or nerds - people with no social lives - until the last couple of years. Now you see computers as having more of a cool factor. In fact, people are even commonly referring to technology as "sexy." Do you think high-tech toys, gadgets, and computers are sexy?

Aniston: Of course they are! What's not sexy about intelligence? I think it's always been a sign of insecurity to think someone's a nerd just because they work with technology.

Kelly: Some of the sex appeal about technology, though, is to think about the potential of what computers may actually let us do.

Aniston: Yeah, that's true. I'm not that knowledgeable about the future of computers. I'm not a good fortune-teller.

Kelly: OK, then let's say you could have a computer do anything... it's the perfect machine. What would it do for you?

Aniston: If I could have a computer that could do absolutely anything?

Kelly: Yep.

Aniston: I'd have it work out for me....

Kelly: What else?

Aniston: I don't know, maybe just beam me up.