GQ Magazine (Uk Edition) March 1997

There is something about a star's entrance that expressly establishes their stature and design. Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins, for instance, are constructed for long-range recognition: they instinctively hold up their visages to the light like shields glinting at 100 yards. Others are of a different mettle; however hawkishly you anticipate their arrival, you'll inevitably miss it. They spirit in when you're not watching, in their own time, creating just enough waves to disarm you but not shock you. So while I'm distracted by the unusual spectacle of a heavy rainstorm on Sunset Boulevard, 27-year-old Jennifer Aniston, the endearingly scatty babe of Friends and celluloid star of Ed Burns' new film She's the One, appears at the table. She looks, well, a lot like Rachel, her Friends character, camouflaged under a big grey cardigan, frayed sweatpants and with that oh-so famous hair tied back to reveal the pixi-ish aspect of her broad snub nose and big blue eyes. Friends, for those who have been living under a rock, is Golden Girls for twenty somethings. It reprises the fortunes of a vaguely nauseating sextet as they seek to fashion the identities and relationships that will dictate their futures. Set in the urban faux-realism of New York, the broad range of the characters' tender hopes and dreams lends to a comic confusion to the inter-leaving plots that have established Friends as the TV model of the universal predicament past, present or future. Aniston is now a phenomenon, the "It" girl who, give or take a few famous models, is to the mid-Nineties what Farrah Fawcett was to the mid-Seventies. How she reached pole position in our cultural consciousness is easy to chart but not so easy to understand. She not sure either. "I don't know what it means to be a sex symbol," she says demurely. "When I see myself on a magazine cover I don't see it as me, but as someone painted, fluffed, puffed and done-up. I don't think about living up to it, it's like something that just happened." Earlier this year her fame was thrust into a new gear when Rolling Stone put her on it's cover and ran an inside expose on her lying down and displaying her naked bottom. "I was shocked. They promised there wouldn't be any rear end showing and then, oops! they went and cropped it wrong..." As Rachel, she commands the inestimably large amount of male sexual idolatry, and has spawned an army of female imitators. As herself, it is easy to see why she is so good at playing a dippy rich-girl-turned-coffee-waitress in the series. With her easy laugh and open manner, she's cute rather than sexy, in an insouciant, kittenish way - a neat black canvas for projected fantasies. Not someone to woo with months of candlelit dinners and goodnight kisses, but more of an all-American cuddle. Engaging and free of artifice as she is, it's tempting - in an image-hungry world - to ascribe her success to her hair, or "The Rachel," as it has come to be known, which seems a distillation of her essence: young, hopeful, slightly distracted. "It was such a surprise," she says of the fashion furore her looks have caused. "My friend Chris took a razor blade and just chopped. I always thought I'd seen the style before... I guess I don't spend too much time trying to figure it out anyway." It is America's first hairdo, a semi-sculpted, semi-tousled shoulder-length affair that has made millions of women beg their hairdressers to recreate it. In years to come, as Friends beams down into the most remote corners of the globe, there will be "Rachel's" of every creed and colour. If we can't be united by world peace, we might as well be brought together by hair. Aniston's success has made her an icon for the legions of aspiring actors and actresses working for tips in the city bars as they wait for their big break. It is an inspirational Cinderella story of Telly Savalas's goddaughter: a 5'6" Greek girl with big breasts, a big bottom and an awkwardly long name (Anistonapoulos), who suddenly commands $100,000 per episode in a hit sitcom and enjoys as much fame as an Oscar-winning actress. "It gives you a sense of power, but your life is always going to be your life," she philosophises with the down-to-earth sensibility that distinguishes her from Rachel. "Sometimes it's hard, because it's easy to get swept up in the whirlwind. But it doesn't bring happiness, you know it's a game. A good game, but you learn lessons the hard way." In the US, eighteen months into the third season series of Friends, in a cast of beautiful people - Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer (Aniston's will-they-won't-they love interest) - are now stars in their own right, with the box-office clout to lead movies of their own. Aniston makes her film debut this month in director Ed Burns' She's The One (also starring Cameron Diaz, Burns himself and his longtime girlfriend Maxine Bahns), displaying her accomplished comic timing in a wry film that plays out the themes of romance, morality and brotherhood first mined by the director in his debut, The Brothers McMullen. Aniston plays Rene, the wife of Wall Street whizz Micky (Mike McGlone) who refuses to sleep with her because he is having an affair with Heather (Diaz). At one point he compares the qualities of the two women in terms of driving a '74 Buick against driving a brand new Porsche. Burns defends his casting of Aniston as the Buick: he chose someone as glamorous and iconic as her, he claims, to show just how spoilt and undiscriminating Micky had become. Next spring Aniston can be seen in Picture Perfect, a romantic comedy with Kevin Bacon and Olympia Dukakis. But the trajectory of her career still astonishes. "For so long I was a professional waitress acting on the side, and now I can do it," she says, her face glowing with genuine enthusiasm. "Every day I drive onto the Friends lot and there's a moment of total excitement." Parked outside is her brand new BMW. Does it signal a girl who like to go far, fast? Would she leave her fiance standing at the altar as she did in the opening episode of the show? Actually, no. Aniston prefers to stay home, watch TV and eat pizza rather than go out on the Hollywood party circuit. "I really am a homebody. I just potter round my house, turn on the computer and try to return e-mails." Though she briefly dated Adam Duritz, the lead singer of Counting Crows, the wild rock 'n' roll carry-on is just not Aniston. "It's so unbelievably unappealing to me, I can't tell you. I'm pretty boring in that way." Boring or not, the tabloids are obsessed with her, watching her every move, and frequently misreporting them. "I guess the media's been the hardest thing, having no control over trashy TV shows and newspapers. It's fascinating to me. First they said I had a boob job, then that I was going out with my boyfriend's best friend!" Whether by nurture or nature, Aniston has followed in her family's tradition. Her father, John Aniston, is an actor in the American daytime soap Days Of Our Lives, and her mother is an ex-model. Growing up in an apartment on New York's Upper West Side, she attended the local Rudolf Steiner drama club and, at eleven, had a painting shown in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of art. Having graduated from New York's School of Performing Arts, she schlepped around the city waitressing and acting off-Broadway. Then she moved to Los Angeles and into a bohemian commune of actors, writers and artists in the Hollywood hills. Between spells as a telemarketeer, a series of false starts and sitcom flops, she made at least one wonderfully atrocious film, Leprechaun, a Celtic slasher flick that she prefers not to discuss. "I'm confident about some things, but I'm not confident about my work," she says turning her head away. "I used to dread watching myself. I remember seeing She's The One for the first time. I was like, 'I should not be on a screen that big. It doesn't work, it doesn't come across well.' That was awful to see." Of course her adoring public don't agree. they see the friendly, confident Rachel in her tiny miniskirts and her bare navel. The question is, can she transcend the character and go on to a variety of parts in film? "This just happened to be one job that hit all of a sudden, but as an actor you always hope to play different roles... hopefully the image won't inhibit that." So would she shave her head for a great part? "I'd probably do it. Mind you, if it happened tomorrow I'd be like 'Nooo!'... I'd try to find another option. I could live with it looking weird for a while... er, yeah... I guess it would always grow back..."