“My friends were all supportive,” Aniston says, “especially when they found out what a loving human being Brad is. At first they’re like, ‘I hope he’s not an asshole, some conceited fuck or whatever.’ But you get past that in five minutes. Which is a real tribute to who he is. He just disarms you immediately. But, I mean, nobody went, ‘Dude. Brad Pitt!’ and gave me a thumbs up and a wink. They were just happy for me.”
As a bride of one year, Aniston exudes contentment: “You know if there’s ever an argument, it’s not like you can go, ‘Screw you, I’m outta here!’ You’re there for the long haul. It’s a beautiful thing to actually realize that for the first time, to have that knowing. It takes the heat and the weight out of things.”
Aniston sighs, squirms on the couch and looks away, her reflected face now in profile in the mirror behind her. “He gets it tough, probably, more than anyone, in terms of people having a preconceived notion of who he is,” she continues. “That idea of, well, you look that way, then you must be a certain way.”
Aniston’s reticence is understandable. Since marrying Pitt, she’s been high-profile enough to be the target of tabloid rumors, many of which are so uncreative they simply seem to derive from plotlines of her work. Rachel gets pregnant — so Aniston must be pregnant! Rachel kisses Winona Ryder during sweeps month — so Aniston must be gay!
Three different friends, when I mentioned I was doing this story, were like, “Oh, yeah, I heard they’re total potheads.”
That’s a funny one, too. Because you see something like that — me and my husband, hooked on drugs. Then you read the story, and it says you smoke pot. It’s not even cocaine or shooting heroin. Pot! Which I’m not about to confirm whether that’s true or not. [Pause] I mean, I enjoy it once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation. [Pause] Geez, Louise. I’m drowning and I can’t get out. [Pause] I wouldn’t call myself a pothead. [Pause] Let’s pick a new topic, please? My mother and father will be reading.
How about when you were a kid?
Square, square, square.
Aniston auditioned for a musical in her junior year at High School of Performing Arts (audition song: Journey, “Open Arms”). She got the part, but at the last minute, terrified by the notion of performing in front of an audience, she made up an excuse about an afterschool job and bailed. She made her stage debut the following year, in a school production of Turandot. She played one of the princess’ maids. “I always got shitty parts,” Aniston says. One of her teachers, a mean old Russian guy, told her she was a disgrace and that she should never be allowed to act in front of people. “I wanted to make people cry, man; to move people,” she says. “But I was making them laugh.”
Aniston will soon get a chance to stretch onscreen in The Good Girl, from director Miguel Arteta and actor-screenwriter Mike White, the team behind last year’s indie hit Chuck and Buck. Aniston plays a down-and-out Texas housewife who has an affair with a teenage bag boy. “We originally considered more typical indie actresses,” says White, “but it’s cooler seeing someone you don’t expect in this part, someone who you’re used to seeing in these beautiful apartments, with these beautiful friends, and now here she is in this Target in the middle of hell. There’s a scene where she’s blackmailed into sex by one of her husband’s friends. And when you think she’s also Rachel on Friends, it’s no small feat that she can pull this off.”
After all her success, Aniston remains humble in a way that seems unaffected. “When I got offered The Good Girl, I remember thinking, ‘Are they sure? Did they make a mistake?’ I mean, I don’t expect anyone, just because I have name value, to give me a part in their movie. People who refuse to audition, that’s arrogant to me. Let me show you I can do it.” She smiles and adds, “Unfortunately, I’m not a good auditioner, so most of the time, I will fuck it up.” She shrugs. “And then, you know …” She laughs. “I’m Rachel on Friends.”
Just before the first episode of Friends aired, director James Burrows took the cast on a trip to Vegas. He told them how it would be the last time they’d be able to go out without being hassled, how their lives were about to change forever. Recalls Aniston, “We were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah … Five hundred dollars! Really? For me?'”
Does she recall anything else about those early days? “It’s hard to remember. It feels like forever. It is forever. Eight years, man. That’s way too long. Way too long. It’s longer than anything, isn’t it? Longer than high school, longer than most relationships you ever have. I mean, I can say I can’t wait for this fucking thing to be over. But next fall? We will be a mess. A rotten mess. The first day back, we always end up in one of our dressing rooms, all of us. And this time, it was just different. We were all just a little bit more excited to see each other. Schwimmer was going, ‘I don’t think we quite understand what’s happening here. This is it. This is it. It’s sad.'”
An assistant pops her head into the dressing room. Aniston must return to the set. Before she goes, one wonders if she has any ideas of how Friends should wrap up. She looks startled. “I’ve never given it any thought. Never.” This seems to invite suggestion, so one is proffered. Aniston immediately grins. “Yes!” she exclaims. “We could all be wearing the same Nike shoes, covered in blankets with just the Nikes showing. All in a big bed in Monica and Chandler’s bedroom.” Now Aniston openly laughs. A sitcom era ending seemed so sad only a moment ago. But how about a sitcom era ending in group suicide? “We’re all dead!” Aniston howls. “That would be funny, right?”