Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jennifer Aniston

Thanks to a rare combiniation of winsome girl-next-door charm and vulnerability, wholesome sex appeal and whip-smart comic timing, Jennifer Aniston found TV stardom playing Rachel Green, the spoiled rich girl making her way in life as a waitress and fashion buyer who relies on her "Friends" in the hit NBC sitcom, becoming one of the most popular actresses of her era. The petite, attractive actress grew up around show business; her godfather was actor Telly Savalas, her mother was a model and actress and her father had a career as a soap opera player. After graduating from NYC's famed High School for the Performing Arts in 1987, Aniston embarked on her career which consisted of TV commercials and a handful of Off-Broadway productions.

At age 20, she headed west and soon landed roles in a string of short-lived sitcoms, generally cast as spoiled or bratty siblings as in "Molloy" (Fox, 1989) and "Ferris Bueller" (NBC, 1990-91). A stint on the Fox variety sketch series "The Edge" (1992-93) further honed her comedic skills; she is perhaps best-recalled as a member of the paranoid, weapons-toting 'Armed Family'. After an agent suggested she lose weight, Aniston shed 30 pounds and won the role of Rachel on "Friends" (1994-2004). Although her shag hairdo got a lot of attention, she proved to be a gifted light comedienne, skillfully moving her character from a pampered girl to a self-reliant woman, along the way, engaging in a romance with the divorced Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer), and later with the thick but loveable Joey (Matt LeBlanc). The role made Aniston a superstar and earned her four successive Emmy nominations (2000-2003), twice as Best Supporting Actress and twice as Best Lead Actress--she would take home the Lead Actress Emmy in 2002, as well as a Golden Globe in 2003.

While Aniston had appeared in the low-budget schlocky horror outing "Leprechaun" (1993), her small screen success led to feature offers. She tried to move slowly away from her TV image with supporting turns as the unhappily married wife of a womanizing stockbroker in Edward Burns' "She's the One" (1996) and an acerbic cameo as an overwhelmed young woman juggling career and motherhood in the otherwise forgettable "'Til There Was You" (1997). Her first lead, as an ambitious advertising executive who creates a fake boyfriend to insure her climb up the corporate ladder, in "Picture Perfect" (1997) proved both a critical and box-office disappointment but Aniston bounced back in the more serious role of a pregnant woman who forms a bond with her gay roommate in "The Object of My Affection" (1998). She had what was essentially a supporting role in "Office Space" (1999) and voiced the mother of the boy who discovers "The Iron Giant" (also 1999) in that underrated animated feature.

In 1997 Aniston became romantically to the handsome movie actor Brad Pitt, placing them on magazine covers as Hollywood's reigning "It" Couple for years to come. They married in July 2000 in a storybook Malibu wedding illuminated by fireworks. The couple worked together professionally only once, when Pitt appeared on a 2001 episode of "Friends" as a formerly fat high school class mate and onetime pal of Courteney Cox's Monica with a long-simmering resentment of Aniston's Rachel.

Aniston next appeared as the love interest to a salesman (Mark Wahlberg) who joins a heavy metal band in "Rock Star" (2001), anchoring the lightweight, high-concept film with its most convincing and emotional presence. In 2002, Aniston made an impressive debut on the indie-film scene as a conflicted housewife/retail worker in "The Good Girl," playing a bored and forlorn Midwestern housewife who discovers that throwing caution to the wind and bucking her staid life is not everthing she imagined it would. The following year, Aniston paired with Jim Carrey for the hit comedy feature "Bruce Almighty" (2003) as the girlfriend of a man gifted with God's powers. She fared even better in her follow-up "Along Came Polly" (2004), playing against type as a free spirit who teaches her risk-fearing new beau (Ben Stiller) how to take chances. The role cemented Aniston's status as a potential A-list movie star just as "Friends" drew to an end in May 2004.

As she moved on to her next projects, Aniston found herself in the center of a media tempest when she announced her split from Pitt, who subsequently appeared to responsible for the breakup when it appeared he began a romance with actress Angelina Jolie on the set of their film "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005). The drama played out in the entertainment media for several months, with Aniston finally giving a teary-eyed interview to Vanity Fair that, while taking some pains to play fair and amicable, decidely cast her as the unsuspecting victim and Pitt as the cad. Ironically, during the media firestorm Aniston was shooting "The Break-Up" (lensed 2005) in Chicago with actor Vince Vaughn, playing a divorcing couple struggling to continue to cohabitate. Rumors swirled of a budding relationship between the two stars, and despite denials they did appear to be a couple by fall of 2005 when Aniston had two films hitting theaters: the first, "Derailed," cast the actress and Clive Owen as two married business executives having an affair who are blackmailed by a violent criminal and must turn the tables to save their families; the second, director Rob Reiner's "Rumor Has It," saw Aniston playing Sarah Huttinger, who learns that her family was the inspiration for the book and film "The Graduate" -- and that she just might be the offspring of the notorious storyline.

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