Jennifer Aniston’s sprawling property, which she shares with fiancé Justin Theroux, is perched on a steep hill with panoramic views of Los Angeles. But before you can get in, you have to get past a hulking grey electronic gate.
‘Who are you here to see?’ a chipper female voice enquires when the buzzer is pressed. An appropriate question, I guess, when there is not one but two Hollywood stars sequestered behind that iron curtain of privacy. And boy, do they need their privacy. Aniston has endured near constant scrutiny from the tabloid press ever since splitting from Brad Pitt in 2005, despite being one of the most beloved (and bankable) actresses of her generation.
After her engagement to Theroux in 2012, the speculation and gossip over an impending wedding and/or pregnancy reached fever pitch. ‘I realise they need to sell magazines,’ says the 46-year-old with a shrug. ‘But it’s really getting old. What kills me is when friends send me pictures they’ve taken at a newsstand. One magazine says, “Desperate and alone,” and the other one says, “She’s eloped!” I mean, at least consult. Don’t make yourself look like an idiot. I’m going to be 50 and they’re still gonna be saying, “She’s pregnant!”’
Fortunately, these days Aniston is getting lots of press for all the right reasons. Happily in love, she is also at a major turning point in her career, thanks to her role in indie drama Cake. She wears no make-up to play Claire, an irascible, pill-popping addict who suffers from chronic pain after a car accident. ‘It was the most challenging role I’ve ever had,’ she says, ‘hitting all those notes as authentically as possible – physically, emotionally and psychologically. I felt if I was going to take this risk, it had to be bulletproof.’ Her dedication paid off: she was nominated for best actress by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
When I arrive at her house, a perky assistant ushers me into the living room, where I’m asked to wait until Aniston finishes a phone call. The interior of the home looks nothing like the sterile, Mondrian-themed behemoth I saw in pictures online. Her open-air living room – while enormous – has a cosy, zen-like feel. The couches are covered in soft, tactile fabrics, and a large amethyst rock shares space on the coffee table with weighty tomes on landscaping and art. Oversize Buddhas and various Hindu gods beckon from every corner. On the wall hangs a surrealistic painting by Marc Chagall.
Aniston, who says fixing up houses is her ‘closeted passion’, clearly has some serious decorating chops, but the place isn’t without a sense of whimsy. ‘I’ve never had a modern house,’ she says. ‘So my challenge was to bring in some warmth.’ To wit, on the counter of the built-in bar in the living room sits a series of jars filled with all manner of treats – from jelly beans to roasted almonds. But my favourite part of the house – the corner of her world that really illuminates her delightfully twisted sense of humour – is the first-floor powder room. There, intermingled among luscious white peonies and a flickering Diptyque Santal candle, I discover the statue given to Aniston from the Screen Actors Guild Awards for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. But the coveted statuette isn’t displayed high up on a shelf; it’s beside the toilet, arm outstretched, handing me the Charmin. ‘I mean, what else was I going to do with it?’ Aniston giggles. ‘With that little arm sticking out? I hope it doesn’t seem like a big “F you” to the Screen Actors Guild. I know people who use their Oscars as doorstops.’
Having finished her phone call, she is now curled up on the grey cashmere couch in her living room, sipping an iced tea. She is wearing rolled-up boyfriend jeans, a soft green cotton shirt and tortoiseshell glasses. A nimbus of sun-dappled layers hangs loosely around her face. Sitting this close, it’s hard not to be distracted by her skin, which is tanned and virtually poreless. There’s nothing frozen about her face. When she speaks, her eyebrows dance, her forehead furrows. ‘Sophie is my newest rescue,’ she says, nuzzling her dog’s neck. As one of her other rescue dogs, Clyde, climbs onto the couch and starts licking my face like it’s a T-bone steak, we get down to business, discussing her new roles, new love and the tabloid headline she’d like to see in ‘Crapass Bullshit Times Weekly’.
In Cake you play a depressed woman suffering from chronic pain. What drew you to this role? ‘Honestly, I read the script and I just loved her. She’s this kind of nasty, acerbic, funny person who is in pain. And then there’s the story. What she’s been through. It was like a perfect storm. For an actor, it was like tick, tick, tick. So much emotional territory to cover.’
A lot has been made of the fact that you don’t wear make-up in this movie. But this is not the first time you’ve dressed down for a role. You did The Good Girl… ‘Yup. And Friends With Money. But this one, well, she’s really banged up. For two months there were no mirrors, no manicurists, nothing. The hardest part was when they said, “Don’t work out.” I said, “But I have to.” And then I realised when you’re not working out, your levels of joy just go down. And it’s not that easy to get the weight off once you stop working out. You say to your body, “Hey, what’s going on?” But that’s just the forties.’
In a recent interview you said the forties were the best years yet. ‘It may be harder to shed those extra pounds, but all this stuff [she circles her head with her fingers] is fabulous. Just thinking about the girl I was at twentysomething or even thirtysomething – there were so many questions, so many worries, so much wasted brain space on things that really don’t matter.’
What do you think was the turning point for you? ‘Turning forty. I’m a late bloomer. I mean, it’s no secret: I’ve had some challenging companionship. [Laughs] I think hitting a wall with that really kind of [helped me grow]. I found a great therapist. I think the self-love piece was really important. And spending a lot of time alone. Having time to ask myself why there was such toxicity in my immediate space at times. Why would I attract that instead of light?’
Tell me how you met Justin. ‘It was through Robert Downey Jr. I was on vacation in Kauai with Courteney [Cox] and David [Arquette] and my friend Mandy [Ingber], who’s also my yoga teacher. Robert was on the island shooting Tropic Thunder. One night he came over for dinner and brought his friend Justin Theroux, who was the screenwriter. I had never heard of him.’
So this was around 2008. What did you think the first time you saw him? ‘I remember thinking, “Isn’t he hot?” But he was very hidden. As he says, for him, “It’s winter from the waist down, no matter what season it is,” so he was wearing black jeans, combat boots, glasses and a fedora.’
At this point in time, were you single? ‘Oh, yeah. Soooo single. But it was never [a romantic thing]. I just thought, “What a lovely guy.” He was funny, but actually really quiet. I later found out he was just exhausted because he had been writing non-stop, like a hamster on a wheel. This was his one night off, and he had no personality, but he was very sweet and very overdressed. I was like, “You must be really shvitzing up a storm in those jeans and combat boots.”’
So you didn’t see him again until 2011, when you were in Wanderlust with him? ‘Yeah, but then we just became very good friends, as did everyone on that set. We didn’t start dating until the following summer, after he went through a break-up. All of a sudden it was just like, “Well, you’re one of my closest friends and…” Somehow I just saw him in a different light once he was available.’
Do you feel like you’ve got wiser about relationships as you’ve got older? ‘If I haven’t, I should be kicked out of life school because I’ve had some really good training.’
There’s so much interest in your upcoming wedding. How do you manage to keep it private? ‘There’s a big discussion in our house right now: do you just do it and say screw it? Or do you try desperately to get away with [a secret ceremony] where you don’t have any fun because you’re hiding in a cave somewhere? If we could do it without all the buzzing and noise… It can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
What’s a typical Saturday night like for you two? ‘We go out a lot during the week, so we usually stay in at the weekends. We’ll have friends over for a big dinner party or do a movie. On Sundays Justin cooks. He’ll surprise me with some wonderful egg creation. He also makes great pasta.’
So you eat pasta. ‘Lately, I do. Blasphemy, I know. When I was 110 pounds, I never ate pasta. I’ve been allowing myself a lot more in the past few years. Which does make it harder to lose those last few pounds. But you have to live. And so what? You go up a size.’
Last time we spoke, you said you’re not a fan of Botox. How do you handle the pressure in Hollywood to look perpetually young? ‘People lose perspective. I look around and see how bad plastic surgery and injections can really kick you in the ass. So I just take care of my skin, eat well, exercise. And I love lasers and [other non-invasive treatments like] Thermage [radio frequency] and Ultherapy [ultrasound]. I also like a good microcurrent facial.’
If you could write your own tabloid headlines – that are true – what would they be? ‘Oh, that’s a tough one. That should be a Justin question. Wait a sec. How’s this? “When I’m pregnant and married, I will let you know. Not a tabloid publication. Not Bullshit Times or Crapass Bullshit Times Weekly. They will not be telling you. And by the way, stop stealing my thunder! Let me have the fun of telling that story.”’
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