Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis star in 'We're the Millers.'
(Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)
NEW YORK - Mostly, Jennifer Aniston lets her ring do its thing.
Anyone in doubt about her relationship status need only glance at her left hand to spot the ravishing rock from her fiancé of almost one year, writer/actor Justin Theroux. She's still very much engaged, and very much planning a wedding.
Aniston, one of the entertainment industry's most ubiquitously covered, yet simultaneously most opaque celebrities, doles out personal tidbits in dribs and drabs. She's pleasant and friendly, if not particularly forthcoming, at least to the press. But away from tape recorders and cameras, she says she strives to be open, even posing makeup-free in a photo posted Saturday by her best friend and hairdresser Chris McMillan.
"I work really hard to not build up any walls due to any bumps that I've experienced in the road. I try to incorporate them into positivity and chalk it up to great experiences," says Aniston of her personal life. The latest speculation, following a fuller figure she showcased at the Aug. 1 premiere of We're the Millers? That she's (again) pregnant, which her longtime publicist Stephen Huvane says is not true.
Perhaps she'd rather let her film roles, which have become increasingly more risqué, speak in her stead. This time, in Wednesday's comedy We're the Millers, Aniston, 44, plays what she jokingly calls a "dirty, dirty stripper," a woman who finds herself with "no intention of being where she was at this part of her life. I saw the part that was a little closed up and beaten down by disappointments."
Aniston's Rose teams up with Jason Sudeikis' small-time pot dealer Dave to haul an RV full of marijuana across the border from Mexico. To help fool the authorities, they're joined by a fake son and daughter. Crazy antics involving a poisonous spider and inter-familial kissing lessons ensue.
It's the third time Aniston and Sudeikis are paired up on film, after 2010's The Bounty Hunter and 2011's Horrible Bosses. "We did two movies together. We worked more together on Bounty Hunter. We had more scenes together, which means two," says Sudeikis. "We chatted a little bit about (Millers). I like that Dave starts out selfish and he ends up being a little selfless."
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had seen Aniston's lascivious dentist in Bosses and was smitten. "She stole the show there and was funny and fearless. She could hold the screen with Jason and she has a natural mothering nature to her," he says. "And Jason has the right kind of biting humor that the role required. He reminded me a lot of classic Bill Murray. He can be both charming and just a little bit of a jerk. From my perspective, they were friends coming into the movie. Very early on, in the first week, I lined up a two-shot with them and they started riffing and playing off each other. It was easy and breezy and charming."
Given that a sequel to Horrible Bossesis in the works, it's a good thing that Aniston and Sudekis more than get along -- she's also a fan of his fiance, actress Olivia Wilde.
"He's so good and fun, and yet very serious. He can get down and dirty. He likes to talk. He's a good talker. It's good when men are in touch with their emotional selves and are not inhibited and intimidated to show that," she says of him.
Sudeikis, 37, draws attention to her unwavering politeness and professionalism. "Jen's lovely to everybody. I felt the same with Will Ferrell. There's an appreciation of the team and talent that goes into all this stuff. She's a good barometer of what needs to be better. Your bar is a lot higher. The niceness is all there, but there is also an understanding that it has to be good," he says.
Aniston jokes that the selling point of their film was her aggressively homely mom attire. "Yes, the outfits. And I liked the whole arc of the story. We developed her and gave her a bit more of a story. I love the full circle of how she's closed off and a little broken down and beaten up. At the heart of everybody in the movie, they're desiring to be loved and have a family. And it was funny," she says.
She jokes that she begged Sudeikis to do the movie. "I was very persuasive," says Aniston.
Says Sudeikis: "Yes, there was that. It's nice to be thoughtful in the process of deciding things. But if you think too much, I think you'll cause creative paralysis," he says.
In the film, Aniston's Rose is the brains behind the ramshackle operation. Is she that quick-witted in real life?
"No," retorts Aniston.
"Yes you are. You're not allowed to say it but I will. You first said no. Then I said yes and you supported me," counters Sudeikis, who next headlines the rom-comTumbledown, in which he plays a writer opposite Rose Byrne.
In fact, confirms Thurber, Aniston "doesn't get enough credit for how funny she is in person. She has a real kind of fun, wicked wit about her. She's able to laugh at herself. She doesn't take herself seriously. She's really funny. You can't embarrass her. She's very sweet and thoughtful. She can hang with the boys. On set, she was making jokes left and right. She's not a wallflower."
Without question, Aniston and Sudeikis, who's quick on his feet, easily go toe to toe, zinging from Sudeikis' departure from NBC's Saturday Night Live - "Selfishly I'm sad," laments Aniston, to which he promises to get her a boxed set - to the physical training she underwent for her pivotal pole dancing scene, something of an homage to Flashdance. Even for someone as physically honed as Aniston, the choreography was brutal.
"It wasn't easy because I'd just had knee surgery a month and a half before. It was a little bit tedious. And then also just getting trained physically - I was really in shape then. I was in the kind of shape I don't enjoy being in because it feels a little too fit. It's nice to have some curves, don't you think?" she muses, as Sudeikis nods.
"And the workouts I had to do were so torturous and you just dread it. Burpees? It's just stupid. You stand up and jump up and do push ups."
So even Aniston, she of the toned yoga bod, has issues? "There are certain curves that are unavoidable. My body and genetics - my mother gave me a big (butt). But that's OK. Sometimes it likes to takes trips to the right and we have to get it to come back. Come on, let's bring it in and up," she quips.
Shortly, Aniston has to go under the knife again. "I'm trying really hard to rehabilitate my knee. I have to have (the surgery) done again in about a month. I have a hole in a tendon that's leaking fluid. Is that pleasant? It hurts. It feels creepy. But let's not talk about that," she says.
Talk turns to being nice, and Aniston refers to an actor, whom she won't name, who revels in being unpleasant and cantankerous to those around him. "Eventually if you start doing that, you won't be asked to come and play in the movie," says Aniston. "You're not superior."
Still, says Sudeikis to Aniston, "I don't know if I was in your situation that I wouldn't be apathetic at this point. I don't know if I wouldn't. I hope not."
He has a point. The actress has no financial incentive to work, given the massive paychecks earned by her and her Friends castmates during the final season of their show. Aniston's romantic travails - breakups, hookups, and that divorce that fueled a thousand covers - have kept her in the spotlight for more than a decade, and her level of fame would be paralyzing for most people, necessitating back-door exits from restaurants, for starters. Forbes ranks her 64 on its Celebrity 100 list, estimating her earnings at $20 million as of June 2013, thanks in part to her lucrative deals with Vitamin Water and Aveeno.
But ask Aniston, and she'll tell you the work isn't the issue. It's everything else.
"I get frustrated all the time. I'm very sensitive, extremely sensitive. I don't so much get frustrated in work. Work is so great," she says. "I think it's more of what's happening in the world in terms of our industry. The side of it, the media side of it, very much overshadowing the stuff we get to do. We're all just trying to do our best in order to entertain people. We're not trying to anger people."
Her tactic: Be as choosy as possible about what you do, and then go back and live your life.
"As we've gotten older, you realize that life is so short and the passage of time is so important and precious, so if you're going to be three months anywhere, you better have something enjoyable and wonderful you're doing. I'm getting to the point of, 'Where is it shooting?' And not wanting to be away from home that much."
Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY