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January 2, 2023
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Hollywood Reporter

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Jennifer Aniston Has No Regrets

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At the top of a long, winding hill, behind an imposing gate and an anxious dog, stands Jennifer Aniston.

“Come on in,” she says, sandaled and smiling as she ushers me into her home.

Before I’ve had time to take in the sweeping views of Los Angeles from her entryway, she’s in the kitchen whipping me up the shake that she enjoys most afternoons — with collagen peptides, antioxidants and a slew of other ingredients that she meticulously measures and pours into her blender. This is Aniston, the host, a role that her friends all say she was born to play.

“I can’t exaggerate how much she loves it, and how good she is at it,” says one of her longest and closest, Kristin Hahn, with whom Aniston and her first husband, Brad Pitt, started Plan B and, later, Echo Films. “You go to her house and everything’s warm and cozy. If it’s wintertime, there’s a fire going, the bar’s open, and dinner at Jen’s house tastes unlike any other dinner. I mean, I’ve been eating in her ‘house restaurant’ for 20 years now and I swear there’s, like, aphrodisiac in that food.”

Jason Bateman, another longtime friend, brings his family over to Aniston’s most Sunday evenings for what’s known in their circle as “Sunday Fundays,” where dinner and drinks are served and A-list progeny (i.e., his and Jimmy Kimmel’s kids) run around her sprawling Bel Air property. The group lovingly refers to their host as “Carol,” a nickname that Bateman attempts to explain: “Carol’s sort of like a den mother,” he says, “or if you can imagine a woman who’d be the enthusiastic leader of a bowling team and all that goes with that. Someone who’s almost stuck in the 1940s in the way she organizes stuff because she just wants to make sure everybody is comfortable and has a good time.”

Before long, I’m following Aniston, or “Carol,” through her mid-century home, past a stacked bar, a mirrored gym and a Zen garden, some of which were featured in an Architectural Digest cover story in 2018. Back then, the office that I’m headed to belonged to her second ex, Justin Theroux, and it was considerably darker, a mix of cement, paint and stained floors. “It was cool,” she says, “very J.T.” Now, it’s Aniston’s sanctuary, where she comes to read scripts and think, and it’s all creamy whites, with a door mat that reads, “Welcome to the babe cave.” Theroux had been by a couple of weeks before and had asked to see it. “I was like, ‘Come on in,’ ” Aniston recalls, “and he was like, ‘Well, I got to say, it’s super nice.’ ”

The Morning Show star has spent more time here in the past two years than she has in any one spot since she starred as Rachel Green on NBC’s runaway hit, Friends, some two decades ago. She’d feared she may be bored or, worse, lonely, in the early days of lockdown, when leaving wasn’t really an option, but instead she enjoyed her own company. Like everyone else, Aniston got into cooking and documentaries and Zooming with her vast orbit of girlfriends. And by November, she was back in production on the second season of her Apple TV+ series, for which she’s also a hands-on producer; five months later, she was surrounded by her Friends‘ co-stars (and real-life friends) for a reunion that hit her harder than she anticipated. Along the way, she launched a hair-care brand and quietly donated millions to charity.

Soon, the 52-year-old will be back on the road, having lined up a series of projects, including a Murder Mystery sequel with her pal Adam Sandler. But first, Aniston, who’s being honored with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award for her professional and philanthropic contributions, kicks off her sandals and gets real about her own long, winding road to this place in her life and career.

No, I’m thrilled to leave it at work. What did wear on me was the emotional and physical drain that took place over those seven months, just trying to pull that out on a daily basis. But once I started working with an incredible woman, and I’ve worked with a lot of great coaches, but this particular woman had a different set of tools and it was about getting really personal with myself. At first, I was like, “Oh no, no, no, no, we don’t go in there. We don’t go into that.” Cake was one of the first films we did together, and before that the anxiety of an emotional scene was almost too much. I’d think, “I’m not a dramatic actress because I don’t know how to cry.” I just knew how to laugh because that was how I remedied all of the darkness.

Your character delivers a monologue in the finale, in which she says, among other things, that she hadn’t realized her decision to be on TV would be an invitation to the world to “dig around asking questions about [her] sex life.” In what ways did that speech resonate?

I mean, there’s something almost witchy about Kerry Ehrin, our head writer. I had a 9-millimeter bulging disc right before we were supposed to go back into production this season; I was actually supposed to start in October, and I didn’t go back until November because I’d tried to stand up one day and couldn’t. I couldn’t move. Four days into this injury, I read episode five, and it’s like, “Alex can’t move [she’s thrown out her back].” I’m like, “How is Kerry doing this?!” So, yeah, art imitates life, and she wrote a monologue that if I could’ve written it myself, I would have — and it felt really good because I don’t think I’d ever have the balls to say, “Go fuck yourselves. Get the hell out of my panty drawer, you motherf—ers, and let me do my job and stop being mad at me for it.” There was definitely something very freeing about that.

You also shot the Friends reunion, which was something that you and the cast had resisted doing for so long. What changed?

Enter [director] Ben Winston. We were all like, “I don’t know if we were just seduced by his talent or his charm or a combination of all of it.” Even the boys were like, “Damn, I’m kind of in love with the guy. Like, I don’t know if I said yes because it’s good or because he’s so gorgeous.” Whatever it was, we all said yes, so …

It was a powerful reminder of how strong the chemistry of that cast was and seemingly still is.

We really did have so much fun together. I remember that was one of the things when we were young and dumb and renegotiating, one of the [studio’s] threats was, “Well, we don’t need all six of you. We can do this with four of you.” We were like, “What? You can? You can get rid of Rachel or Joey or who?” Then it was like, “No they can’t, wake up.”

I’ve heard you say that the reunion was harder on you than you anticipated.

Time travel is hard.

Right, talk to me about that.

I think we were just so naive walking into it, thinking, “How fun is this going to be? They’re putting the sets back together, exactly as they were.” Then you get there and it’s like, “Oh right, I hadn’t thought about what was going on the last time I was actually here.” And it just took me by surprise because it was like, “Hi, past, remember me? Remember how that sucked? You thought everything was in front of you and life was going to be just gorgeous and then you went through maybe the hardest time in your life?” It was all very jarring and, of course, you’ve got cameras everywhere and I’m already a little emotionally accessible, I guess you could say, so I had to walk out at certain points. I don’t know how they cut around it.

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