Name: Jennifer Aniston
11 February 1969 (Age: 44)
Where: Sherman Oaks, California USA
Height: 5' 5"
Awards: Won 1 Golden Globe, 1 Emmy
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.