ANISTON THE DIVINE
Article taken from SKY Magazine - August 1997
As recently as 1994, the name Jennifer Aniston was virtually unknown.
Three short years down the line, she's put her name to
one of the most popular TV series on the planet, cut her big screen teeth on She's The One and got a religion named after her.
And while the (sadly now disfunct) Holy Tabernacle Of Aniston The Divine homepage would have us believe many things, even
it would have to concede that no one makes their imprint on a whole generation by capillary perfection alone.
It's a "love her or love her" set-up with JA, and much of that appeal
can be credited to her role as Rachel in Friends. At the
casting seesions, Aniston had been up for the part of Monica, which might well have changed the course of TV history as we
know it. Somehow, though we'd have muddled through and found a whole new way of falling in love with her. The same way
we did with Rachel.
The only female cast member to actually make an entrance in the Friends
pilot episode, Rachel Karen Green burst into our
world begraggled, wet through and - just to make sure we'd really remember her - in full bridal attire. Over the next 30 minutes
we came to know a spoilt little girl, woefully dependent on others, as inextricibly caught up in her own "situations" as she was
blissfully oblivious to others'. But she was, at the end of ti all, a good sort, and we adored her from the word go. Those of us
who weren't immediately smitten by a crush of Ross proportions would have been happy to, I don't know, simply be a little
more like her.
Rachel appeals to the part of us that wants to look after someone -
and we kid ourselves that it's what she needs. Monica - on
first impressions, at least - seems way too mcuh like hard work, especially with that sanity-challenging "neat" thing going on.
Phoebe, on the other hand, is ... well, too Phoebe, leaving Rachel as the girl Friend who we want for a girlfriend. In Rachel we
see a girl who's no less crap at running her emotional life than the rest of us, someone who keeps getting it so wrong, but who so
desperately wants to get it right. She is, in brief, the most human character ever to emerge from a Stateside sitcom.
Not, of course, that we would normally be so foolosh as to confuse the
actor with the character, but the Friends do, to a
greater or lesser degree, provide a luxurious exception to that particular rule. "Jennifer was the part," confirms Friends producer
Kevin Bright, recalling Aniston's first reading for the role. "She was funny. She was pretty. It all came through in one big stroke."
And it keeps on coming. The eagerly awaited third series has just kicked
off on Channel 4 and series one and two were recently
repeated. Rachel's character goes through as many developments as Mattew Perry's hairstyle, but throughout it all, Aniston
delivers one-liners with the kind of killer timing that makes Absolutely fabulous seem cack-handed. Whether she realises it or
not, JA is without question one of the funniest, most attractive women on TV today.
Now Aniston's career is moving into its next phase. And, Courteney Cox
in Scream excepted, while the other Friends' big
screen outings have by and large failed to bring the same sort of acclaim as their TV work, Aniston has been more fortunate.
First there was Ed Burns' second feature, She's The One. "We were four
weeks from shooting and starting to get scared,"
recalls Burns, whose casting sessions for the part of Renee had, at that stage, been totally fruitless. "They went whiney and
bitchy instead of vulnerable. I called up and basically pleaded with her manager, 'Is there any way?'" Already a fan of The
Brothers McMullen, Aniston was happy to oblige. "It was one of my most favourite memories about being an actress," she
beams. "To go to New York and do a movie with wonderful people and a really fun role - what more could you ask for?" As
Renee, the injured corner of a love triangle involving Cameron Diaz and Mike McGlone, Aniston enjoyed a "Why is it such a
big thing?" on-screen moment with a battery powered marital aid but, far more importantly, made the transistion from small to
big sreen stardom without any apparent hitches. Well, that's how we saw it. Aniston herself recalls it differently: "I remember
seeing She's The One for the first time," she frowns. "I was like, 'I should not be on a screen that big.'"
Cinema audiences blithely exercised their right to beg to differ and
the movie career gained momentum. Later tis year, we will
see Aniston alongside Kevin Bacon in Picture Perfect, where she plays an ad exec who ends up meeting the very boyfriend
she fabricated for her friend's benefit. But first up is 'Til There Was You, a romantic comedy of the best Sleepless In Seattle
tradition. So far there's been no "TV vs movies" conflict, although who knows what the next 10 years will bring? "That's a good
question," she laughs. "I asked myself that not too long ago. Hopefully still working as an actress and, hopefully, producing.
Maybe even directing ...
As Aniston's profile has increased, however, so has press interest.
"There's a good and bad side to everything," she sighs.
"Especially if you're an actor. You're just out there." On the bad side, tabloid gossips have (erroneously) reported how she and
Courteney Cox ended up having a full-on catfight over Aniston's ex, Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz. Aniston maintains
that Cox and duritz aren't actually dating, a fact which seems to be confirmed by Cox's declaration that, "I can't go out with
anybody if my friend has even kissed them." That, obviously, hasn't deterred LA's gossip-mongers, whose finest "creation" of
late has been the tale of how Sandra Bullock (that's nice, cosy, cardi-wearing Sandy, right?) trashed Aniston's apartment when
she started seeing Bullock's ex-squeeze, Tate Donovan. Nonsense, of course, and you can understand Aniston's distaste for the
Get onto Tate and it's a different kettle of fish. "Yes, I'm in love
with him. He's a sweetie," she smiles, gazing into the distance as
she recalls their first date. "I had butterflies, but then we met and he was easy to talk to. I've never had such good talking
But Tate's not the only one to fall under her spell. The public's love affair with Aniston is set to go on ... and on ... and on ...