As Rachel Green on Friends, Jennifer Aniston has coped with her share
of crises (her on-again, off-again relationship with Ross; her ever-
changing résumé and her new living situation). On a sitcom there's
always a punch line, not to mention someone carefully scripting the
story. But in real life Aniston has a lot more at stake. This season may be the last for Friends, the seven-year-old ensemble comedy that reflects the humor of a generation. If so, Aniston isn't sure what her next career move should be (so far, her feature films haven't exactly broken box-office records).
She's also facing some bittersweet personal issues: Will she reconcile with her mother? Should she marry Brad Pitt? (She's been spotted with a whopper diamond on her finger but stops short of calling it an engagement ring).
Without a doubt, these are life-jolting decisions, but those close to her say they're nothing that the 31-year-old can't handle. "She's not about being famous or making money," says Maxine Lapiduss, who's known Aniston since she was 19 and is co-founder of Voxxy, a
Web site for teen girls to which Aniston will regularly contribute.
"She's approachable and loyal. She’s the kind of person who says,
”Whatever you need, I'm in, I'm there.”
"She has a warmth that radiates," adds Friends costume designer Debra
McGuire. "She doesn't hide behind an image. What you see is what you
The future Mrs. Brad Pitt (maybe), honesty is at the heart of Aniston's two-year relationship with boyfriend Brad Pitt.
"She's fantastic, she's complicated, she's wise, she's fair, she has great empathy for others and she's just so cool," Pitt has remarked.
"But what I ask is that she does not hold anything back. I don't want to stifle that."
When they met early in 1998 (their agents arranged a first date), they were both on the rebound from broken engagements: She to actor TATE DONOVAN and he to Actress GWENYTH PALTROW. Reeling from their recent breakups, neither was looking for love; "I wasn't pining for it," Pitt has insisted.
Aniston has remarked "you can't choose who you fall in love with - you have no control over that. "At first the couple kept their relationship under wraps: Pitt had already been burned by the tabloids: Shortly before meeting Aniston he was photographed by paparazzi on a Caribbean island, frolicking with Paltrow in the nude. So Pitt and Aniston refrained from any public displays of affection and arrived at events separately, denying rumors they were more than just acquaintances.
"We did well for a while," Pitt admits. "We just didn't participate. We wanted to keep it special, keep it ours." In June 1998, though, they went public at a Free Tibet charity concert in Washington DC, hugging and kissing for the cameras. Since then, their every move is monitored. It seems the whole world is speculating when the pair will settle down.
Both Pitt and Aniston are aware of the pressure.
"People perceive Jen to be man-needy, like her character [in Friends]," Pitt has said. "They create his whole scenario and then they say we're getting married. "Still, the couple fueled that rumor with an appearance at a Sting concert last November. Pitt and Aniston pranced around on stage, flashing a diamond ring and singing lyrics about getting married in Vegas.
At the recent People's Choice Award, Aniston was sporting a different
diamond on her finger; this time in an intricate swirl setting. She simply smiled when asked by reporters about it.
"Talking about a relationship," she said last year, "trivializes something that's nobody's business. "Pitt, on the other hand, has mentioned the M word: "Of course I believe in marriage but not all the platitudes we've been raised on," he announced last year. "I don't accept that love conquers all, or that in marriage, two become one. I think that two become two strong, independent people. And before you get married, you have to figure out your major malfunctions first. "That said, Aniston and Pitt are virtually inseparable. They love traveling to foreign locales including Spain and Portugal and checking into hotels under pseudonyms.
A favorite is Mr. and Mrs. Ross Vegas.
Back in Los Angeles, they go on hikes, feed ducks in the park and
barbecue with friends on the weekends (MATT LeBLANC and his fiancée,
MELISSA McKNIGHT and COURTNEY COX and her husband, DAVID ARQUETTE, are frequent guests).
They do keep separate homes. Pitt has a mansion in Los Feliz and
Aniston lives ten miles away in Laurel Canyon. However, they have been reportedly house shopping together in Malibu, Austin, Texas and London.
And they want to mix business with pleasure: They've been looking for a movie to make together (they came close to co starring in the upcoming romantic comedy Wakin' Up in Reno but passed on the project). Pitt has also told reporters he is anxious to guest star on Friends as a man madly in love with Rachel.
Will they stay Friends for another season? That day may never come
considering the cast members' contracts expire in May and (as of press time) they have yet to commit to another season.
"It's all for one, one for all," LISA KUDROW recently explained: If one actor refuses to return, the rest will leave as well. NBC has plans to renew the show through 2002 but each star is reportedly asking for five times his or her salary (they'd each make about $600,000 per episode, more than $13 million per season) to sign on the dotted line.
That kind of cash; not to mention the steady popularity, might not be
easy to walk away from. (Thanks to Friends, Aniston's "Rachel" coif
from 1995 was once the hairstyle that practically every woman on the
Yet all of the actors are itching to branch out onto the big screen.
They've tried before but none too successfully: DAVID SCHWIMMER, MATHEW PERRY and LeBLANC have made their share of unmemorable
features. The women have had better luck: Cox is the Scream
queen, and Kudrow recently costarred with MEG RYAN and DIANE KEATON in Hanging Up and teams with JOHN TRAVOLTA in this summer's Numbers.
None of Aniston's films including She's the One, Picture Perfect and The Object of My Affection--have been huge box-office hits, but she's
starring in another film, Metal God, with MARK WAHLBERG, coming out in October. In a role that seems the antithesis of Rachel, she plays a heavy-metal groupie. "We've all heard "keep your day jobs and stuff like that," she has said, but she refuses to be discouraged. "Sometimes you're going to fail and sometimes it's not going to be great, but you need to have those experiences."
A mother's betrayal: Will she ever forgive and forget? Growing up in
Sherman Oaks, Calif., New York City and (briefly) Athens, Aniston
witnessed, first-hand, how hard the acting life can be. Her father, actor John Aniston (aka John Anastassakis), was often unemployed, and her parents had to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries.
As a baby, she wore hand-me-downs from neighbors while the shoes of
her half brother, Johnny, were always worn out and his pants patched.
Still, she was a happy child with an active fantasy life. She invented imaginary friends to entertain herself.
In 1979, however, Aniston's world was shaken: Her father fell in love with another woman and abandoned the family, and eventually becoming a soap-opera star (he played the character Victor Kiriakis on Days of Our Lives for 12 years).
"[My mother] didn't say he was gone forever," Aniston once recalled. "I don't know if I blocked it, but I just remember sitting there, crying, not understanding that he was gone." The split affected her very deeply. She didn't see her father for a year after he left. Johnny, nine years her senior, had already left home, so Aniston and her mother had to create a life together in New York City. It was her mother whom Aniston turned to for advice when she was starting her career, but they argued over some of her choices.
Now Aniston is estranged from the woman who raised her. In 1996 she
swore she would never forgive her for speaking about her on a tabloid
TV show. "I was told the interview would be about a teaching method at the school which Jenny attended," Nancy Aniston tells McCall's.
Instead, her comments were edited to include nothing about the school. When the interview aired, all that remained were a few remarks about the younger Aniston's hair and popularity.
Nancy insists she tried to reach her daughter to tell her what had
happened but didn't receive a return call until after the segment aired. By that time it was too late. "She had seen it," she recalls. "Her voice was so distortedly rage. I didn't recognize it at first." They have spoken only once since, and her mother's recent publication of a book From Mother and Daughter to Friends (Prometheus Books), surely has done little to repair their relationship.
In it, Nancy writes about her daughter's rise to fame and their bitter separation. Aniston has refused to comment. Nancy claims she wrote it to purge herself of the pain and to help other mothers and daughters who are estranged.
"I believe in my heart that we will reconcile one day," she says. She is presently working on a second book, this one about forgiveness. "I'm her mom. We have so much to share."
"I've learned that separation, oddly enough, may even be helpful for
women to redefine themselves," she continues. "I do see now that a
mother and daughter have to have a different relationship, a relationship between mature women. She's a different person now."
Dealing with weighty issues: Thin is in. Along with her attitude Aniston has changed her appearance. In 1990, when she came to Hollywood to forge an acting career, she found doors slamming in her face. At 5 feet 5 and about 140 pounds, she was deemed not svelte enough to be a leading lady. "I wasn't fat, I was just Greek," she once commented. "And Greeks are round. "At her agent's urging, she dropped 30 pounds and suddenly the offers started flooding in.
"It's scary how Hollywood treats you like this completely different
person when you're thin," she reflected. To lose the weight, she hired a personal trainer and went on a low-fat diet. Later, she became a zealous devotee of the Zone, a diet plan developed by Barry Sears, Ph.D., consisting of a low-carbohydrate menu.
The plan restricts the amount of pasta, rice, bread and potatoes, and
advocates lean proteins including chicken, turkey, fish and egg whites.
Aniston continues to work out with trainer Kathy Kaehler, who says her client has a healthy attitude toward her weight, despite persistent accusations that she has an eating disorder (her Friends costar Cox as well as TV actresses CALISTA FLOCKHART and LARA FLYNN BOYLE have been dubbed "lollipopwomen," because of their stick-thin figures).
"She's not obsessed about her body, it's not a focal point in her
life, "Kaehler has said. "Jennifer is happy with where she is and is
not mercilessly self-critical like some women I know. "Her workout
consists of regular one-hour sessions three times a week that begin with stretches and move onto power walks around her neighborhood
followed by weight training.
"I eat well, and I work out because it makes me feel good," Aniston has explained. "A few years ago I was too curvy. I guess when I was
rounder, I was easier to relate to, but I swear, I eat more now than I ever did in my life.
"She is content with her current look, and her life, and critics be
damned, she'll do as she pleases. Whether she chooses marriage, movies or making up with Mom (or maybe all of the above), she'll do so with confidence and courage. Aniston, after all, relishes a challenge: "There's always another hurdle to go, and I love that. I never want to get stagnant and comfortable. I think change is a good thing." (WENN)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)