When I drive through the front gates of her house, high in the Hollywood Hills, Jennifer Aniston is already standing on her porch, smiling. And with good reason. Having reached thirty on February 11th, Aniston is in full sail. She’s the star of America’s most popular sitcom — Friends, in its fifth season, is drawing better ratings and reviews than it did when it debuted. She’s in love with Brad Pitt, America’s Number Seven favorite star of all time, according to a Harris poll. Her film career is flourishing — catch her this month in Office Space, the live-action directing debut of hip TV animator Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill). And as the photos on these pages attest, she’s never been in better shape. “I got over my laziness,” she says. “I got off my butt, off my couch and fell in love with being physical.” She could be the poster girl for the right way to turn thirty.
Aniston, wearing no makeup, is dressed in Levi’s 501s and a tomato-colored T-shirt. But there’s no hiding her spectacular figure. She may have a mind for comedy, but she’s also got a bod for sin. “Jennifer is the girl next door — or the girl you’d like to have next door,” says Laurence Mark, who produced her last film, The Object of My Affection. “And she’s a better actress than her TV work lets you see.” Aniston’s extra radiance these days has been credited to Pitt, 35. Their friendship blossomed into something stronger last spring, when Aniston started dating the star. The buzz had them sneaking off to get married, everywhere from the slopes of Aspen to the Chapel of the Quick I Dos, in Vegas. The truth is: They aren’t married — not yet. In the words of Jennifer’s actor-father, John Aniston, “I haven’t received a wedding invitation.” He adds, “Brad is a very nice young man, and whatever makes Jennifer happy makes me happy.” But is Brad Pitt worthy of his daughter? “Of course not,” he says, laughing.
Aniston’s dad starred for twelve years as the villainous Victor Kiriakis on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives, but a soap is just what Aniston doesn’t want to see her life become. Highly publicized breakups — Aniston with Tate Donovan and Pitt with Gwyneth Paltrow — have made the couple wary of media glare. Aniston and Pitt even make separate entrances at rock concerts (Hole at the Viper Room, in Los Angeles) and parties (an engagement fete for Friends co-star Matt LeBlanc) to avoid being photographed together and sparking more wedding talk.
Others close to Aniston, whose parents divorced when she was nine years old, insist that she won’t rush into her first marriage — and that when she does walk down the aisle, it will be in a Vera Wang gown, surrounded by family and a cast of — what else? — friends. Friend Lisa Kudrow, whose infant son Aniston dotes on, says Pitt has changed Aniston. “Jennifer’s a lot more peaceful now, like a woman who’s in a good relationship,” says Kudrow. “There’s not a lot to say about them because there’s no problems. They’re both light-years ahead of themselves. You know how your grandparents have a certain perspective about life? They’ve got that now.”
At this moment, Aniston is proudly showing off her antiques-filled house, with its walls of windows that afford a sweeping view of Los Angeles. She rummages through a kitchen drawer, producing before-and-after pictures of the stark Fifties-era home she has so deftly transformed. In her office, sitting next to her computer in a silver frame, is a photo of Pitt in silhouette. The only other visual confirmation of their relationship sits on a large gate door that Aniston has turned into a glass-topped coffee table. There, amid a cluster of family photographs — the knowing face of her Greek grandmother, the loving gaze of her brunet mother, her handsome father holding baby Jennifer — is a more contemporary shot. It’s a relaxed Pitt sitting on the patio, laughing at an unidentifiable dark-haired man who seems to have leapt up and surprised him.
Aniston laughs a lot, too. Beneath that mop of the decade’s most famous hair is a woman of mind and heart and staying power. Still, it’s clear that Aniston approaches this conversation with the caution of an actress who has endured five years of scrutiny on everything from her follicles to her sex life. Finally, her smile ready, her cigarettes close at hand, Aniston perches, one leg tucked under her, on a sofa cushion, ready to talk about her life.
Are you feeling any qualms or misgivings about your thirtieth birthday?
I’m excited to be thirty. It feels like an accomplishment, for some reason. I don’t know, like, no more excuses [laughs].
Frankly, life keeps getting better for a woman, if she’s laid good groundwork, which you clearly have successful career, good friends, a little romance.
I have, I guess. Thank you.
Especially when you consider that, technically, you’re first-generation American. Your father was born in Crete and was brought to America when he was ten by his parents, who opened a diner in Eddytown, Pennsylvania. Do you still have family there?
My grandmother lived there in the same house until she passed away at ninety-four. She was the godmother, the center of the family, amazingly strong. She had the most beautiful skin, softest thing you ever felt, which I always attribute to her rubbing olive oil on it. Greek mothers really take care of their men, and my father was her only son. I probably shouldn’t say this, but they say, “Never marry a Greek man, because he’ll always expect you to wait on him” [laughs].