Exclusive to Sandra's Jennifer Aniston Tribute
Jennifer Aniston in "The Look":The Outcast Who Became Everyone's Best Friend
Much thanks to Gareth Knight from the wonderful Friends mailing list for letting me use this :)
Jennifer Aniston's New Year's resolution for 1998 was to try not
to use the word "hate" unless it was absolutely
necessary. While the rest of us vowed to give up smoking or cut back on the booze, the personification of perkiness just wanted to be nicer.
It's typical of Aniston, a woman already so impossibly popular that she even has her own tongue-in-cheek religious cult on the Internet - the Holy Tabernacle of Aniston the Divine, whose first commandment says, "God is a woman, and her name is Jennifer'.
Ask her Friends co-star Matthew Perry to pinpoint a fault in the
29-year-old and he replies, after a long pause, "She's the worst driver
in the history of drivers. If I know she's going somewhere, I stay
Jennifer herself admits that she's tried to be a bad girl, but failed dismally.
"I was 14 or 15 and 1 was dating a guy who lives in the East Village in New York,' she remembers. "I shaved my hair just above the ears and had all these earrings and rubber bracelets - I was just the ugliest thing. But I could never be a punk rocker - I didn't even like punk music! I was just a big poseur, a big fat poseur."
"I was so unhealthy. I lived on cheeseburgers and French fries and
mayonnaise ... everything that was bad. Some
actresses just burn it off. For me, it was tougher."
Ah yes, the infamous Aniston weight question. It's now passed into showbiz folklore that she dropped 30 lbs. before landing the role as Rachel in Friends. The actress - born Jennifer Anistapoulous - vehemently denies that surgery aided her remarkable refashioning into a 7st 121b sex bomb.
"My Dad used to say I had a behind you could serve tea off," she
laughs. "I wasn't fat, I was just Greek, and Greeks are round, with
big bottoms and big boobs. There's nothing wrong with that. If you've
got 'em, feel lucky."
"Now 1 have to watch what I eat, I work out, but I'm not crazy about the whole thing. Really, it's just a drag,
something most women suffer from. The lucky ones are those with fast metabolisms. The rest of us have to work a bit harder. "If you're an actress, you have to be thin. It's scary how Hollywood treats you like a completely different person when you're thin. It's awful. People are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. I didn't even know I was overweight until someone told me. I hate it that your self worth is evaluated by how much you weigh, that your mood depends on how bloated you feel."
Her now trim figure and that hair have won Jennifer female fans who want to look like her and male fans who want to go to bed with her. In a recent survey she pipped Elizabeth Hurley and Estelle Skornik (Nicole from the Renault Clio advertisements) as the woman most British men would like to marry. So when the Friends' London wedding cliffhanger airs on Sky One tomorrow night there'll be a nation waiting with bated breath to see what happens next in TVs most captivating on-again off-again romance. As Ross (David Schwimmer) exchanges wedding vows with Emily (Helen Baxendale), Rachel will look on in lovelorn horror - complete with Jennifer's expert little-girl-lost look.
But she admits her golden girl image is starting to drag, especially
when it comes to the contemporary obsession with weight and beauty. "I
know what goes into photos and that they airbrush," she says.
"Yet you still look at these pictures and go, 'Wow! God, look at that! She's perfect!" TV is definitely guilty of putting out unrealistic images of what is socially unacceptable. I'm guilty of it, too."
As the daughter of a former model and actress she has known pressure
about her self-image since she was a child.
"My mother would always tell me to put make-up on. She was a big confidence-booster in the physical area!" she
laughs. "Put your eyes on, for God's sake, she'd say. Lips, eyes, anything. 'Put your eyes on'. I thought I had my eyes on, mother!' Today, even dressed down in blue denim jeans, sneakers and a loose, white shirt, she still oozes glamour. ”My analogy about fame and my image is free-failing. It's like jumping out of an airplane, hoping your parachute is going to open. Doesn't everybody get a little neurotic? I definitely get nervous with all these clothes being sent to me, and I have to pick an outfit. And if 1 wear this designer, I have to wear all of that designer and I can't throw in other shoes. "Can't I just wear my old shoes because they're so comfortable?' I mean, you just want to scream and say, 'Take me away!' But those are fleeting moments. You know what's good? To have somebody ground you and say, 'Wait, it's okay'." That somebody until two months ago was 34-year-old actor Tate Donovan, the love of her life for three years and only her third serious relationship. By all accounts Tate was the one, and Jennifer was instrumental in getting him a role in Friends as her on-screen love during the last series. But now they've separated, and the Irish Claddagh friendship rings they exchanged "to let the world know we're taken' have been consigned to the back of the jewellery box. "I was not engaged," she insists, but nevertheless she's determined to stay pals.
"You have to really want to remain friends - have a kind break-up, be an adult, make the effort, and let time pass before the friendship can re-ignite," she says. "The main thing is not to become a bitch. Your biggest fear is becoming that, you know?"
She remains tight with her previous love, Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, who later dated her Friends co-star Courteney Cox. “I worry that I don't get back quicker to friends who call,' she says. "I was always the one everyone would seek out to bitch about so-and-so. 1 like to talk to people and fix things. 1 still do that ... sometimes too much."
Jennifer was brought up in Sherman Oaks, California, and later New
York City. Her father John was a regular on the US daytime soap Days Of
Our Lives for years. He and her mother Nancy split when she was nine, but
the family remain close. "I learned a lot about human relations and emotions
at a young age,' she recalls.
“It's definitely hard. You deal with them fighting through you. That's a drag.' The entertainment industry has always been a part of her life - even her godfather was TV cop Kojak, alias Telly Savalas. She joined her school drama club before attending New York's High School of Performing Arts (better known as the Fame school) and, after graduation, worked off-Broadway. 'My father didn't want me to be an actress,' says Jennifer. 'He told me I'd never make any money, I'd starve and it would be awful. He felt that the profession was full of rejection. But that negative input made me want to succeed even more." At 20, after two years of occasional theatre and waitressing, she returned to California where she found scraps of work on several failed television shows, including Ferris Bueller, The Edge, and Muddling Through. But when she landed the role of spoilt Rachel Green in Friends she became a household name - or rather mane, as scores of women flocked
to their hairdressers to demand the Rachel "do."
That Jennifer has gained such a following for playing a ditsy, spoiled waitress who's a bit on the bitchy side is a tribute to her appeal - an appeal which is making her seriously rich. Apart from her reported £60,000 an episode in the series, she's the face of L’Oreal, Lynx and a dozen other top-drawer brand names. One slogan she mouthed for a US educational ad sums up the whole Aniston phenomenon: "Smart is sexier than stupid- any day."
Jennifer's now in the £2 million-a-year class, although her
blossoming movie career will soon triple her earnings. More importantly,
it enables her to turn down offers such as £1 million to pose nude
in girlie magazines and a big money deal to make an erotic thriller.
"The magazine stuff might occasionally be 'artistic' but the kind of scenes this producer had in his script for a so-called thriller were most definitely not artistic," she says. "I reckon I could have been naked and in bed with four different guys movie. What would that made me if I said 'okay' to that kind of material? I'm not sure I'd be able to face the guys in Friends any more if I went along with that. Sure, I've bent the rules in the past - I made up stuff on my resume, films I claimed to have starred' in when I was just an extra. But that doesn't pay off. You have to stay true to your integrity. 'I don't need that kind of tacky stuff. There are people who think money will buy anything but with me it doesn't. I couldn't do that. It would break my family's heart and I'd be too shy in any case. In the movies I've been very careful what I've done in the love scene department. I'm keeping wrapped up."
Better received than all her initial movie roles is her wistful lead
performance in British director Nicholas Hytner's
witty adaptation of the Stephen McCauley novel The Object Of My Affection, in which Aniston plays a social worker who falls in love with her gay roommate. The film is out Britain later this year. "It's so different, it's not a rip-roaring comedy," says Jennifer. "it's not a date movie. It's a very different story about this woman whose best friend is gay and she ends up falling in love with him. She becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, but decides to have the baby and raise it with her best friend, because they have this love. They want to make their own rules, but it doesn't quite work out that way.
"There was a lot of competition for the Object role. I auditioned
months before, when it had another life at another
studio and somebody else was attached. They had cast Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves and then it fell apart.
"Now I'd never gotten a letter from a director in my life, but, Nick
Hytner wrote me after that audition: said,
'There are so many reasons why an actor is cast, and it's all political and had nothing to do with your talent. Someday, hopefully, we'll work together'. It was the loveliest letter I've ever received and I thought it was so kind. There are so few kind people in the world, much less this business, who don't have some odd agenda. He's just such a wonderful man. Then in the end it all happened for me."
Also in the pipeline are three more movie comedies - Office Space,
Animal Husbandry, and How To Date A
Congressman."I'm not taking the Hollywood thing too seriously because we've all seen this business chew people up and spit them out," she says. "I think I've learned from my family and friends that this is something I want to do, and do well. There's so much more to learn.
"It's very bizarre to be in this position. You almost feel like you haven't earned this yet. 1 want to wait until 1 get to a place where I can say, 'Now I deserve all this'. That will happen. But you have to look at what you've done. It's a hard thing to pat yourself on the back."
Home is a three-bedroom hill-top house above Los Angeles, crammed
full of her beloved antiques. It's glossy
magazine perfect ("I can't stand it when things are out of place") and she shares it with her Australian sheepdog Enzo. Her driving may be appalling - even she admits to driving too fast - but many envy her life.
"You know, the worst thing about all this is that my anonymity doesn't exist any more," she says. "it's a strange thing to be watched, talked about and have people making up stories about you. Some of what is written is really hurtful. The good thing is that as a cast we are very close and protective of each other."But I feel frustrated a lot, not having time to connect with people in my life who mean a lot to me. People tend to assume you're different, so they behave differently."