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Jennifer Aniston - Biography

TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Jennifer Aniston - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web

Jennifer Aniston

Personal details

Name: Jennifer Aniston
Born: 11 February 1969 (Age: 46)
Where: Sherman Oaks, California USA
Height: 5' 5"
Awards: Won 1 Golden Globe, 1 Emmy

All about this star


When Forbes released their Global Celebrity 100 list for 2003, there were relatively few surprises in the Top 10. There were the usual suspects - Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods - with a bunch of big names currently in motion. The Rolling Stones were out on another mega-tour, Tom Hanks' production company had just enjoyed a huge hit with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Paul McCartney was enjoying a comeback, Eminem had never gone away, and the world was wondering exactly when Jennifer Lopez was going to get Ben Affleck up the aisle. So much for the runners-up. For the one shock came in the Number One position. She didn't make as much money as the others. She wasn't anything like as big a movie star as she'd have liked to be. But, due to her massive TV audience, the number of magazine covers she'd graced and constant tabloid interest in her private life, the winner was . . . Jennifer Aniston.

Now earning $1 million per episode of uber-hit Friends, Aniston had proved herself to be far more weighty than her sketchy character Rachel Green. Though she'd initially broken through by launching "the Rachel", a haircut purloined by millions of women the world over, she'd won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her brilliant comic performances in the show. She'd married Brad Pitt, arguably cinema's most eligible bachelor. And she'd been nominated for an Independent Spirit award for her part in underground hit The Good Girl - a success that would lead to the $200 million smash Bruce Almighty. Her Friends co-star Courteney Cox might have struck cinema gold first (with Ace Ventura and the Scream series), but it looked like Aniston was the one in for the long haul.

She was born the 11th of February, 1969, in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles. Her Crete-born father, John (real name Anastassakis) had been brought to the US at age 10 when his parents opened a diner in Eddytown, Pennsylvania. He'd become an actor seeking work in LA (fellow Greek actor Telly Savalas would be Jennifer's godfather) and win bit parts in the likes of 87th Precinct, Combat! and I Spy. Her mother was born in upstate New York, moving with her family to California where she'd work at Universal Studios, at one point signing autographs for Rock Hudson. Extremely good-looking, she eventually won parts in such fare as The Red Skelton Show and The Beverly Hillbillies, but lack of confidence in her ability caused her to give up acting.

Things were looking good for the Aniston family (Jennifer also had an older half-brother, John, 9 years her senior). From 1967 to 1970, John made good money playing Eric Richards in the series Days Of Our Lives, NBC's longest-running soap, concerning the trials and tribulations of the folks of a fictional Salem (he also appear in The Virginian and Mission: Impossible). It didn't last, however. When the part went, so did the good times. John worked as a door-to-door salesman, his only acting success being one small part in Savalas's Kojak. His wife won a few modelling contracts, but more money was needed. John considered entering the medical profession, but was too old to be taken in by any American university. Instead, when Jennifer was 5, he began his training in Athens, taking his family with him.

Here they would remain for a year. Then John had his studies interrupted by his agent in New York. Would he care to return to the world of soap? He would, and so returned to the Big Apple for a three-year stint in Love Of Life, a major hit based around two warring sisters. John's son would be played by an actor destined for infinitely bigger things - Christopher Reeve. Just a few years later, Jennifer and her mother would meet Reeve on the street and an embarrassed 9-year-old Jennifer would pull her mother away. The very next week Superman was released - the youngster now being furious that her mother had not persuaded her to talk to their very-soon-to-be-mega-famous pal Reeve.

Unfortunately, John Aniston's newfound success would coincide with the breakdown of his marriage. They'd divorce in 1978, when Jennifer was 9. He'd go on to even greater TV stardom, first spending the years 1978-1984 in the series Search For Tomorrow, then the very next year returning to Days Of Our Lives as moustachioed rotter Victor Kiriakis, keeping the role till 1997, then taking it up once more in 1999 (he also pop up in Star Trek Voyager and The West Wing). He'd marry again, to actress Sherry Rooney, and present Jennifer with a step-brother, Alexander.

At first, Jennifer did not see her father for a year. After that she spend weekends at his place in New Jersey, being raised predominantly by her mother on 92nd and Columbus. It was a pretty seedy area at the time but, being on the 21st floor with a balcony, they did have a nice view of the Empire State Building. Naturally disturbed by her parents' split, she felt as if she were the mother of two unruly children and was desperate to please them both. When this failed to reunite them, she became a bit of a handful at the Rudolf Steiner school she attended, believing that perhaps her parents would fall back into each other's arms when both were called to the principal's office. Again, nothing doing.

All this palaver broke her concentration at Rudolf Steiner's and she wasn't the best pupil. Furthermore she wasn't keen on the strictness of the establishment. TV-watching was frowned upon and she'd only get to see it when being babysat by brother John (John knew her as "the Queen of make believe" as from an early age she'd always be walking and talking her Barbie dolls through scenes). She did, though, enjoy the Drama Club and picked up a passion for art that lasts to this day (at age 11 she'd actually have a painting displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art). Her real career began once she watched Fame on TV and decided to attend the real-life Fame school, the New York High School of the Performing Arts.

As said, young Jennifer was fascinated by art, but music played its part, too. At 12 she'd been obsessed by the then all-conquering Duran Duran and once spent a night outside a hotel, hoping for a glimpse of Simon Le Bon. By 14 she was dating a punk rocker from the East Village and shaved her hair up above her ears in a kind of modified mohawk. She wore many ear-rings and rubber bracelets and garbed herself exclusively in black. Looking back, she later reckoned she never liked punk music, preferring Van Morrison and Aerosmith, and was really still trying to unite her parents in concern for her.

Oddly, given her later career, Aniston was not a good-looking youngster. In fact, though no one realised it, she was mildly cross-eyed. This was something she discovered later, when already a star. Apparently it was all to do with a weak muscle in her right eye. It certainly explained her problems with sport. Beyond this, her eyes would wander, she'd get bored quickly and, when she didn't actually fall asleep while reading, she'd constantly have to return to paragraphs she'd inadvertently skipped over. Not ideal when you're trying to learn your lines, though the ability to cross her right eye without moving the left might come in handy should she ever star in a biopic of Ben Turpin.

On top of all this, there was the confidence question. Not being a stunner did not make Jennifer's life easier at the Fame school. Being constantly reminded of the fact by her mother made it far harder. Being an ex-model, mother was always on about appearances and makeup. Indeed, said Jennifer later, "I don't know if I would have known how beautiful she was if she wasn't always pointing out how un-beautiful I was". She'd forever be reminding Jennifer to outline her "tiny" lips, and to contour her cheeks because she had "no cheekbones". Consequently Jennifer was always coated in too much slap, a situation that continued until one of her first boyfriends in California told her she was more beautiful without it.

So, life was something of a struggle, yet Jennifer applied herself well. Invariably not picked for any substantial roles, she'd use her time to paint the sets and arrange the lights. She also made full use of what opportunities she had. Taking her on-set one day when she was 15, John Aniston returned to the waiting-room to find her on the phone to his agent, asking for movie roles. Doesn't sound like sweet Rachel Green, does it? Or does it? Though she often blows it badly, Rachel usually has some devious plan on the go.

Gradually she became recognised as a gifted comedienne. Not being able to impress with her looks, like so many of the other girls, she had instead begun to rely on making people laugh. And thankfully she was advised to not use this as an excuse to avoid going deep into characters. Graduating in 1987, she decided against college and worked as a waitress while auditioning and gaining experience off-Broadway in such stage productions as For Dear Life and Dancing On Chequer's Grave. She'd sneakily add a few extra productions to her CV when, in the summer of 1989, she began seeking auditions in Los Angeles while staying with her father.

At first, parts came quickly. She won a role in the comedy series Molloy (coincidentally, as it turned out, as a character named Courtney!). Then she played Ferris Bueller's sister Jennie in the unsuccessful TV spin-off of the hit Matthew Broderick movie. There'd also be a TV movie debut in Camp Cucamonga, about a summer retreat thrown into confusion when the owner comes to believe the handyman is a camp inspector. Some big TV names would be involved, including John Ratzenberger from Cheers and several names from The Wonder Years and The Love Boat. Unnoticed by all, Ratzenberger's daughter was played by a girl who'd soon outshine them all.

These parts tempted Jennifer to extend her stay in LA, but from now on it was tough going. She worked as a waitress, a telemarketeer selling time-share apartments, a messenger and a receptionist. Attending auditions whenever she could, she moved into an artsy low-rent communal housing project in Laurel Canyon, known to its inhabitants as The Hill. The Hill People would pull out their individual stoves and hide them whenever the inspectors called round. On Sundays they'd have barbecues together and occasionally take off on road trips. Once 8 of them stayed in a single Santa Barbara hotel room for three days, with one photographer constantly arranging crazy shoots just to see if he could get the girls naked. On Jennifer's 22nd birthday they stuck headshots of her current crush all over the place, including inside the fridge.

One friend Jennifer made here was Kristin Hahn, who worked at Paramount and was a producer's assistant on Cheers. Jennifer would often lie on Hahn's couch, bemoaning the fact that she would never find film work ever again (at auditions she was constantly losing out to Kirsty Swanson - the original Buffy). Along with the other girls they'd have boozy nights out where no one was allowed to talk to boys. One night Hahn broke the rules and brought back a new (male) buddy with whom she'd been sinking sake. Recognising this breach of etiquette, the house dog bit the interloper on the arse. The guy's name was Matthew Perry.

Nothing Aniston did seemed to come off. In 1992 she snaffled a part in Fox comedy series The Edge, dealing in comic skits and TV ad parodies, in the spirit of Saturday Night Live and Kentucky Fried Movie. Alongside her were Alan Ruck (who'd appeared in the original Ferris Bueller film) and Wayne Knight, that same year to find fame as Newman in Seinfeld. Painfully underrated, the show did not make a second season and Jennifer had to make do with brief appearances in Quantum Leap and Herman's Head.

The next year saw Jennifer's big screen debut in Leprechaun (well, you have to start somewhere). Here a midget fairy (played by Warwick Davis, of Willow fame) is sent psycho when his treasure is stolen, but is trapped with a 4-leaf clover. Ten years later, Aniston and her screen dad move in and inadvertently free him. Cue, quite naturally, slaughter and mayhem. There was plenty of blood and the usual half-arsed humour but The Wicker Man it wasn't. Aniston stood out but look closely and you'll see her lips don't move when she's screaming. Brilliant ventriloquism or bad dubbing - the choice is yours.

1994 brought another doomed project, the series Muddling Through. Here Stephanie Hodge played a white trash type recently released from jail after shooting her cheatin' hubbie in the backside. She tries to rise above her surroundings but is constantly drawn back by her family, including daughter Jennifer and her sister Aimee Brooks (who'd earlier appeared in Days Of Our Lives). The project had been shelved for a while then, when finally released, received a mixed reception. It was nearly picked up for the 1994 Fall season, but Hodge had already moved on to Unhappily Ever After so the option was not taken up.

This was actually very good news for Jennifer. While Muddling Through was on the shelf, she'd gone along to an audition for a new comedy series to be titled Friends Like These. Originally asked to play a character named Monica Gellar, she insisted on trying out for Rachel Green and stormed it, the Monica part going to Courteney Cox, original choice for Rachel. Along with Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc (whose character Joey would play Dr Drake Ramore in Days Of Our Lives) and Matthew Perry (he of the bitten bottom), they would play a group of young buddies in New York who drink coffee, engage in inconsequential chatter and make a mess of a long series of relationships that grow ever more incestuous. Unsurprisingly, its name now shortened to Friends, it was a massive hit. If Muddling Through had been picked up, Jennifer would have missed out.

Throughout the series' 10-year run, each of the cast members would rise to prominence for a while. Aniston would be first, with her haircut being replicated on the heads of women everywhere. At first, Jennifer herself had hated it, vowing to wear a hat until she was allowed to change it. But the cut added to a success that was nothing short of phenomenal so she bit the bullet and ploughed on, intriguing much of the world with Rachel's on-off relationship with Monica's brother Ross, and many others. All the Friends would gradually perfect their styles as the show went on but, at the end of the day, it was Rachel - smart but ditzy, determined but undisciplined - who became the general favourite. No one had a bad word to say about Jennifer Aniston, other than to raise the possibility that, if she WERE just playing herself, she would never amount to a "serious" actress.

Things were not all bright, though. After Leprechaun, Jennifer had undergone an experience she wished she hadn't. Then weighing around 130 pounds she'd made the final audition for some show and was asked to turn up in leotard and tights. "That'll blow it for me", she joked to her agent, only to be told that, actually, he'd been meaning to ask her to lose weight. This she did - 20 pounds in a year, with the help of low fat diets, nutritionists, fitness gurus and the like. And it helped, but Aniston still curses the day she became body-conscious.

There was also the matter of love. Having earlier dated Charlie Schlatter, her Ferris Bueller co-star, Jennifer had just been enjoying her first "mature" relationship, with actor Daniel McDonald, but they'd split just before she got Friends. He'd gone off to New York and done well, being Tony-nominated for Steel Pier. Later Jennifer moved on to Counting Crows singer Adam Durvitz (an ex of Courteney Cox) and then Tate Donovan (an ex of Sandra Bullock) with whom she'd live for the two years up to March, 1998. Shortly after that, she'd meet her future husband, Brad Pitt.

Like the others, Aniston would use her downtime during Friends to attempt a film career. As said, Cox would luck out with the Scream series, but her co-stars did not fare so well. Schwimmer would appear in such nonsense as The Pallbearer and Breast Men, a brief show in Apt Pupil being his only respectable effort. LeBlanc suffered in Ed and Lost In Space while Perry endured Almost Heroes and Three To Tango before reverting to his Friends character in the Bruce Willis hit The Whole Nine Yards. Oddly, it was Kudrow, the unconscionably scatty Phoebe, who enjoyed the most varied and stable success, starring in the excellent comedy Romy And Michele's High School Reunion, the fascinating indie The Opposite Of Sex and the Robert De Niro hit comedy Analyse This. Yet, no matter how badly any of them did, Aniston did worse.

Working weekends during her hectic Friends schedule, she first appeared in Edward Burns' She's The One, a smart comedy concerning just what men and women want. Here Burns and Michael McGlone played Irish brothers in New York, McGlone being a Wall Street investor who cheats on frustrated wife Jennifer with a tarty Cameron Diaz (Burns' ex). This was followed by Picture Perfect, Jennifer's debut headliner, where she played an ad executive who's told she's not progressing up the ladder because she's projecting the wrong image - not being engaged or heavily in debt she might leave the company at any time. Consequently, she pretends to be engaged to Jay Mohr, a guy she's hardly met and who, to add further complications, is madly in love with her. It was charming stuff, but not nearly as funny as it ought to have been.

The same year (1997) also brought 'Til There Was You, the first of Aniston's "best friend" movies (she gives good best friend). Directed by Scott Winant, co-creator of thirtysomething, this saw Jeanne Tripplehorn and Dylan McDermott finally drawn together after years of missing each other by inches. As said, Jennifer popped up as Tripplehorn's foil, but it was Sarah Jessica Parker, star of that other big New York comedy Sex And The City, who stole the show as a flirty and voracious former child star.

Most people were disappointed by Jennifer's failure to rise above her Rachel Green character in these movies. But her star was still in the ascendant. Friends was now a monster seller and, after a well-publicised spat with the producers where the six stars formed a union and threatened a walk-out, the wages had risen dramatically. Beginning on $35,000 per episode for the first series, they'd leap to $75,000 for the third, $100,000 for the fifth, then all the way up to the big $1 million. Also receiving $2 million for Picture Perfect and $3 million for her next feature, The Object Of My Affection, Jennifer was now very wealthy indeed. Beyond this, she was the new face of L'Oreal Elvive. Why? Well, sporting that famous "Rachel do", she was quite clearly worth it.

The Object Of My Affection was another rom com based around a complex adult situation. Here Jennifer played sweet social worker Nina Borowski who, though pregnant by her creep boyfriend, decides to dump him and live with a gay friend Paul Rudd. She likes Rudd, she really likes him, and asks him to act as father to the child. But what she wants and what he wants is very different indeed.

1998 would also see Aniston appear in the Waiting For Guffman-style mockumentary The Thin Pink Line (alongside David Schwimmer and Mike Myers). And there'd be another romance, Dream For An Insomniac. Here Ione Skye was a wannabe actress in San Francisco who's given up on love. Then Mackenzie Astin arrives at the caf' where she works and, being as she's about to shift to LA to find stardom, she has very little time to win his heart. Jennifer, once more, was the best friend, unfortunately listening much more than she talked. There was plenty of talking from the others - it was that kind of movie.

None of these films were a success, but Aniston was nevertheless growing more famous by the second. In the spring of 1998, she'd met Brad Pitt and begun a very discreet romance. The media went crazy trying to get shots of them together at the Tibetan Freedom Concert yet only succeeded by sneaking into the after-show party at the premiere of Pitt's Meet Joe Black. Of course, it was soon right out in the open. In 1999, hosting Saturday Night Live, Jennifer would act in a skit satirising Athena Marie Rolando, an actress who'd been stalking Brad. A year later the couple would be married. Naturally, a host of celebrities would be invited. But not Jennifer's mother, who'd peeved her daughter no end with the "revelations" in her book From Mother And Daughter To Friends. They'd be estranged for three years.

Such was Brad 'n' Jennie's fame that there was even trouble with the jewellers who designed their wedding rings. Claiming Damiani had promised the rings would be unique then sold copies for $1000 a go, they sued, the settlement allowing Brad to design jewellery for the company while Jennifer modelled it.

1999 brought a definite upturn in Aniston's movie career. First came Office Space, an above-average satire of office life by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head, and based on his Milton cartoons for Saturday Night Live. Here workers will do anything to escape the Orwellian nightmare of their work-place, with Jennifer played an equally frustrated waitress at the caf' to which they flee. Soon revenge in on the cards, adding another dimension to a comedy that, though it was a flop at the time, went on to become a major word-of-mouth success on video. Jennifer followed it quickly by providing the voice of single mum Annie Hughes in the animation of Ted Hughes's The Iron Giant where, in small town Maine in 1957 a small boy befriends a massive robot from outer space. Again, not a hit, but genuinely excellent nonetheless.

All the while Friends kept getting bigger and many tricks were employed to keep the ratings up. For instance, when the show was suffering beside the reality TV of Survivor, Jennifer engaged in an onscreen kiss with Winona Ryder. The identity of the father of Rachel's child was another big one. If the producers needed more viewers they'd always involve Aniston more.

Yet Jennifer knew Friends wouldn't last forever and persisted with her film career. For ages she waited to film The Virgin Mary where she'd have played a 29-year-old virgin who falls for a self-loathing hit man, but the script rewrites were so slow she had to return to Friends. Her next effort would be Rock Star where Mark Wahlberg played a singer in a tribute band who's asked to join the real thing (as had actually happened when Tim "Ripper" Owens was recruited by Judas Priest). Jennifer would play his girlfriend, Emily Poule, who's delighted by his success but gradually shut out of his life.

Though Jennifer performed well, it was a small role in a mediocre film. But any disappointment was swept away a year later when, in 2002, she took the lead in the indie flick The Good Girl. Finally subverting her Rachel Green character entirely, here she played a cashier at Retail Rodeo who, bored out of her mind with her pot-head couch-potato hubbie John C. Reilly, begins an affair with a new check-out kid, the much younger Jake Gyllenhaal. It was torrid stuff and emotionally exacting - all the things people did not expect from Aniston. At last she was achieving respect for something other than pure comedy. 2002 would see her win an Emmy for Friends (her third nomination) and be nominated for that Independent Spirit award for The Good Girl. 2003 would see her take a Golden Globe for Friends as well, at the second attempt.

Having gained critical respect, Aniston now won harder Hollywood hearts by bringing in the money (always the bottom line). In Bruce Almighty she appeared as Jim Carrey's sweet kindergarten teacher fiancee, a woman he might well lose if he doesn't pull his socks up. Thankfully, he gets a chance to do far more than that when God (Morgan Freeman) grants him brief omnipotence over all things. It was an excellent comedy, a real return to form for Carrey. And, making well over $200 million at the US box office, it took Aniston up towards the A-list. It certainly brought classier projects as her next effort, Captured, saw her alongside Ben Stiller and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stiller played a recently married analyst who, though fearing risk of any kind, can't help but get involved with Jennifer.

Having gained critical respect, Aniston now won harder Hollywood hearts by bringing in the money (always the bottom line). In Bruce Almighty she appeared as Jim Carrey's sweet kindergarten teacher fiancee, a woman he might well lose if he doesn't pull his socks up. Thankfully, he gets a chance to do far more than that when God (Morgan Freeman) grants him brief omnipotence over all things. It was an excellent comedy, a real return to form for Carrey. And, making well over $200 million at the US box office, it took Aniston up towards the A-list. Just in time, as Friends had reached in end of its natural life.

2004 would be another momentous year for Aniston, though more painful than she might have predicted. Onscreen she cemented her position in cinema comedy with Along Came Polly where she played the free-spirited, sexy and salsa-dancing new girlfriend of supremely uptight risk assessor Ben Stiller. Packed with pratfalls and gastric jokes, it was understandably a big hit. Offscreen, though, all was not well. Throughout the year the tabloids were in a frenzy over the state of Aniston's marriage. Had Brad Pitt fallen for co-star Angelina Jolie during the filming of Mr And Mrs Smith? Had Aniston prioritized her career and refused to bear him children? The coverage was hysterical and endless, and was eventually proved to be at least partially accurate. Aniston and Pitt would split up in January, 2005, leading to divorce that October. Pitt would be spotted increasingly often with Jolie while the media would go wild over Aniston's relationships with actors Vincent Cassel, Geoff Stults and Vince Vaughn. More positively, the split would push Aniston into a reunion with her mother.

The furore surrounding the Pitt divorce would see Aniston's celebrity rise to ever greater heights. Onscreen, though, she was dutifully continuing her metamorphosis into a "serious" actress. In Derailed she'd play a businesswoman whose flirtation with fellow commuter Clive Owen develops into an affair. But, meeting at a dodgy hotel, the couple are violently interrupted by crook Vincent Cassel, who batters Owen and rapes Aniston. Then, having stolen their details, he begins to blackmail them, and their need for secrecy demands they seek an unusual solution to their problem. She'd follow this with another comedy, Rumour Has It, directed by Rob Reiner. Here she arrives back at her parents' for her wedding to Mark Ruffalo. Once home, though, she's shocked to discover that her family history was the inspiration for The Graduate and that both her mother and grandmother (Shirley Maclaine) have had affairs with local man Kevin Costner. Will Aniston now follow in that family tradition, and who's her real dad?

2006 would see her remain on her present flight-path, alternating between comedy and drama. The Break Up had her as a Chicago art dealer divorcing Vince Vaughn but forced by circumstances to continue sharing the house with him. With many a suggestion coming from friends and family they now wage a dirty war, each trying to drive the other into moving out. Far less profitable - The Break Up would crack the $100 million barrier - but far more prestigious would be Friends With Money which placed Aniston in a tremendous ensemble featuring Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener. Here the four women play lifelong friends, all of them well-off but approaching a certain age. When Aniston jacks in her teaching job, becomes a cleaner and seeks the elusive love of her life, the others are pushed to examine their own situations - all of their marriages are under pressure - and wonder if they have struck the right balance between love, friendship and security. Aniston would be further artistically tested in 2006 by Room 10, an 18-minute short she directed for the Glamour magazine series in collaboration with pal Andrea Buchanan (Aniston, like David Schwimmer, had earlier directed on Friends). This would follow the denizens of an emergency ward, Kris Kristofferson's wife of 45 years being in a coma and nurse Robin Wright Penn, suffering under the stress of work and a difficult marriage, learning life lessons from a psych patient who keeps coming into ER despite having no injuries. Room 10 would win Best Short at the CineVegas Film Festival.

Moving into 2007, Aniston would pop up in an episode of Dirt, the latest TV show to star her old Friends mucker Courteney Cox. Cox would play a scandal rag editor, with Aniston appearing in the Season One finale as a rival editor after Cox's job. Aniston's next film release would be Management, a rom com that would debut at the Toronto Film Festival in September, 2008. Here Steve Zahn would manage his parents' motel and fall for guest Aniston, a tightly-wound saleswoman. Believing she's the one for him, he takes off after her but she, keen to change the world for the better, has fallen back in with former boyfriend Woody Harrelson, a former punk, now a yoghurt magnate, who's offering to let her run his charity operation. It was an odd picture, a sweet romance, and oddball comedy and a low-key character study, not the usual fare from a big star like Aniston.

After several more brief relationships, 2008 would see Aniston dating the musician John Mayer. It was an on-off affair that would see him dump her in August, only to be back with her by October. Onscreen, she'd return in the latest small screen hit comedy when she appeared in an episode of Tina Fey's 30 Rock, following the mad fortunes of writers on a comedy series. Aniston would play a former flatmate of Fey and Jane Krakowski, known to them as a Fatal Attraction kind of girl. Naturally, she tries it on with boss Alec Baldwin, serving him pizza while dressed in a French maid's costume, suggesting a threesome and then going barmy. On the big screen she'd end 2008 with another big hit, Marley & Me. Based on the 2005 autobiographical bestseller by Philadelphia newspaper columnist John Grogan and his wife Jennifer, this would cover 13 years in the lives of young couple Aniston and Owen Wilson, 13 years heavily marked by the presence of the world's most mischievous Labrador. The actors would play a normal, smart couple, dealing with a new home, new jobs and the arrival of three children while the destructive and seemingly omnivorous dog drives them to distraction. A comedy and a tearjerker, it was a major success, hitting Number One in America and, perhaps even more satisfyingly for Aniston, outdoing the latest effort by her famous ex, Brad Pitt's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Aniston would also make the papers in 2008 for a different "artistic" reason. For the January, 2009 edition of GQ (published the previous December) she'd show a lot more flesh than anyone might have expected.

2009 would see Aniston prolific once more. She'd begin the year with He's Just Not That Into You, a multi-strand sex comedy where she, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and Ginnifer Goodwin would all be tested by the dating game, Aniston wondering why long-term partner Ben Affleck isn't keen to take their relationship to the next level and get married. Then would come Travelling, another rom com where Aaron Eckhart would play a widower who turns his grief to advantage by becoming a bestselling writer on loss and a self-help guru. Speaking at a Seattle seminar he becomes involved with florist Aniston and realises he needs to follow his own advice.

It's hard to second guess what Jennifer Aniston might choose to do next. With comedy still serving her so well it's unlikely she'll leave it entirely behind. But it's more than likely that, after Derailed, she'll move deeper into spiky drama. She will certainly continue using her spare time to indulge in art (she still paints and works with charcoal and clay). And she's still involved in production. Having left Plan B Entertainment, a company she began with Pitt, Kristin Hahn and Brad Grey (who then became CEO at Paramount), she'd join with Zahn in Echo Films, a company dedicated to finding and filming stories that would help viewers make sense of their lives. Aniston would star in some, but not all of their productions.

Aniston is going nowhere. Not only has she earned critical respect, but her famous loyalty (she was the only celebrity to visit Robert Downey Jr in Corcoran Jail, where he'd been beaten and choked) is sure to pay dividends, even in the nasty world of Hollywood. Whatever. She's certainly proved she's more than a simple haircut.

Dominic Wills

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