Looks August 1999
Jennifer Aniston has struggled from hard-up waitress to global superstar. And, believe it or not, she's managed to keep her head and her genuinely warm personality. She looks tiny in a shimmering dress, her hair pulled up, and, as we talk, her green eyes sparkle.

Rachel has developed a lot since the first series of Friends. Do you think she has come to new realisations?
Yes, the discovering of Ross' love was a big deal. She also found independence and what it felt like to earn your own dollar, while doing something you love. Before, it was all about getting a man, a house and the white picket fence. Once she realised she could do the career thing too, her and Ross went awry because she didn't know how to incorporate both.

Is she going to get married?
I don't know. She's a mess. I've got to ask the writers. The get themselves to these places at the end of the season and then they have four months to figure it out.

Rachel is pretty self-absorbed, as was the very popular Seinfeld. Does that tell us anything about life in the 90's?
You mean, it's like the "Me Generation" all over again? It's so funny, I don't see them as self-involved. I'd love that, though because that's human. Rachel's definitely getting better. It creeps in every now and then, but she's evolved. People are now really trying to figure life out with all this self-discovery. We mock it because it can go too far, but I think in essence it's good.

Are you into New Age philosophies?
I'm into exploring and learning about everything. There is nothing I say no to.

What causes are you involved in?
Nothing hands-on. There's the Rape Treatment Center for young girls in Santa Monica, due to this wonderful women who took me there a couple of years ago. It's too easy to call out all these charities you're a part of. So many people want to stand up for something, but it can be dangerous. We have a voice, but you have to educate yourself first. Truthfully, I'd do it all if I could, but I've just just been finding things I'm moved by.

Has being a celebrity affected your life in a negative way?
It's hard. There's a period when you just don't know what's going on. Suddenly you have people camped outside your house and it's a little scary. The you get angry and you want your privacy. So you start to incorporate it into your thinking. You draw it into you if you're afraid of it, and you hide under the cap and glasses. And then you realise its part of the job and you just tune it out. I'm determined to live my life. I don't think much about it now. I'm a sloppy thing and go out not worrying how I look, but I'm not rude to people.

Do you want to continue doing romantic comedies?
No, I'd love to do other kinds of films. A thriller or something. I love comedy but I want to evolve and challenge myself. It's easy to get stuck in what people are comfortable seeing you as. As you grow in the film world and become known, you want to mix it up a bit. It's hard - you're under a microscope, and if you make a mistake, they go, "See you didn't make it." But I'm an actor, I have to try something, and if it doesn't work, it's all right. If Friends had never happened, I don't think the cast would get as much criticism for their movies. Like any actor, if you get an opportunity to do a movie, it's wonderful, but because we're so in the limelight and known as Friends, we get a really hard time. It's hard enough to deal with rejection as it is, so you have to remember why you're doing it and block it out as much as you can.

How do you make people forget that you're Rachel?
You go in there, audition and show them you can do something else. But you know what? I don't feel it as much now. I think people have been okay in accepting my movies, although all you read is a comparison between Friends and our movies. It's like, "Come up with a new angle for Christ's sake!"

Are you working on another movie?
I've just finished one called, Office Space. Mike Judge [the man behind Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill] wrote and directed it. I play Joanna, a waitress at TGI Friday who's a stoner chick. This guy, Ron Livingstone, is fed up with his job at a big corporation. He gets hypnotised, but the hypnotist dies in the middle of his session, so he's hypnotised for the rest of the movie.  My character is kind of always in a hypnotised state, so that's why we get along so well. We show each other different sides of life. It's a dark comedy, not romantic at all.

Were you funny as a little girl or was it hard to find that side?
It wasn't tough to see the comedy side of me. I was a clown in school! I was not a good student and got kicked out of classes for clowning around. Then, when I went to theatre school, it was important to be a serious actor but there'd be chuckling during scenes. My mentor, this wonderful actor teacher in the 11th grade, told me, "You've got the ability to be funny, but be careful. It can be safe and prevent you going to the real places." That threw me - I never thought of myself as a comedienne.

Are you happy now you've accepted it?
Yes. I also think I'm better now - a lot of the TV shows I did before were "ba - de - bing, ba - de - boom" comedy and weren't real. I love comedy when it comes from the truth of a situation. That's what I love about Friends. As funny as it is, they work really hard not to make it cheesy and jokey - it's based on reality. Ultimately, that's what you want to do in a film.

Do you want to do serious theatre?
Oh, I'd love to and am sure I will. I did it in high school and it's intimidating, but I really want to go back. It used to be the most comfortable place for me.

How did you start acting professionally?
I did theatre in New York, then moved to California and got one sitcom after another. I did about six before Friends.

Why do you like romantic comedies?
It's the characters and complexities of their relationships. In The Object of My Affection, it's how they move through the conflict they're faced with at the end. It's a wonderful film, because it wasn't wrapped up in a perfect tiny bow. It was a gem and it's hard to find those.

Do you think this movie was good for you, after being known as Rachel?
Yeah, because on TV you have an image and you don't want to limit yourself. But it's flattering to be thought of in that way. Especially for someone like me. The last thing I'm good at is my hair, and the last thing I think about is my physicality. It's weird to be seen in that light, because I don't feel that way. I don't want to promote the idea that happiness comes from beauty - that if you're beautiful, you're happy and successful if you're thin, you can do all this. It's not a message I want to send out, especially to young girls who hang onto your every word. It's totally wrong.

You weren't thin when you stared your career. Didn't losing weight help boost your career?
I've been everything, like everybody. It's not easy for some of us to stay thin, but I worked before I was thin.

Do you get frustrated when people only talk about your haircut?
Oh yeah, all the time, but all you can do is just focus on doing good work.

Do you play jokes on each other on the Friends set?
We were once obsessed with fart machines and that was for a good half of the season, I've got to tell you! The sound department started it, then Matthew Perry found a remote controlled one. You might not appreciate it but it gets me every time.

What are you doing during your break this year?
I don't know. I'm so excited! I haven't had two months off for years. Last year, I went to France on a bike trip and there will be trips this year too, but I haven't planned them yet. Morocco might be fun. Somewhere they don't see Friends. 

Are you looking forward to going back to the show in August?
I can't wait it's like going home.

In The Object Of My Affection you play a woman who appreciates certain qualities of two different kinds of men - her boyfriend, who's confident and straight, and her room mate, who's gentle and gay, But the composite is of the perfect man. Vince is a powerful, strong ballbuster who doesn't demand too much and she likes that at the start. She's very in control of who she is. She's got a job, her boyfriend, and that works fine. Then this other man comes along; who fulfils a whole new side of her that she didn't know a man could. I don't think she ever thought romantic love and friendship love could go together, and she gets thrown by that. How close are you to the character you play in this film?
There are similarities. I guess I'm a bit of a control freak. I like order, but I don't think you can control when you fall in love.

What kind of man would you like to find for yourself?
A good man. Honest, real. He should be funny, kind everything. And good - looking would help. Nothing wrong with that!

We've seen a few movies where woman goes for the gay guy because he's sensitive. Does that reflect reality?
No, of course not. There are wonderful straight men who are sensitive, and there are women who aren't sensitive. That's just how we like to peg people. We like to put those stereotypes out there. What is also nice to see in the movie is a gay character represented as a human being. It's not a satire.

Were the dance scenes choreographed for you?
It was very choreographed. I've got rhythm but when it comes to the steps I am just a white girl. It's a tedious process. I wasn't great and I get frustrated, so that makes it worse. You clown around, and Paul's such a goof, it was impossible.

When your character gets pregnant her first thought is not to get married. Have alternative family lifestyles become more common in America?
Definitely, especially in this generation that has come from divorced families. Now we create our chosen families, which to me are the best families. Just because you're connected by blood, it's not always a healthy, wonderful thing. We don't have to stick by the guidelines now. It's about being true to yourself.

Do you have a group of friends that you consider your chosen family?
I have a group of friends that I've had since I moved here ten years ago. Twelve of us just went away together. There are times when I feel closer to these guys than I do my own family.

Are any of the actors from Friends part of this family?
No. They're close to me and have been all along, but this is a solid group that's been together a long time, separate from work. It's very important to me. They're my family and we ground each other.

Did playing young mother give you any idea of what kind of mother you would like to be?
Oh, I don't think you can predict that. I have some ideas, as I'm sure all women do. I'd like to be the perfect mom, but someone for whom it's okay to be flawed and make mistakes. We should allow for that and not shield a child too much. Let them know it's okay to run around naked and not be ashamed of anything.  I definitely believe in allowing them to see the world as it is, but not exposing them too much too early.

How much TV would you allow your children to watch?
Not a lot. When I grew up, I wasn't allowed to watch television or go to the movies for the longest time. I think I was allowed to watch Donny and Marie once in a while. That was my big treat!

You never even watched your father John on the soap Days of Our Lives?
Never. My mom was very strict on not wanting me to watch TV, which is another thing I want to do as a mother. We have that video thing now, where you pop a kid in front of a TV and they're like zombies. You should throw a pencil and paper in their hands instead.

Do you still paint as a hobby?
Yeah, I do. I've been doing that a lot lately, actually. I paint more charcoals

Is painting something that you would like to pursue professionally?
Yeah, why not? I'm sure I could if I wanted to. You can slap anything on a canvas and sell it for a ridiculous price!

Wasn't one of your sketches exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York?
Yeah. I was only nine, but it was fluke. My school was a Rudolph Steiner School, where they're very artistic. They picked ten Steiner students to exhibit at the Met, and that was pretty cool. At the time, I was like, "So what?

Do you still paint in that style today?
I used to paint with shading, colours and dimension, but now it's just freehand and whatever comes to mind. It was a great thing to be exposed to as a kid. I also played every musical experiment. I can't play any well, but I've played them all!


Much thanks to Clare!