She’s a fortysomething star striking out in new directions, and loving it. Film Critic Tony Earnshaw meets Jennifer Aniston.
It’s been a decade since Friends left our TV screens but people still talk about it. And when it comes to Jennifer Aniston the spectre of Rachel Green still looms large.
In London to promote the release of Horrible Bosses 2, in which she plays a sexually voracious, potty-mouthed dentist, Aniston couldn’t escape the role that made her name, her reputation and her fortune. At the height of the Friends phenomenon she was among the most famous women on the planet. Her hairstyle, her clothes, her figure and her earning power – reputedly $24 million for that final season – made her prime tabloid fodder.
And when her marriage to Brad Pitt crashed in 2005 the tabloids descended again, eager to pick over the bones of the perfect pairing that went so catastrophically wrong.
Since then Aniston has been paired with a succession of leading men – Jim Carrey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Stiller, Mark Ruffalo, Gerard Butler – in a succession of popular flicks. Yet none of them have come close to the global marvel that was Friends. She turned 45 this year. Aniston has responded to questions about Hollywood, the ageing process and her own middle years, admitting, “I guess it’s a milestone”. Which is perhaps why playing Dr Julia Harris holds such appeal.
“I just love her in general,” says Aniston, revelling in the notion of returning to a character that eclipses her TV typecasting. “I think she’s quite snazzy. I loved just putting on her wardrobe, her wig and her accessories.” In a script littered with invective, vulgarity and some eye-watering one-liners, Aniston found herself unable to cope with a near-the-knuckle gag about gravy. “I don’t think gravy’s funny in a sexual sense,” she deadpans with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t think to her there’s anything wrong or deviant about her. I think she actually describes sex and approaches sex as a chef approaches a wonderful meal to be made. It’s like a sport. I think it’s fantastic.”
Horrible Bosses was a smash hit in 2011. Aniston was the profanity-spewing, midriff flashing sexual predator who, alongside Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell, revved up the competition to be the worst of the lot. Was it fun to come back and do it all over again – to reunite with pals for the movie and then hit the junket trail to travel the world talking it up? “Jason called it ‘movie camp’,” reveals Aniston, allowing a minute glimpse into the pampered world of the promotional circuit.
“It is a luxury actually to be friends with these people and love and adore them on a personal level, and then to be able to have worked together. It’s kind of a dream job.”
If there is one positive aspect to playing the predatory doctor in the Horrible Bosses series it is that she is a ballsy go-getter. In the past Aniston has spoken out about sexism and the issues surrounding prime roles for women. How has the industry changed since she entered it?
“One positive is that there have been many, many more movies with female leads and ensembles; and those movies are doing really well. So I think that’s fantastic. I think for me personally, I love that Dr Julia was sort of taking the role of what would normally be a male character in a film. But it is [true that] there still is sexism that exists, double standards, all that stuff.”
And what of the elephant in the room? What of Friends oft discussed and much mooted reunion? Aniston smiles.
“Honestly, I think we should wait until we’re really old; and then maybe reunite.”
“‘Golden Friends’? It’s a concept.”