Family & Companions
Thanks to a rare combination of winsome girl-next-door charm and vulnerability, as well as wholesome sex appeal and whip-smart comic timing, actress Jennifer Aniston found television stardom playing Rachel Green, the spoiled rich girl making her way in life as a waitress turned fashion buyer on the hit sitcom "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004). One of the most popular television actresses of her era, Aniston emerged from relative obscurity after toiling on several comedy series that failed to survive long enough to make an impression. But with "Friends," Aniston suddenly found herself at the top of the celebrity heap while dominating much of the publicity of an ensemble cast that boasted the likes of Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry. Meanwhile, she began a strong second career in features that allowed her to display a wider array of talent. Aniston essayed both dramatic and comedic roles in films like "The Object of My Affection" (1998), "Office Space" (1999) and "The Good Girl" (2002), which confirmed that she was not to be confined by mere sitcoms. Aniston matured gracefully in films ranging from broad comic hits like "Horrible Bosses" (2011) and "Office Christmas Party" (2016) to subtler work in films ranging from indie character study "Cake" (2014) to war drama "The Yellow Birds" (2018). But aside from her career, she was the subject of sometimes unfortunate tabloid coverage - mainly over her very public splits from husbands Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux, as well as her shorter relationships with Vince Vaughn and John Mayer - confirming that Aniston was in a celebrity class all her own.
Born on Feb. 11, 1969 in Sherman Oaks, CA, Aniston was raised in New York City by her father, longtime daytime soap actor John Aniston, and her mother, Nancy, a former model-actress turned photographer. Despite her father's television career, Aniston was actively steered away from watching TV, though she found ways around the prohibition. When she was six, Aniston began attending the Rudolf Steiner School, a Waldorf educational school that applied the Rudolf Steiner philosophy of integrating artistic and analytic learning to fulfill a child's unique and untapped destiny. After discovering acting at 11 while attending Rudolf Steiner, Aniston enrolled at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, where she joined the school's drama society. After graduating, she began performing in several off-Broadway productions, including "For Dear Life" at the Public Theater, while working as a bicycle messenger - among other odd jobs - to pay the rent.
Following a stint as a regular on Howard Stern's terrestrial radio show, Aniston moved to Los Angeles and immediately began landing supporting roles on several short-lived sitcoms, mainly playing the spoiled or bratty sibling on the likes of "Molloy" (Fox, 1989) and "Ferris Bueller" (NBC, 1990-91). After making her television movie debut in "Camp Cucamonga" (NBC, 1990), Aniston had a short stint on the Fox variety sketch series "The Edge" (1992-93), which helped to further hone her comedic chops, especially in a memorable skit as a member of the paranoid, weapons-toting "Armed Family." Though she was landing enough roles to qualify as a working actress - including episodes of "Quantum Leap" (NBC, 1988-1993), "Herman's Head" (Fox, 1991-94) and "Burke's Law" (CBS, 1993-95) - by the time she appeared in the horror film "Leprechaun" (1993), Aniston was prepared to call it quits. Her persistence paid off in 1994 when she landed the role of Rachel Green on a new sitcom called "Friends."
No one could have predicted beforehand the show's success and substantial influence on the cultural zeitgeist. From the first season until its last a decade later, "Friends" was one of the most watched and discussed sitcoms on television. Throughout the course of the show's 10 seasons, Aniston's Rachel went from being a pampered daddy's girl to an assured, self-reliant woman whose on-again, off-again romance with Ross was the hot topic around office water coolers. But perhaps the character's greatest influence in the first few seasons was her shag hairdo - known simply as "The Rachel" - that was widely copied by young women in the mid-1990s.
In 1995, her mother went on national television and divulged personal childhood information that infuriated Aniston to the point of cutting off communication. Four years later, her mother exacerbated the estrangement by publishing a book, From Mother and Daughter to Friends (1999), which documented their strained relationships while detailing her own life's ups and downs. Meanwhile, Aniston reveled in the success of "Friends," which helped launch a second career in independent feature films. She landed a supporting turn as the unhappily married wife of a womanizing stockbroker in Edward Burns' "She's the One" (1996), then had an acerbic cameo as an overwhelmed young woman juggling career and motherhood in "'Til There Was You" (1997). Her first lead, playing 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 dramatic role of a pregnant woman who forms a bond with her gay roommate (Paul Rudd) in the modest hit "The Object of My Affection" (1998).
Aniston had a memorable supporting role in "Office Space" (1999), Mike Judge's hilarious satire on the drudgery and absurdity of corporate life. Aniston played Joanna, a dissatisfied waitress who meets a bored office drone (Ron Livingston) acting out his inner slacker fantasies after a mishap with a hypnotist. Meanwhile, in 1998, Aniston became romantically linked to Hollywood's resident golden boy, Brad Pitt, which immediately became the obsession du jour of tabloids around the world. In fact, the two were Hollywood's reigning "It" couple for the next several years, especially after they were married in fairy tale-like fashion in July 2000. For a spell, they were considered a Hollywood oddity - a down-to-earth married couple who seemed destined to remain together for the rest of their lives. Despite their constant appearances together in the public eye, the couple worked together professionally only once when Pitt appeared on a 2001 episode of "Friends" as a formerly fat high school classmate with a long-simmering resentment of Rachel. Meanwhile, Aniston's film career continued unabated, as she appeared as the love interest of a salesman (Mark Wahlberg) who joins a heavy metal band in "Rock Star" (2001).
In 2002, Aniston had an impressive turn in the indie drama "The Good Girl," playing a bored and forlorn Midwestern housewife dissatisfied with her life. For her subtly measured performance, Aniston earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead. The following year, Aniston paired with Jim Carrey for the hit comedy "Bruce Almighty" (2003). 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. That year, Aniston and company made their final bows on "Friends." A hit during its first few seasons, "Friends" lagged a bit in the middle, only to make a dominant resurgence in the latter seasons, exiting the airwaves at the top of its ratings and comedic game.
As she moved on to her next projects, Aniston found herself in the center of a media tempest when she announced her separation from husband Brad Pitt, who allegedly began a romance with actress Angelina Jolie on the set of their film "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005) - a rumor that later proved to be true. 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 - decidedly cast her as the unsuspecting victim, Pitt as the cad and Jolie as the home wrecker. As the media story took shape, Aniston soon became ridiculed by some who saw her as desperately holding on to Pitt's flame, while her ex traipsed around the world with Jolie, donating to world relief efforts and adopting children from impoverished countries.
Ironically, during the media firestorm surrounding her painful public split from Pitt, Aniston was shooting "The Break-Up" (2006) in Chicago with actor Vince Vaughn, playing a couple struggling to continue to cohabitate in the condo both refuse to leave, despite having ended their relationship. 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 - "Derailed," which cast the actress and Clive Owen as two married business executives who are blackmailed by a violent criminal after they have had an affair; and Rob Reiner's "Rumor Has It," which starred Aniston as a woman who learns that her family was the inspiration for the book and film "The Graduate" (1967). Meanwhile, more rumors swirled that she and Vaughn were engaged, but by October 2006, it was clear the couple was no longer together. In April 2008, Aniston was linked to songwriter and notorious playboy John Mayer who later hinted to reporters that the rumors were indeed true. Four months after Aniston and Mayer were no longer together, back-and-forth stories over who dumped who plagued the tabloids, as Aniston was again unfairly portrayed as the "desperate girl" who was unlucky in love.
Thankfully, Aniston had no shortage of projects lined up to take her mind off of personal tribulations. The often cruel press took gleeful delight in the title of her next project, "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009), based on the best-selling guidebook for women in bad relationships, written by former "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) scribe Greg Behrendt. Beating the romantic comedy into the theaters was Aniston's turn in the tender love story of a man and his dog, again based on a bestseller, "Marley & Me" (2008), co-starring Owen Wilson. Back on the small screen, Aniston earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for an episode of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-13), in which she played the former roommate of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) who develops a stalker-like obsession with Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). Aniston went on to earn more derision from critics with "The Bounty Hunter" (2010), an action-romantic comedy in which she played the ex-wife of a bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) tasked with tracking her down.
Aniston was unable to turn the negative critical tide with her next feature, "The Switch" (2010), a slightly raunchy romantic comedy where she played a sperm donor recipient unaware that her successfully inseminated deposit was replaced with that of her neurotic best friend (Jason Bateman). Her next film, "Just Go With It" (2011), paired Aniston with man-child Adam Sandler in a critically lambasted, but commercially successful pseudo-remake of "Cactus Flower" (1969). Also that year, she fared much better in a supporting turn in "Horrible Bosses" (2011), a hit R-rated comedy about three put-upon employees (Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) who plot to kill their respective bosses (Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey). Meanwhile, Aniston enjoyed some good personal news when it was announced in May 2011 that she was dating writer-actor Justin Theroux, leading to the couple purchasing a home together in Bel-Air the following year. After the couple starred in David Wain's comedy "Wanderlust" (2012), Aniston and Theroux announced their engagement in August 2012. (They were wed on August 5, 2015 and announced their separation on February 16, 2018.) Aniston played amusingly against type as a stripper in the dark road comedy "We're The Millers" (2013), followed by a role in the Elmore Leonard kidnapping comedy "Life of Crime" (2013) before working with Peter Bogdanovich in his Broadway-set comedy-drama "She's Funny That Way" (2014) and returning as the sexually aggressive Dr. Stone in "Horrible Bosses 2" (2014). Between these comic turns, Aniston garnered critical praise in the lead role in Daniel Barnes' drama "Cake" (2014). After appearing in the Garry Marshall ensemble comedy "Mother's Day" (2016) and taking on a voice role in animated family comedy "Storks" (2016), Aniston reteamed with Bateman for the broad comedy "Office Christmas Party" (2018). She next appeared in the war drama "The Yellow Birds" (2018), which she also executive produced.
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Made TV-movie debut on "Camp Cucamonga" (NBC)
Cast as Jeannie Bueller in "Ferris Bueller" (NBC), a TV adaptation of the 1986 hit movie
Debuted on TV series "Molloy" (Fox) playing the spoiled stepsister of the title character
Appeared on two episodes of Fox sitcom "Herman's Head"
Cast as a regular on the Fox sketch variety series "The Edge"
Made feature debut in cult horror hit "Leprechaun"
Became an overnight star as Rachel Green on the NBC ensemble comedy "Friends"
Made guest appearance on the short-lived Fox series "Partners" opposite her then-boyfriend Tate Donovan
Returned to features in Edward Burns' "She's the One"
Essayed first leading role in the romantic comedy "Picture Perfect"
Played a pregnant woman who falls in love with her gay roommate (Paul Rudd) in "The Object of My Affection"
Cast in Mike Judge's first live-action feature "Office Space"
Co-starred with Mark Wahlberg in "Rock Star"
Earned critical acclaim playing an unglamorous cashier in a small town in the low-budget "The Good Girl"; directed by Miguel Arteta; earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination
Played the girlfriend of title character (Jim Carrey) in "Bruce Almighty"
Co-starred with Ben Stiller in the romantic comedy "Along Came Polly"
Co-starred with Clive Owen in the Hitchcockian thriller "Derailed"
Co-starred with Kevin Costner in the Rob Reiner-directed "Rumor Has It"
Co-starred with Vince Vaughn (who also wrote and produced) in "The Break Up"
Co-starred in Nicole Holofcener's indie drama "Friends with Money"; premiered at the Cannes Film Festival
Appeared in the season finale of Courteney Cox's FX series "Dirt" as a rival magazine editor
Made co-directorial debut with the short "Room 10"; part of the Glamour Reel Moments short film series; screened film at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films
Formed the production company Echo Films with a first-look deal with Universal
Co-starred with Owen Wilson in the feature adaptation of the bestselling book "Marley and Me"
Co-starred with Steve Zahn in the comedy "Management"
Guest starred on NBC's "30 Rock" as Liz Lemon's old college roommate who stalks Jack Donaghy
Joined an ensemble cast for the feature adaptation of the bestselling book "He's Just Not That Into You"
Played a woman tracked down by her ex-husband (Gerard Butler) in the action comedy "The Bounty Hunter"
Co-starred opposite Jason Bateman in the romantic comedy "The Switch"
Guest-starred as Jules' (Courteney Cox) therapist on the second season premiere of "Cougar Town" (ABC)
Re-teamed with Jason Bateman for "Horrible Bosses"
Co-starred with Paul Rudd as a married couple who try to escape modern society in "Wanderlust"
Directed a segment for "Five," a Lifetime anthology focusing on breast cancer
Starred in comedy thriller "Life of Crime"
Co-starred with Jason Sudeikis in dark comedy "We're the Millers"
Co-starred in Peter Bogdanovich's ensemble comedy "She's Funny That Way"
Co-starred in comedy sequel "Horrible Bosses 2"
Starred in acclaimed indie drama "Cake"
Co-starred with Kate Hudson and Julia Roberts in dramedy "Mother's Day"
Lent her voice to animated kids' comedy "Storks"
Co-starred with Jason Bateman in adult comedy "Office Christmas Party"
Starred in Iraq war drama "The Yellow Birds"