Keeley Bolger.


Icing on the Cake for Jennifer Aniston

The Friends star’s latest film role as a chronic pain sufferer may finally help her jettison the ‘Jennifer’ tag, writes Keeley Bolger.

Icing on the Cake for Jennifer Aniston

OME might call Jennifer Aniston’s Oscars omission, for her soaring performance in indie drama, Cake, a ‘snub’.

The actress, who received nods from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors’ Guild Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards, for her role as a woman who suffers from chronic pain, is reflective, and not bruised.

“All of this is so incredible. We didn’t expect any of these nominations,” says the 46-year-old who, unlike her character — the scarred and barefaced Claire — looks the epitome of health, with her golden highlights and sun-kissed skin.

“We didn’t know who would see this movie, then, all of a sudden, something popped, and it was so flattering and humbling,” she says. “And it is exciting, especially when it’s something you love as deeply as I love this.

“Everybody worked so hard on it, so anything beyond even those three nominations I’m grateful for. I’ve already won for myself.”

Angry and difficult, Claire is morbidly fixated on the suicide of Nina, a member of her pain support group, who is played by Into The Woods actress, Anna Kendrick.

After pushing her loved-ones away, and with only her housemaid, Silvana, sticking by her, Claire explores Nina’s death, getting to know Nina’s husband and son. Only then does Claire begin to make peace with her own life.

“I had so much empathy with Claire,” says Aniston, who let her exercise regime fall by the wayside during the two months’ filming.

“I was curious about what was wrong and what happened. I thought it was unique and interesting, and I was ready to shake it up a little bit. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, it’s just that the opportunities don’t always come my way,” she says.

She is, after all, famed for her gentle comedies and romcoms, like Along Came Polly, Picture Perfect and Just Go With It, and, of course, there was the iconic stint as Rachel Green in the adored comedy series, Friends.

Cake is a departure for the actress — and was hard-won. The role initially went to another actress, with Aniston stepping in as a producer and securing financing, taking on the lead role when it became available again.

“I’ve read films like Cake over the years, and, usually, they always go to a particular actress,” says Aniston, who is engaged to actor and director, Justin Theroux.

“I’m not saying the industry is lazy or has a lack of imagination — well, maybe — but I was never going to give up waiting for that opportunity that I knew would allow me to show I have more in me that I want to do.

“It just takes having to bang a little louder and disappear a little deeper, and then, all of a sudden, they see you.

“It’s like Catch-22. If you cast me, then I’ll show you I can do it, but they won’t cast me, because they haven’t seen me do it, so you’re screwed.”

Aniston has also directed two short films, but is “waiting for the right material” before she commits to directing another.

“It takes up a good year of your life,” she says. “And I’ve had such wonderful acting opportunities.” That said, she’d happily enlist her loved-ones if she sat on the director’s chair again.

“I would direct Justin,” she says, grinning. “And vice versa. I take good direction and so does he. He would love it.”

Aniston and her fiance, Justin Theroux.

While Cake takes Aniston in a dramatic new direction, she’s not averse to lighter roles.

“I always joke that I really want to play a superhero,” she says, laughing. “I do! I think those films are such fun. There are a lot of stories I want to tell and a lot of characters I want to play. I want to go back to theatre, not Shakespeare, though.”

She also wouldn’t rule out TV, if the right show came along. And despite calling time on Friends back in 2004, she’s happy to chat about the long-running series.

“I love Rachel, it’s not a bad thing to not be able to shake her off,” says Aniston, who is still good friends with Courteney Cox, who played Rachel’s flatmate, Monica.

“I was on Friends for 10 years. I was in your living room and still am, every day. I think that’s why Cake was so important, because it really allowed me to disappear and show I’m a grown-up.”

  • Cake is in cinemas from Friday

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