For years, she's been the object of constant speculation. Is she desperate for children? Is she pregnant? Is she in love? Has her heart been broken yet again? So how does Jennifer Aniston, a woman whose grace under fire could school even the most seasoned of politicians, handle all the scrutiny?
Happy, hot and a consummate hit maker, the Jennifer Aniston has done it again, creating projects that speak to women and reflect her own new-found confidence.
Last year, she went out and made The Switch (now out on DVD), a film about a single woman who decides to have a baby on her own via artificial insemination and without the added complication of having a man in her life. But don't mistake this for a case of life imitating art. For Aniston, it was about making a film that resonated with all working women, not just herself.
"So many of my girlfriends have gone through the struggles and heartbreak and frustration of fertility and adoption and all of that," explains Aniston. "When I read the script, I had this instant connection to the story because it's such a real and heartfelt issue for women."
Here, the 42 year old opens up to marie claire about life, love and the prospects of motherhood.
Do you think the traditional notions of marriage are challenged by women wanting to have children on their own?
Most women and most men want to find happiness together and want to raise their children in the traditional sense. But society has changed. We aren't constrained as much by conventional thinking about what constitutes a family. A family is not necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and dog named Spot. Love is love and family is what is around you and who is in your immediate sphere.
I don't think it's selfish, I think it's actually quite beautiful.
Having children is a huge issue for women and I've had so many discussions with my girlfriends who are facing these kinds of choices. It can be very stressful and agonising for women who want to have a child but aren't in a relationship. And even if you do have a partner it can still be a difficult choice to make depending on the state of your relationship or career.
How present an issue is it for you these days?
I would like to have children, but I'm not freaking out about not being a mother. I don't think I would necessarily follow my character Kassie's route, but I'm not ruling anything out, either.
How would you describe Kassie's predicament in The Switch?
When we meet Kassie she's at a time in her life when she's ready to have a child and she's not in a place where she feels like she needs a man to do it. She's in her early 40s and she basically alerts her friend Wally [Jason Bateman] that she's going to do this on her own because she really feels she wants a child more than she wants a man in her life. He's instantly offended that he's not being asked to be a donor. But she's worried that he's a bit neurotic and she's looking for the perfect DNA.
Was it easy for you to relate to Kassie?
I felt very connected to Kassie and everything she's dealing with. I'm a working woman who grew up in New York City and she felt very real to me. I enjoy being able to play characters like that and most of the films I choose, like Marley & Me, are very real stories about life that I enjoy getting into. With Kassie, I felt I was able to tap into a lot of personal stuff to play her.
Does this film have a positive message for women?
I think it's important that women don't feel stigmatised or limited in their choices. Women are now much more open to the idea that they don't absolutely need a man in their life to have a child. A lot of women choose not to get married in their 20s and start having families at that age while they're competing for jobs and trying to advance their careers.
Even though it's been an option for years, the idea of women using sperm donors is still not that socially acceptable. So maybe our film helps remove some of the taboo aspects of the discussion. The important thing is that women have these choices available to them and that's why I thought this kind of film is very timely and progressive, especially when it's interwoven with a love story that makes it even more beautiful.
Aniston pictured with co-star Jason Bateman.
Your co-star in The Switch is long-time friend Jason Bateman. It must have been very satisfying to get a chance to work with him.
I've always adored Jason Bateman. He's one of the sweetest guys I've ever known. I first met him when he was doing a TV show with a friend of mine and I was about 35 and he was in a much different headspace back then, but he was still delightful. I'm happy to see that there's a lot of positive reaction to his performance. I think he does the best work of his career in this film. His performance is very moving and compelling and I'm so proud of him.
It must have been easy developing on-screen chemistry with Jason.
We've been close friends for so many years that we just naturally fell into that kind of relationship for the film. We didn't have to work at it at all and I think that comes through in our scenes together.
In making this kind of film, you obviously wanted to address an issue that has dogged you for years in the press.
I've had more relationships and more pregnancies than I can recall. I think I must have had 13 children by now! (Laughs) So I wasn't going to shy away from a film like this even if it would draw more attention to my own life. It won't change anything, so why not try to make a good movie. I've long ago stopped worrying about tabloid coverage of my private life. You can't let that kind of stuff influence your creative choices. You just have to rely on your gut instinct.
What do you think makes relationships so difficult these days?
We're all a lot more complicated. We've also become more wary and more demanding, maybe. Men and women are developing high expectations and sometimes that places too much pressure because your partner is not always going to be everything you want. We have to learn to appreciate our differences and enjoy the fact that we all evolve differently over time, and so it's only natural that couples have to adjust to those changes. If you're open to that, it can be interesting and you can make that part of your journey together. Relationships are not static things. You have to keep communicating and trying to understand your partner as you go along. I actually feel I've been quite lucky overall. I've had some beautiful relationships and I don't really have many regrets.
What do you remember about your days starting out as an actress?
(Laughs) I remember hating waitressing. I also remember getting fired from one of my first jobs, which was a bicycle messenger. Even though I was pretty good on the bike, I wasn't very good at finding my way to delivering envelopes and stuff as efficiently as management would have liked!
Do you feel you've satisfied most of your acting ambitions?
I'm very proud and grateful to have been part of a very successful TV series like Friends, which became such a part of popular culture. When you start in this business, you can never even imagine enjoying that kind of good fortune. I'm pretty happy with the work I'm doing and I probably have more projects in the pipeline than I’ve ever had. So I try to do good work and enjoy everything that comes with it.
You seem very free and joyful in your life.
I have a very good life. I don't worry about things the way I did in my 20s and that's part of growing up and being able to solve lots of doubts and get rid of things that block you in life. Everyone deals with those sorts of issues and it feels very freeing not to be burdened by self-doubts and anxieties that just serve to drag you down. But for a long time now I've enjoyed the feeling of freedom that comes with taking every day as it comes, working hard and having fun in my life.
How do you stay so happy?
I like to have a positive approach. I don't let myself get bogged down in negativity or have arguments with people. I want to keep evolving and moving forward in life. I like to spend my time with friends and enjoy a good bottle of wine and some nice cheese and have great conversations. And it may sound trivial, but one of the things that truly makes me happiest is just watching a beautiful sunset.