Also Credited As:Jennifer Joanne Aniston
|Jennifer Joanne Aniston on February 11, 1969 in Sherman Oaks, California, USA|
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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. In perhaps a sign of thing to come, Aniston's father left her mother for another woman when she was nine. Meanwhile, 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 widely-rejected film "Leprechaun" (1993), Aniston was prepared to call it quits. But when an agent suggested she drop 30 pounds - which apparently was preventing her from landing better roles - Aniston decided to continue making the push. Her persistence paid off when in 1994 she landed the role of Rachel Green on a new sitcom called "Friends."
No one who was a part of the "Friends" phenomenon could have ever predicted beforehand the show's unbridled 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. The show focused on six close-knit Gen-X friends struggling to make good in Manhattan: Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), a would-be chef with an obsession for neatness and order; Rachel Green (Aniston), Monica's pampered best friend from high school who walks out on her groom; Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica's older brother and a paleontologist with an age-old crush on Rachel; Chandler (Matthew Perry), a lovable wiseguy who works as a corporate numbers cruncher; Joey (Matt LeBlanc), a struggling actor and resident airhead; and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), an offbeat folk singer and massage therapist. Throughout the course of the show's 10 seasons, Aniston's Rachel - one of the standout characters - 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 mainly 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 the otherwise forgettable "'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).
To the delight of film geeks everywhere, 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), anchoring the lightweight, high-concept film as its most convincing and emotional presence.
In 2002, Aniston had an impressive turn on the indie-film scene in "The Good Girl," playing a bored and forlorn Midwestern housewife dissatisfied with her life and pot-smoking husband (John C. Reilly), who discovers that bucking her staid life is harder than she imagined. For her subtly measured performance, Aniston rightly earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead. 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. 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. Meanwhile, the role made Aniston a superstar, earning her four consecutive Emmy nominations (2000-03) - twice as Best Supporting Actress and twice as Best Lead Actress - which led to a win in the Lead Actress category in 2002, as well as a Golden Globe the following year.
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 - they finalized their divorce in October 2005 - traipsed around the world with Jolie, donating to world relief efforts and adopting children from impoverished countries. Some of her friends like Cox and singer Sheryl Crow rose to her defense, claiming the media portrayal was unfair - and in some cases misogynist - but by then, the damage was done to Aniston's reputation.
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 her and Vaughn were engaged, but by October 2006, it was clear the couple was no longer together. In April 2008, Aniston was then 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 blog 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- ), 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), a universally derided action-romantic comedy in which she was 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 this 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). For her part, Aniston dyed her hair black to portray an overly aggressive dentist who sexually harasses her assistant (Day) and just about anyone else she comes across. 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 both were seen starring in the underwhelming comedy "Wanderlust" (2012), Aniston and Theroux announced their engagement in August 2012, much to the delight of fans and tabloid editors who had collectively followed Aniston's every relationship move over the past decade.